Image: Tomatoes, ripe like the OTA - Ajith Kumar via Flickr CC
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) was hit with accusations of corruption last week in a short documentary released by an anonymous group calling themselves Organic Spies. The OTA has responded to specific parts of the allegations, especially around their stance on labelling of GE foods in North America.
What the OTA hasn't responded to is the broader issue of conflict-of-interest on it's board. Organic Spies and others are suggesting is that it's impossible for representatives of multi-national food companies to be free from conflict sitting as OTA board members while their parent companies earn a vast majority of their revenue from GE and conventional products. Organic Spies suggests a solution.
Small farmers and product companies must be on the OTA board with business executives that are committed to improving the abysmal health of this country and not just sell organic food that is highly processed with excess cane sugar and salt. The rank and file staff at the OTA and the organic movement deserve better than these board members. Our goal is to ensure that the OTA finds new board members, so the OTA staff will be more successful and not worry about competing conflict of interests when implementing policy that board members do not support. A continuation of the same policy and strategy on the GE crisis is no longer acceptable.
The idea of replacing the board with members that better represent the ethic of organic food and agriculture is not solely held by Organic Spies. Jason Freeman, from Farmer Direct Co-Operative Ltd in Regina wrote a letter to the OTA back in February expressing concerns over corporate representation on the OTA board. Unsatisfied with the response he also believes that it's time for a shift in direction for the OTA board.
It's clear that the only viable solution to bring organic integrity back to OTA is to seize the democratic initiative and vote in candidates that work for 100% organic companies and organizations. Luckily a number of 100% Organic companies and organizations will be fielding candidates for the upcoming OTA election. There is a real opportunity to take back the board and fulfill a true agenda of protecting and promoting organics. But this only happens if we get the vote out. Only 20% of OTA members voted in the last OTA board elections, yet 60% of OTA members are from small organic businesses. So the vote to bring back organic integrity to OTA is well within our reach.
Freeman says that the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), not to be confused with the OTA will be posting a list of what he calls "100%ers" in the coming days. This list is intended to act as a guide to individuals that the OCA believes will bring the trade organization back to its roots and benefit all consumers and businesses with an organic philosophy.
Organic Spies continues:
Strong leaders welcome investigations, new information, disclosure and their own annual evaluation to produce victories and accept responsibility for failure, so others join in and support. The Organic Spies join in support to reform the OTA and help the organic movement chart a successful course towards GE Labeling that cannot be accomplished without the OTA..
We are recommending that every small organic farmer and product company become a member of the OTA today and vote out the board members we have identified that work for companies that profit from GE foods. If the OTA is unable to find new ethical board members in this year's election, a 100% Organic Trade Association must be formed
More on the Organic Trade Association
Organic Trade Association Responds to Critics About GMO Stance
Charges of Corruption Taint Organic Trade Association (video)