Next week, the USDA will implement national organic standards. It's a milestone for the industry. But, the new standards are arriving in the company of a new controversy.
Andrew Kimbrell, Center for Food Safety: "There's nothing more important than deciding who is going to be out there certifying that this product is actually organic and that it actually meets the standards. It is the crux of the integrity of the entire standard. That's why it is mandated, this is not discretionary with the agency, the words are shall, that the agency shall establish such a peer review panel in order to ensure this transparency, in order to ensure that the public has complete access to see who was certified the qualifications of those certifiers, where they are and what they're doing. This we have been completely denied."
According to those who filed the petition, an oversight panel would help prevent frauds from the certification process. A closer look at the National Organic Program shows the legal issue could simply be a matter of semantics and interpretation, though according to the petitioners the agriculture department committed itself in other regulations as well. The U-S-D-A has refused to comment on the pleading.
Regardless of the outcome of the legal end of this matter, there has been strong support for the peer review panel on a number of fronts. Organic groups, the U-S-D-A advisory committee known as the National Organic Standards Board, and others, view a peer review panel as the best way to implement and maintain the National Organic Program standards.