For Immediate Release: April 30, 1998
Roger Blobaum 202/537-0191
Melanie Adcock 301/258-3111
Joseph Mendelson 202/547-9359
(Washington, DC). An Organic Watch independent review of over 93,000 of the first 130,000 comments received by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on its proposed National Organic Food rules shows that the rule has been overwhelmingly rejected by the public. The preliminary review covered all of the comments available to Organic Watch through last Friday, six days before today’s close of the public comment period.
Andrew Kimbrell, an administrative law specialist and Organic Watch steering committee member stated, “The American people have dealt the USDA by far the worst beating any agency has ever taken on a proposed rule.” The number of comments filed with the agency is expected to top 150,000 before the end of the comment period, making it one of the largest public responses in the history of federal rulemaking.
Organic Watch’s public docket review, underway since the USDA proposed its rule last December 15, found intense public opposition to allowing the use of genetically engineered organisms, sewage sludge, irradiation and factory farming methods in the production, processing and handling of organic foods. The review shows widespread opposition to the inequitable fee structures created by the USDA and found almost unanimous opposition to the USDA’s actions challenging the role of the National Organic Standards Board, a national citizens board established to help create the national organic rules. In its proposal, USDA overturned almost all of the NOSB’s recommendations.
As of April 24, 1998, Organic Watch’s comment analysis found:
18 comments in favor of the use of genetic engineering and 83,081 opposed;
29 comments in favor of the use of sewage sludge and 83,760 opposed;
18 comments in favor of the use of irradiation and 78,062 opposed;
37 comments opposed to the NOSB’s role in the process and 75,057 in favor;
59 comments in favor of the factory farming of livestock and 15,294 opposed;
3 comments in favor of feeding non-organic feed to livestock and 15,453 opposed.
Additionally, Organic Watch’s comment review found not one public comment supporting USDA’s proposed allowance of toxic inert ingredients in organic production and processing, its accreditation and certification fee structure, and its proposed allowance of animal byproducts in the feed of organically produced livestock.
Organic Watch was established in December of 1997 to monitor the official docket at USDA and provide legal analysis and other assistance to organizations and individuals preparing comments on the proposed organic rule. Its steering committee consists of Melanie Adcock (Humane Society of the United States). Andrew Kimbrell (International Center for Technology Assessment), Michael Sligh (Rural Advancement Foundation International) and Roger Blobaum (Blobaum & Associates).