USDA back-tracks on organic food directive

U.S. has rescinded controversial organic foods directive
May 31, 2004

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman has rescinded a month-old directive that critics said would have weakened qualification standards for organic food.

The directive would have revamped guidelines to allow "organic" labels for food produced with the limited use of pesticides and antibiotics on some crops, livestock and dairy products.

Consumer groups and organic farmers had blasted the directive for potentially opening the door to a number of additional products, including fish, that may have qualified for "organic" labels with the proposed changes to the National Organic Program (NOP), which oversees standards concerning organic food that the USDA first began applying two years ago.

The directive also would have allowed livestock fed with certain synthetic feed supplements to qualify as "organic."Livestock treated with antibiotics also would have qualified as long as they had not received drugs in the previous 12 months.

In rescinding the directive, Veneman said the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, which operates the NOP, would instead work with industry representatives to clarify national organic standards.