On August 4, the Washington Post ran a story about requests from the organic community to clean up inconsistencies and omissions in the National Organic Program (NOP) and bring its practices in line with more stringent international organic standards. The House and Senate approved an expenditure of $500,000 to conduct an independent audit of the program and its certifying agencies.
The USDA has now announced the audit. Why is this needed? As the new USDA deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan puts it, this step is part of department efforts “to strengthen the integrity of the NOP and to build the organic community’s trust in the program.”
Distrust, as we learned when the British Food Standards Agency released its report on the nutritional equivalence of organic and conventionally grown crops, is rampant (see previous post). The public deeply distrusts the integrity of the organic standards, the honesty of the inspection process, and the claims made for the benefits of organic foods.
When I reviewed the organic program in preparation for writing What to Eat, I was impressed by how everyone connected with organics thought the system worked well and was honest. That’s not what I’m hearing these days.
This audit is badly needed. Let’s hope the Commerce Department auditors hold the NOP to the highest possible standards.