New Organic Label Will Hold Farmers to Higher Standards Than USDA Certification

New Organic Label Will Hold Farmers to Higher Standards Than USDA Certification
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Amid growing concern over the purity of the USDA certified organic label, a new organic label is set to come to foods in a yet-to-be-named pilot program referred to now as the “Real Organic Project.”

The new organic certifying project will start this summer on 20 to 60 farms across the U.S.. Like the National Organic Program, this project would require third-party certification to validate the growing practices. But, unlike the USDA’s current organic program, the certification would explicitly indicate fruits and vegetables had been soil-grown, for an example. The USDA’s organic program allows for the use of soilless hydroponic farming, which a number of organic advocates say goes against the very spirit of the organic label, as it’s all about soil health first and foremost.

The new label would also extend to animal products bearing the USDA organic seal. Current USDA guidelines have rolled back specific animal welfare policies that ensure animals have higher standards of living than conventionally raised animals and more access to the outdoors. Under the new program, there would be stricter pasture requirements for animals.

“I think that a lot of farmers, especially young farmers, feel that the organic label no longer describes the way they farm, and we’re trying to recapture that,” said Linley Dixon, senior scientist for Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog group.

The USDA stirred up controversy last week when it announced that it would go against the recommendation of its own advisory board and allow carrageenan, a controversial ingredient, in certified organic foods. Carrageenan, derived from an algae, is used to emulsify certain foods. But studies have linked it to numerous health risks including digestive issues and certain types of cancer.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.