Statement on Arrest of Organic Consumers Association Political Director at National Organic Meeting
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – April 30 – Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) issued this statement today, on the arrest yesterday (April 29) of OCA political director, Alexis Baden-Mayer at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
When the bureaucrats running the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) call in the police to remove the political director of the Organic Consumers Association for protesting an illegal policy change, and continue to ignore the expressed concerns, and block her from attending the public meeting today, it’s clear that we need a new balance of power between the organic community and the organic industry.
The OCA’s million-plus network, along with our allies at organizations like Cornucopia Institute, Food Democracy NOW!, and others, will not give up the fight for ethical organic standards. The battle to recapture control of the organic and natural food and products system, which has fallen under the control of self-interest, is a long-term one and we intend to see it through.
On April 29, representatives of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and March Against Monsanto San Antonio (MAMSA) staged a protest at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting in San Antonio, Texas.
The groups disrupted the meeting in order to protest the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) changes to the process for removing non-organic ingredients and materials from the NOP’s National List of substances allowed and prohibited in products certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
OCA political director, Alexis Baden-Mayer, was arrested when she refused to allow the meeting to go on until the issue was addressed. Photos and video available upon request.
The change to the sunset policy, made without due process or input from the public, erodes organic standards and will result in the list of synthetic and non-organic ingredients and materials allowed in organic to grow increasingly, and irreversibly longer, the groups said.
The Change to the Sunset Process
The NOSB, a federal advisory committee appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, decides what is allowed on the National List of non-organic materials approved for use in organic.
In September 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), under pressure from corporate interests represented by the Organic Trade Association, and without any input from the public, changed the way the 15-member NOSB decides which non-organic materials are allowed in certified organic.
Here’s what changed. Prior to last September’s announcement, each non-organic material on the list had to be reviewed every five years, using what’s called the “sunset process.” Under this process, five years after a non-organic material was added to the National List, it would be automatically removed, unless a two-thirds majority of the NOSB board voted to keep the material on the list.
The intent behind the process was to encourage the NOSB to remove non-organic ingredients and materials from organic after five years, and provide industry the motivation to replace them with organic alternatives.
But last September, the USDA reversed this process. Now, the materials will still be reviewed, but they will stay on the National List unless a two-thirds majority of the NOSB board votes to remove it. That’s not likely to happen, given that the 15-member board of the NOSB is stacked with industry reps who consistently vote with industry and against consumers.
When NOP Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy stood to address the NOSB Board, activists disrupted his address by delivering a petition signed by more than 75,000 organic consumers, asking the NOP to restore the sunset process. The activists held a banner that read, “Safeguard Organic Standards” while chanting, “Don’t Change Sunset.” The activists continued until they were removed from the room.
OCA’s Save Organic Standards campaign has targeted several non-organic materials for removal from the National List. Because of the changes McEvoy has made to the sunset process, these problematic non-organic materials will likely be allowed to stay on the National List and in USDA certified organic food.