At a time when the organic industry is suffering from serious bouts of fraud, both here in the U.S. and abroad, along with potential threats from within the USDA, watchdog groups are needed more than ever.
Thanks to Beyond Pesticides — a public interest organization founded to advocate for healthy air, water, land and food by eliminating the use of toxic pesticides — it has just announced the formation of a new investigative arm called OrganicEye.
OrganicEye will be led by Mark Kastel, co-founder of The Cornucopia Institute and a 30-year industry veteran. Mark Kastel is one of the most experienced independent fraud investigators in the organic sector, and his efforts have been instrumental in helping bust large international crime syndicates laundering conventional commodities as “organic.”
At OrganicEye, he will be partnering with two colleagues, both of whom have a serious track record in the industry.
Jay Feldman, Executive Director at Beyond Pesticides, is a 40-year veteran of organic policy work and former member of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board. Terry Shistar, PhD, is one of the nation’s top experts in analyzing synthetic and non-organic materials proposed for use in organic production. These three professionals, who combined have over 110 years of organic industry-related experience, give OrganicEye unique depth and breadth.
“Mark is highly respected in the organic farming community, and by many business leaders who walk their talk, while at the same time feared and reviled by powerful interests profiting from the weakening of organic standards,” said Jay Feldman.
HOLDING THE NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM ACCOUNTABLE
Concern about the direction of the USDA’S National Organic Program (NOP) is widespread among many organic stakeholders, including OrganicEye’s management team.
“You don’t have to take my word for the inadequacy of enforcement actions by the USDA’s National Organic Program. With the backdrop of thousands of cases of fraud submitted to the NOP, there is a legacy of independent audits by the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) criticizing their oversight of certifiers and poor record of bringing fraudulent operations to justice,” said Mark Kastel.
And OrganicEye is wasting no time getting started.
In its first official action, the organization has already sent formal letters to the OIG and the Government Accountability Office requesting an investigation of a recent incident where a large shipment of imported grain from Turkey was identified as likely fraudulent. According to OrganicEye, the USDA National Organic Program had the opportunity to collaborate with other federal and state agencies in quarantining the shipment and testing the cargo prior to unloading but failed to do so.
OTHER AREAS OF NOTE
The announcement of OrganicEye is notable for a few other reasons.
1) In addition to its organic gumshoe work, OrganicEye will continue the tradition that Beyond Pesticides has established in commonly being the only public interest group thoroughly analyzing every single synthetic and non-organic material petition for use in organic farming or food production before the National Organic Standards Board.
2) OrganicEye has established a new toll-free hotline, 1-844-EYE-TIPS (844-393-8477), to help facilitate tips from the public.
“We encourage stakeholders to come forward if they have firsthand knowledge concerning fraud, which damages the value of the organic label for all those producing food in an honest and ethical manner. All whistleblowers and tipsters will be held in strict confidence,” said Mark Kastel.
3) The formation of OrganicEye will raise the profile of Beyond Pesticides.
Beyond Pesticides does some of the best work in the organic industry but has not received just recognition for its efforts.
With Mark Kastel leading OrganicEye under the Beyond Pesticides umbrella, the organization will become much more well known. And deservingly so.
For those who care about protecting organic standards, the formation of OrganicEye is an incredibly welcome development.
For more information, visit www.organiceye.org.
(from L to R, Mark Kastel, Terry Shistar, PhD, Jay Feldman)
Most of us have heard of this ancient health system, but not too many people in the U.S. truly understand what it is about.
Fortunately, Sahara Rose has made it her life’s mission to demystify Ayurveda, and she has done it in a way that is very practical in today’s day and age, taking into account GMOs, pesticides and the growing trend of a plant-based lifestyle.
Having become obsessed with Ayurveda at an early age, Sahara Rose went on to write two best-selling books on the topic, the first of which was The Idiot’s Guide to Ayurveda and her most recent one is Eat Feel Fresh: A Contemporary, Plant-Based Ayurvedic Cookbook. And for both of these books, Deepak Chopra — her idol since she was a teenager — wrote the foreward.
In this week’s episode of The Living Maxwell Podcast, Sahara discusses Ayurveda and gets very honest about her journey.
This is one inspirational and impressive woman.
Max Goldberg, FounderCollaborate // Contact
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U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said this past week that loopholes in federal organic regulations are hurting small organic dairies, and he vowed to close them.
Unlike the current method of detecting fraud, which focuses on pesticide residue, the new method focuses on the isotope signature.
The likely culprit? The loosening of pesticide restrictions, including the nearly 300 new products that have been fast-tracked for approval since the beginning of the year.
With rural America badly hurting and 70% of farmers making less than a quarter of their income from farming, two leading presidential candidates have put the idea of supply management back on the table.
As concerns grow about glyphosate contaminating our food supply, Thrive Market has become the first national retailer to support the Glyphosate Residue Free certification.
The word ‘organic’ appears on 23% percent of foodservice menus, nearly two and half times what was seen a decade ago.
Nestlé has made a significant bet on the organic baby snack market by investing approximately $40M in a Portuguese production facility.
In just-released emails, a Monsanto executive expressed his desire to “beat the sh*t” out of Moms Across America, a grassroots advocacy group concerned about cancer links to Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller, Roundup.
Since 2009, the People's Garden at the USDA in Washington, D.C. has highlighted organic agriculture. But no longer.
In a new study that looked at the food consumption habits of Millennials, they prioritize cost (48%), nutrient density (46%), no artificial additives (40%), organic food (39%) and plant-based (37%).
* This Saturday in Pennsylvania, Rodale Institute will be holding its Annual Pioneer Awards Dinner — one of my favorite events of the year.
* In Richmond, CA, Stonyfield is helping the city’s 21-acre park transition away from harmful pesticides to organic weed control.
* Researchers in South Africa are developing organic sunscreen from cashew nutshell liquid.
* This month in the UK, the Soil Association is celebrating #OrganicSeptember.
* These gardens have a 12,000-person waiting list.
* France has recalled a batch of organic flour which contained a high concentration of datura, a plant known for its hallucinogenic effects.
* Florida State University has its own organic garden. Love it!