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USDA organic, 100% farmer-free.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA USDA, See United States Department of Agriculture.
) has proposed national organic farming organic farming, the practice of raising plants—especially fruits and vegetables, but ornamentals as well—without the use of synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers.  standards with "loopholes big enough to drive a chemical fertilizer truck through," says Steve Gilman of the Northeast Organic Farmers Association. By failing to incorporate the recommendations of the organic farming community, the USDA standards undermine what consumers have come to expect from the organic label - chemical-free food production that enhances, rather than degrades, the environment. As the organic industry grows beyond the face-to-face commerce of farmers' markets It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles.  and community-supported agriculture Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a relatively new socio-economic model of food production, sales, and distribution aimed at both increasing the quality of food and the quality of care given the land, plants and animals – while substantially reducing potential  - where mutual trust typically supersedes regulation - the continued input and oversight of the organic-farming community is the only way to keep the term "organic" grounded in its ethical traditions.

The proposed standards leave the door open to the use of genetically modified organisms ge·net·i·cal·ly modified organism
n. Abbr. GMO
An organism whose genetic characteristics have been altered by the insertion of a modified gene or a gene from another organism using the techniques of genetic engineering.
, sewage sludge, confined-livestock operations, food irradiation, and other substances and practices that have never been considered organic. Various exemptions in the USDA standards would enable a conventional farm, with minor changes in its practices, to qualify as "organic." In conjunction with world trade agreements that drive agricultural regulation to the lowest common denominator low·est common denominator
1. See least common denominator.

a. The most basic, least sophisticated level of taste, sensibility, or opinion among a group of people.

, these standards - proposed by a nation with considerable negotiating muscle - threaten to supplant stricter international organic rules.

The Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 was supposed to provide those who first gave life to this movement with a prominent voice in the development of national standards by creating a National Organic Standards Board. Composed of organic farmers, environmentalists, and consumer advocates, the board has served to determine the substances and practices that qualify as organic and to shield the burgeoning organic industry from the meddling med·dle  
intr.v. med·dled, med·dling, med·dles
1. To intrude into other people's affairs or business; interfere. See Synonyms at interfere.

2. To handle something idly or ignorantly; tamper.
 of special interests. For seven years, it has labored to develop standards that would maintain the ideals and spirit of the industry. It has held exhaustive public hearings and meetings, and the resulting recommendations represent a national consensus on the working ethics of organic farming.

However, the USDA's proposed standards have usurped the authority of the board - and the involvement of the organic community - by writing it out of the decision-making process. The board's recommendations were largely ignored - demeaning de·mean 1  
tr.v. de·meaned, de·mean·ing, de·means
To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner: demeaned themselves well in class.
 years of work to reach a consensus. Numerous harmful substances, including strychnine strychnine (strĭk`nĭn), bitter alkaloid drug derived from the seeds of a tree, Strychnos nux-vomica, native to Sri Lanka, Australia, and India. , would be permissible for use on organic crops under the USDA standards - despite unequivocal opposition from the board.

The true strength of the organic label lies in the organic farmers themselves - environmental stewards who acknowledge the intimate connection between good food and good health. As conscientious objectors to the U.S. model of mega-monocultures, these farmers nurture diverse food production systems that restore and conserve the natural resources that sustain us. By disregarding their insight and experience, the USDA's standards sever this vibrant agricultural movement from its guiding convictions.

USDA should not only heed the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board, but should adhere to the intent of the 1990 Act and explicitly recognize the board as the authority governing the substances allowed and prohibited for use in organic food production. Those farmers who refuse to contaminate con·tam·i·nate
1. To make impure or unclean by contact or mixture.

2. To expose to or permeate with radioactivity.

con·tam·i·nant n.
 our collective health and environment deserve nothing less.
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Title Annotation:US Dept of Agriculture's proposed organic farming standards
Author:Halweil, Brian
Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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