Natural Foods Merchandiser

Organics guide: Laura Batcha of the Organic Trade Association

Q: What should we be paying attention to in the new Farm Bill?

A: Our members have identified top policy priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill: support for public education about what organic delivers, support for organic research, protecting cost-share reimbursement for farmers and handlers, and support for organic transition.

Q: What research are you tuning into right now?

A: OTA has been monitoring recent scientific findings and recommendations that reinforce the many benefits of organic production practices.

The recent President’s Cancer Panel report suggests consumers choose food grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and growth hormones to help decrease their exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase their risk of contracting cancer. Subsequently, a study published May 17 in the journal Pediatrics concludes that exposure to organophosphate pesticides at levels common among U.S. children may contribute to the prevalence of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in these children. In addition, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has issued a report, “Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks,” citing health concerns posed by the nine currently approved dyes used on conventionally produced foods. Consumers can avoid such dyes by choosing organic foods.

Q: How is the OTA responding to food-safety legislative challenges?

A: We’re educating members of Congress and their staffs on the steps already taken by organic producers that align with the goals of food-safety reform, including business registration, record keeping and audits, as well as inspection requirements. OTA is advocating that organic producers, while meeting food-safety goals, should not be required to use materials or practices that are prohibited by the National Organic Program. Additionally, OTA is making Congress aware of the strict record keeping already in place so that organic producers will not have to implement duplicative traceback record-keeping systems.

We have met with members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to help craft language in the new manager's package of the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act so we can prevent regulations that would force certified-organic operations to duplicate or conflict with requirements in the Organic Food Production Act.

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