In Conclusion: Organic Certification (fwd)

Lawrence F. London, Jr. london at sunsite.unc.edu
Fri Jan 23 23:28:54 EST 1998


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 23 Jan 1998 21:22:18 -0600
From: "Douglas M. Hinds" <dmhinds at acnet.net>
Subject: In Conclusion:  Organic Certification

I see only 2 basic alternatives possible in relation to the organic
certification issue:

1).- The inappropriate garbage added to the proposed Organic Rule is
eliminated and OFPA is salvaged; or

2).- OFPA becomes the end of the line for the word organic.

EITHER WAY - the core of the matter is the same:  GETTING RID of the
compulsory aspect of USDA certification (or ANY certification, for that
matter), is the safest (and only safe) bet.

While compulsory certification is not an issue within the context of the
Organic Rule discussion, it IS the fundamental issue UNDERLYING the
discussion.  Compulsory certification is exactly what puts the organic
movement and concept in jeopardy, with or without the garbage in the
rules.

This is true because if the garbage remains (on the one hand),
obligating certification makes a mockery of the organic tradition; and
if the garbage is eliminated, OFPA converts what is by nature a personal
choice (the decision to produce and/or provide an organic product) into
an elitist, externally imposed and regimented concept (with all the
dangers and complications that have been made crystal clear since the
Rule was published on Dec. 16), that mainly serves to further isolate
organic products and practices from the mainstream of humanity (as well
as in the marketplace - both on the national and world levels), thus
robbing those who've consciously chosen a congruent course of action
(undoubtedly based on the INTRINSIC soundness of the concept and the
inherent ESSENCE of the quality embodied in the product), of their power
to choose.  What WAS a voluntary choice becomes something of a very
different nature - and believe me, that difference is meaningful and
fraught with danger.  I strongly suggest being extremely wary of those
who so suavely tell you otherwise.  (Hi Eric.  I'm sure even YOU know in
your heart, exactly what I'm putting forth

So don't be hoodwinked.  Make yourselves clear.  Your comments will go
on record.  Whatever other  favorable or unfavorable decisions are made,
The obligatory nature of certification MUST be eliminated, and
certification programs made free to register or NOR register with the
USDA under OFPA, making OFPA/USDA certification AN option among many, to
be taken advantage of or avoided as is appropriate.

Once that is done, THEN it will be possible to go about the task of
developing a decent Rule containing a coherent definition of what is and
what isn't organic, WITHOUT the threat of losing the true meaning of
organic.  This means that the rules discussion period MUST be extended.
But first the obligatory nature of certification and registration must
be eliminated from OFPA and if that means doing away with OFPA and
starting again from scratch, so be it.  There's no other way to keep the
organic concept safe from the kind of monstrous threats and inordinate
external control that have infiltrated the movement through OFPA (with a
corresponding loss of control for the organic farmer), and anyone who
fails to recognize that is either living in a dream world or part of the
problem (or both).

There is absolutely no legitimate reason for USDA or any other
certification program to be made compulsory.  The organic nature of a
given product (if present), is by definition true to it's OWN nature and
therefore inherent, not externally imposed; while any additional
mechanism that may or may not be called for in order dispel any doubt
that may (or may not) exist regarding whether this is as stated or
implied, is something to be mutually agreed on by buyer and seller
(i.e., between consenting adults or their informed offspring).   AND
THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT.

IF AND WHEN a consensus regarding organic standards can be reached, THEN
AND ONLY THEN can the possibility of establishing a minimal national
legal standard of what is or isn't "organic" be considered - WITHOUT
COMPULSORY CERTIFICATION; and even then, divergent schools of thought
may well be best reflected by a variety of certification options, each
legitimate in it's own way, each true to it's own valid but
differentiated concept, each to be chosen or not, based on it's own
merit and the demands of each situation, as determined by the parties
involved.  We are not dealing with a health threat here (and health laws
apply equally to all food products) and there is no need what-so-ever
for compulsory action.  [If my redundancy is "ad nauseum" for some
otherwise sympathetic readers, I never-the-less prefer to be sure the
point is adequately made].

If a given certification program really adds value to the product,
people will want it on both ends (buyer and seller).  There is no need
nor justification for compulsory certification and it can only lead to
abuse.  Once compulsory certification is eliminated from OFPA itself,
OFPA validated certification will be benefit those who need it, IF a
consensus is reached, and pose less of a threat if no consenus proves
possible.  Once certification is no longer compulsory and certification
programs are not required to adhere to OFPA, OFPA certification will
stand on it's own merit and either become a valuable asset for those who
find it's standards appealing.  And if no coherent standard is achieved,
OFPA will simply become irrelevant to anyone knowledgeable and/or
concerned about true organic quality.

In conclusion:  The clear and obvious risks imposed by submitting (or
being forced to submit) to the Procrustean Bed of "ORGANIC according to
OFPA and it's Organic Rule" have become patent to all those concerned
about all that is intrinsically organic, true to the tradition and
concept.  The only politically expedient course of action is to defuse
this bomb and only after doing so, proceed with caution while attempting
to establish a congruent and consistent minimal national definition
"organic".  Thus far, the government's involvement in the process (plus
the undue influence government has given to what some have accurately
termed "the wrong people"), has been clearly demonstrated as a marriage
between Dr. Frankenstein's organic daughter and Count Dracula's organic
snack, combing to make a mockery of the effort made so far by so many to
create a better, healthier and more ecologically attuned offering in the
marketplace, creating instead an authentic organic nightmare that now
threatens abort a worthwhile cause that represents the future of the
planet and the human race, as truly as the word "sustainable" has any
real meaning

Fin.

--

Douglas M. Hinds, Director General & Organic Farmer since 1968
Centro para el Desarrollo Comunitario y Rural A.C. (CeDeCoR)
(Center for Community and Rural Development) - (non profit)
Petronilo Lopez No. 73 (Street Address)
Apdo. Postal No. 61 (Mailing Address)
Cd. Guzman, Jalisco 49000 MEXICO
U.S. Voice Mailbox:  1 630 300 0550 (e-mail linked)
U.S. Fax Mailbox:  1 630 300 0555 (e-mail linked)
Tel. & Fax:  011 523 412 6308 (direct)
e-mail: cedecor at ipnet.com.mx, dmhinds at acnet.net, dhinds at ucol.mx



More information about the permaculture mailing list