Natural Foods Merchandiser

OTA Establishes Center for Organic Education and Promotion

The Organic Trade Association and the newly formed Organic Foundation have created the Center for Organic Education and Promotion, an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to consumer education. The Center plans to officially launch on Oct. 21 to coincide with the National Organic Program's implementation.

The task force established the Center as a clearinghouse for organic information that will be used to "solidify and focus the industry and the public around the true benefits of organic agriculture," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Greenfield, Mass.-based OTA who heads the COEP task force with Mark Retzloff, founder of the ad-hoc Organic Foundation and CEO of Boulder, Colo.-based Rudi's Organic Bakery, and Theresa Marquez, V.P. of marketing for Organic Valley Family of Farms in LaFarge, Wis. "Our goal is to build consumer awareness and educate the public about the importance of organic agriculture and products for good health, quality of life and the creation of a sustainable global environment," DiMatteo said.

The organizations created the Center because many consumers still do not fully understand organic food's health or environmental benefits. "The changing organic consumer requires a shift of emphasis away from faith-based messages toward fact-based approaches," DiMatteo said. "We need to get solid, reliable information to the public about organics."

The Center's goals include gathering and reporting science-based organic research by working with universities, government agencies, environmental and consumer organizations and organic groups such as the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Organic Farming Research Foundation and the Organic Materials Review Institute of Eugene, Ore. The Center would like to investigate organic food's nutrition, taste, food safety and environmental benefits compared with conventionally grown products.

Additionally, the Center is developing a public relations plan to produce and distribute consumer education materials to retailers and to respond to any attacks on the organic industry.

The Center is looking to manufacturers, foundations, retailers and individuals for support in raising its initial funding of $500,000 by December 2002.

"We wanted to create an educational organization that would not be influenced solely by the people who are going to benefit from any growth in organic sales," said DiMatteo. "This is an independent nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that can be funded by the public—individuals, businesses and foundations."

For more information on the Center, attend an open meeting at Natural Products Expo East in Washington, D.C., (check the October issue of NFM for details) or e-mail [email protected]

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXIII/number 8/p. 5

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