Organic Consumers Association has a newsletter out called Another Sneak Attack on Organic Standards: USDA to Allow More Conventional Ingredients in Organics in which they report that "The [US Department of Agriculture] has announced a controversial proposal, with absolutely no input from consumers, to allow 38 new non-organic ingredients in products bearing the "USDA Organic" seal." It seems a sausage company wants to stuff non-organic casings with organic meat; and a beer company wants to make "organic" beer with non-organic hops (pictured). The public comment period is just one week. In one sense this is a simple labeling issue. The sausage company could reasonably call their product "sausage made with organic meat" instead of the simpler "organic sausage." The beer company could declare their product "made with organic rice" instead of "organic beer" This is a common strategy when necessary organic ingredients are problematic. The store shelves already hold corn chips with a banner label "Made With Organic Corn," for example. But, the literal approach to labeling doesn't make for nice clean tag lines in the ad copy when multiple ingredients are involved. And, it might be a problem to squeeze in all the words with a small container like a beer can. Much more than just a labeling issue, it's also about roll-out strategy. The sausage company, on encountering the high prices for scarce, organic casings, could have worked quietly for a year or two to nurture a few organic suppliers, helping them to produce a competitive product under sole source contract, thereby nailing the "organic sausage" market with first in advantage. Same for the beer company. Maybe just such measures are underway, and the government advocacy approach is a bridge. Or not. The important point is that that organic food sales are increasing in the 20% per year range and all the planets have lined up to make it further accelerate (thanks to the Chinese melamine doping scheme, a romantic notion to fuel our cars with GM corn, and antibiotic-fed cattle raised near the spinach fields). The whole country is watching, and tasting, as we enter the era of "Peak Food." Expect a ton more petitions to the Ag Department.
Image credit:: Hop blossoms Brookston Beer Bulletin