With the first six months of the Trump administration behind us, I wanted to take a look at how organic food has been impacted under this new president.
Believe it or not, there have been a few positives. It appears that these positives, however, were not done with the intent of helping organic but were mere coincidences of his overall policies.
Nevertheless, I’ll take them.
* Without question, the absolute best thing that Trump has done so far is to reject the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Why?
Among other things, the TPP could have lowered food safety standards around the world and potentially could have made it illegal to label GMOs.
* According to Politico, organic aquaculture rules have been scrapped.
This is a big win because the proposed regulations were very flawed and ocean-based farms are completely incompatible with organic standards.
These organic fish standards could have severely damaged the integrity of the organic seal.
* I wanted to give USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, another former Biotech Governor of the Year, the benefit of the doubt, but he has proven in his first few months to have very little regard for organic.
While it is the White House who puts forth nominees for senior positions at the USDA, Sonny Perdue clearly plays a crucial role in presenting the candidates.
Here are a few key nominees:
— Steve Censky to be the Undersecretary at the USDA.
Censky was the CEO of the American Soybean Association for 21 years, which means he is very tight with Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont and other ag-biotech companies.
— Ted McKinney to be the Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs at the USDA.
McKinney was an executive at pesticide behemoth Dow AgroSciences, an executive at Elanco (a division of Eli Lilly which sells drugs to animals), and a co-founder and interim director at the Council of Biotechnology Information, a coalition of Aventis CropScience, BASF, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Zeneca Ag Products, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the American Crop Protection Association.
* The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a 15-member, expert advisory panel that meets twice per year and makes recommendations to the USDA regarding ingredients, rules and processes. Almost always, especially on smaller issues, the USDA accepts these recommendations.
At the last NOSB meeting in Denver, the board voted 14-0 not to renew three conventional ingredients – whey protein concentrate, Turkish bay leaves, inulin-oligofructose – for use in organic, as they were set to expire under the 5-year Sunset rule.
Under pressure from corporate lobbyists, the USDA went against the NOSB’s recommendations and overturned this decision, allowing all three conventional ingredients to remain in organic for another five years.
This sets a very, very dangerous precedent under the Trump administration that the NOSB’s recommendations will not be accepted, and the USDA will make up its own mind about what is best for organic.
* Earlier this month, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service gave the go-ahead for Cornell University to release genetically-engineered moths in upstate New York.
As I wrote about in previous Organic Insider emails, these genetically-engineered moths could have a devastating effect on organic broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower farmers in that region.
* Organic Animal Welfare Standards, which were approved by President Obama before he left office, were supposed to go into effect earlier this year but have been pushed back until November 14th. It is unclear if they will even go into effect at that date or be canceled altogether.
There is tremendous pressure from Big Ag to kill these standards, despite the fact that these standards were the product of years of inclusive deliberation on the part of farmers, consumers, retailers and policy makers.
* Very quietly and without much media attention, the EPA approved Monsanto and Dow corn which has been engineered with RNAi technology.
Some experts believe that RNAi is much more dangerous than existing GMO technology, and in comments submitted to the EPA, the National Honey Bee Advisory Board said that “To attempt to use this technology at this current stage of understanding would be more naïve than our use of DDT in the 1950s.”
TO BE DETERMINED
Here are the key issues to be watching out for as we move forward.
Yesterday, The Cornucopia Institute sent a formal request petitioning the USDA to enact critical new regulations that will make it increasingly difficult for fraudulent organic imports to cross U.S. borders.
* Genetically-engineered eucalyptus trees are a very dangerous idea, but the USDA is considering approving them, nevertheless.
* Sonny Perdue will be naming several new members to the NOSB over the next few years, and this is cause for tremendous concern. Already, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) has said that “uncertainty and dysfunction have overtaken the National Organic Standards Board.”
Big Ag is going to want to assert its influence over the NOSB – a scary prospect.
* Hydroponics and container growing systems should not be a part of organic, yet the USDA is continuing to allow both of them. This is a fight that is not going away.
* Budget cuts to the USDA are coming, and how badly organic will be hit remains to be seen.
In closing, all you have to do is take a look at how President Trump eats and you get the sense that healthy, organic food is of no interest to him.
For those of us who do care deeply about the food that we put into our bodies, this is not a reassuring prospect.
Have a great day!
Max Goldberg, Founder
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* A huge shout-out to Campbell’s and its CEO Denise Morrison for quitting the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the major opponent in our GMO-labeling fights over the years. This is a HUGE move and sends a very strong message to Big Food and Big Ag.
* In last week’s Organic Insider, I talked about how the USDA was seeking feedback for its upcoming GMO-labeling law. If you haven’t submitted your comments yet, the deadline has been extended to August 25th.
* On Living Maxwell, I wrote about how Nutiva founder John Roulac has stepped down as CEO, a position he has held for 18 years. Good luck in your new role, John!
* It has been a tough week in the organic restaurant scene.