I’m probably late to the party on this one, but I just heard about this one today. A recent Senate vote “weakened the USDA Organic standard”:http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2005/11/7/11418/9530 by allowing the definition of “organic” to include all sorts of artificial substances:
bq. Ominously, the Senate’s act would strip power to decide which synthetic substances can and cannot be used from the National Organic Standards Board, a 15-member panel made up of a mix of farmers, processors, retailers, scientists, consumer advocates, environmentalists, and certifying agents. Although the board is appointed by the USDA chief, it has acted independently — and by most accounts, responsibly — in its ten-year history, approving only 38 synthetic ingredients.
The Grist article (linked above) has some good comments at the end, from both sides of the fence. My favorite quote from one of them:
bq. If the USDA and the dominant companies in the OTA continue to ignore consumer and organic community expectations…, we will set up our own label, certification, and accreditation system and point out to consumers that “USDA Organic” means “grade B organic,” and that consumers looking for “grade A” will have to look for our new label.
Unfortunately, it’s just this kind of label confusion that the USDA Organic program was supposed to resolve in the first place. Sigh.