The USDA Organic seal offers consumers access to a sustainable food system.

Most farmers—conventional farmers—can give antibiotics and steroid hormones to healthy farm animals, feed their farm animals slaughterhouse waste and processed manure, and spray fields and crops with neurotoxic insecticides and weedkillers that are classified as probable human carcinogens. In food processing factories, processing aids that are also classified as hazardous air pollutants can be used to process crops into foods, and artificial ingredients that have not been tested for safety can legally be added to foods.

Organic farmers and food processors are prohibited, by federal law, from doing any of this.

The USDA Organic seal, overseen by the National Organic Program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, provides consumers with access to an alternative food system—one that is backed by strong and meaningful federal standards verified through annual on-farm inspections by independent certifiers. Not only are organic farmers prohibited by law from using synthetic materials such as pesticides and animal drugs, but also they are required to build the health of the soil, to protect water quality, and be part of a more sustainable food system.

But the USDA Organic program is under attack.

Some lawmakers want to weaken the National Organic Program’s requirements and possibly weaken the process currently used to improve the federal organic standards. The new leadership at the U.S. Department of Agriculture has refused to make effective a new rule that aimed to strengthen the organic standards, and they have erased many organic-related priorities from the USDA’s work plan. Efforts to decrease funding for organic programs are likely.

Organic matters, and Consumer Reports/Consumers Union works for a strong organic program.

The organic food system already provides consumers with access to a more sustainable food system—one that has regulatory controls in place to protect environmental and public health.

The organic system is voluntary. No consumer is forced to purchase organic foods, and no farmer is required to be certified organic. But farmers who choose to be certified have to meet the strong standards, and consumers who purchase organic foods expect that those standards were met.  

Consumer Reports/Consumers Union supports a strong and adequately funded National Organic Program, efforts to help domestic farmers in their transition from conventional to organic, and meaningful rules that meet consumer expectations for foods labeled “organic.”