Natural Foods Merchandiser

One-year grace period for organic rule

A U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, ruled June 9 that current organic standards will remain in place until sometime next year. And, the court told the U.S. Department of Agriculture that products currently carrying the USDA organic seal could be sold until June 2007. In the meantime, USDA must work to develop new organic standards that comply with the rulings issued as a result of Harvey v. Veneman, the recent landmark case that sent chills down the spine of the organic industry as it faced its possible undoing.

The court said any new rules must be published by early June 2006 and enforceable by June 9, 2007.

Some industry observers believe more stringent rules will discourage producers from going organic. Others think a strengthened organic rule will resonate more with consumers.

Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation, thinks the industry needs to be more transparent in its dialogue surrounding organic labeling issues. "Interests are losing touch with the public's perception on this," he said, noting that the industry "didn?t do a good job explaining why 33 synthetic ingredients were permitted" in products carrying the organic label. Nonetheless, OFRF opposes "opening the organic food act," he said. "Organic remains the only legal alternative to the industrial status quo."

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