[permaculture] New Administration at USDA Steps Up to End Organic Corruption

sals3 sals3 at cox.net
Tue Apr 27 19:16:10 EDT 2010

 thank you this was good information I never even knew and I thought the 
organic label met organic. glad someone is looking out for the organic 
folks.  keep up the great work
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Lynn Christianson for The Cornucopia Institute" 
<cultivate at CORNUCOPIA.ORG>
Sent: Tuesday, April 27, 2010 3:26 PM
Subject: New Administration at USDA Steps Up to End Organic Corruption

New Administration at USDA Steps Up to End Organic Corruption
April 27th, 2010

Industry Watchdog / Washington Post Investigation Brings Down Old

Washington, DC: In a strong departure from Bush-era policy, the USDA's
National Organic Program released a memo today banning
synthetic "accessory nutrients" - ending a scandal that brought down its
former organic leadership.

At issue were some of the nation's leading manufacturers of infant formula
that had been illegally adding synthetic forms of omega-3 and omega-6 oils
to their organic products after a sweetheart deal between a powerful
industry lobbyist and Dr. Barbara Robinson, the former head of the USDA's
organic program-exposed by a 2009 investigative report in the Washington

Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), by The
Cornucopia Institute and shared with the Washington Post, indicated that
Robinson, after meeting with Jay Friedman, a lawyer and lobbyist with the
powerful Washington law firm of Covington Burling, rescinded a ruling made
by USDA career civil servants who found the inclusion of synthetic oils in
organic infant formula to be illegal.

"Justice prevailed in this matter but it took a change in the
administration in Washington to make this happen," said Mark A. Kastel,
Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute.

Cornucopia, an organic industry watchdog, first investigated the use of
these "novel" nutritional oils, derived from soil fungus and algae, in
infant formula, because they are extracted using a neurotoxic chemical,
hexane, which is explicitly banned in organic production. "We couldn't
understand why the USDA was allowing this to happen," Kastel said.

Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act, as part of the 1990 farm
bill, charging the USDA with defending the interests of ethical industry
participants and protecting organic consumers against fraud.

Cornucopia researchers were shocked when they started investigating the
DHA/ARA oils, manufactured by Martek Biosciences Corporation, Columbia,
MD, and found they were implicated by parents and healthcare professionals
in severe and chronic health problems in infants around the country.

"Organics should be the last bastion of pure, natural and unadulterated
food for consumers," said Charlotte Vallaeys, lead author of Cornucopia's
report, Replacing Mother - Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory.

Through a separate FOIA request to the FDA, Cornucopia learned that there
was an apparent correlation between the use of Martek's nutritional oils
and severe gastrointestinal problems sometimes resulting in highly-
invasive testing procedures and hospitalizations.

"Based on FDA adverse reaction reports, we discovered that many parents,
physicians and healthcare practitioners found that chronic problems with
infants, often resulting in 'failure to thrive,' acute dehydration (caused
by dangerous diarrhea/vomiting) and severe emotional stress on the babies
and their families, were often immediately resolved when switching to
formula without DHA/ARA supplementation," stated Vallaeys.

After learning about the health problems, Cornucopia immediately stepped
up its legal efforts at the USDA to remove Martek's oils not only from
organic infant formula, but also from organic baby food and organic milk
manufactured by the nation's leading brand, Horizon, owned by the dairy
giant Dean Foods.

"It's concerning enough that these Martek oils are being widely introduced
in the marketplace, in both organic and conventional products, but there
is no authoritative research that suggests they actually benefit
children's development, as is claimed by the industry," said Marsha
Walker, RN, IBCLC, Executive Director of the National Alliance for
Breastfeeding Advocacy.

Infant formula manufacturers like Enfamil (Mead Johnson) promote their
products as being "our closest formula to breast milk," and research
indicates such advertisements might have discouraged some women from
breastfeeding, which is universally recognized as being superior to
formula in numerous ways, including for the health and development of

"This seems to be a crass marketing gimmick, using our children as guinea
pigs to enhance the bottom line at the major pharmaceutical companies that
manufacture infant formula," lamented Kastel. "The fact that this material
is being illegally added to certified organic formula is highly repugnant
and left mothers, who could not breastfeed for whatever reason, with few
alternatives in the marketplace."

Over the past few years, infant formula manufacturers have raised their
prices after adding Martek oils to their products. With the exception of
some prescription formulas, available with approval from pediatricians,
only one over-the-counter formula is available without synthetic DHA/ARA,
Baby's Only, an organic product manufactured by Nature's One in Columbus,

"After today's official announcement by the USDA, all other organic
formula manufacturers will need to remove Martek's oils from their
products," Cornucopia's Vallaeys stated.

In the meantime, The Cornucopia Institute also has filed petitions with
the FDA requesting that their Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)
designation for the Martek oils be revoked.

"When Martek's additives were originally granted GRAS status, it was with
extreme reservations on the part of the FDA review panel because of
adverse reactions to these oils" said Valleys. "When we reviewed FOIA
documents, we were astonished to find that none of the infant formula
manufacturers had complied with the FDA's request to monitor adverse
reactions and perform post-market surveillance of these materials."

Like baking soda or any other synthetic ingredient that manufacturers
would like to use in organic products, Martek and the infant formula
manufacturers who would like to use synthetic DHA/ARA oils will now be
allowed to petition the National Organic Standards Board for a safety
review. Cornucopia projects an aggressive lobbying fight with public
interest groups and powerful manufacturers once again squaring off.

"We have to say we are continuing to be impressed by the ethical
turnaround at the USDA, in their oversight of the organic industry, since
the new administration took control in Washington and Secretary Vilsack
promised members of the organic community that he would appoint leadership
who 'shares our values'," Kastel affirmed.

According to The Cornucopia Institute, widely recognized as one of the
industry's most aggressive independent watchdogs, organic consumers have
every reason to feel more confident every day in the integrity of the USDA
organic label.


USDA memorandum reversing previous position on nutrient vitamins and
minerals in organic foods, available upon request: cultivate at cornucopia.org

Link to The Cornucopia Institute report, and other background documents:
Replacing Mother - Imitating Human Breast Milk in the Laboratory:
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