by Marion Nestle
Mar 20 2010

Auditors find flaws in USDA’s oversight of organic standards

The USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) issued a report last week criticizing the agency’s oversight of the National Organic Program (NOP). The OIG said the USDA had followed some of the recommendations in its previous report (in 2005), but by no means all.

This report is a sharp critique of the last administration’s ambiguous enforcement of organic standards.  This new administration recruited Kathleen Merrigan to get the program back in shape and the agency says it is totally committed to doing so.

But the administrator of the program responded to the OIG audit with this comment: “The integrity of the organic label depends largely upon effective enforcement and oversight of the many accredited certifying agents responsible for reviewing organic operations.”

Largely?  I would say entirely.

USDA is an uncomfortable home for organics because its main goal is to support industrial agriculture.  For years, the NOP home page carried a statement that organic foods were not better than industrial foods.  I am happy to see that the statement is no longer there, but I’m guessing some old attitudes still remain.

USDA delegates organic oversight to certified inspection agencies.  These vary in diligence.  I constantly hear suspicions of fraud in the organic enterprise.  USDA needs to do everything it can to put those suspicions to rest.

Otherwise, why pay more for organic foods?

  • This shows exactly why farmer’s markets are essential and building trustworthy bonds with those local farmers…it seems mainstream agriculture will remain corrupted for some time to come.

  • I read somewhere that, organic foods were not more nutritional than industrial foods. It is possible but most of industrial foods includes dangerous ingredients, toxins i mean. So, organic foods are better i think, and more delicious.

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  • The National Organic Program (NOP) has wisely recruited Kathleen Merrigan to get the program back in shape which seems totally committed to the cause. I also agree with the the administrator on his statement that the integrity of the organic label depends upon the effective enforcement and those agents responsible for reviewing organic operations. But, unfortunately the body which is supposed to ensure the standards and whose duty is to see that everything goes as per norms is diverted of its course. Thanks for all that effort in favor of organic food which is good for health and mind.

  • Philip_77

    All kudos to Auditors who have discovered the flaws in USDA’s oversight of organic standards. Since, USDA is for industrial agriculture and it has the record for working against the organic foods, it is foolish to expect too much from them. But for the auditors, the game would be going on timelessly. Thanks for the information.paula deen cookware set

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    It is a good thing that somebody like a regulatory body sees to it that quality is met in terms of the food that we take. Adapting an organic diet is quite a bit difficult routine. But it still depends on the person very willing to lose weight.

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  • Organic foods are healthier long term not only for the person but also for the environment.

  • I eat alot of deer, moose, how do you feel about these meats?

  • I for example I am eating only stuff from the paleo diet, I eat only meat, vegetables and fruits. What do you think about this diet?

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