On January 15th, the USDA announced the appointment of Dr. Francis Thicke, Ph.D. by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). This 15-member board has the sole authority to approve or remove substances from a list of items approved for use in organic foods.
Dr. Thicke has run a grass-fed dairy farm in Iowa for more than 30 years and is a scientist specializing in soil fertility, making him an impeccably qualified candidate to make recommendations to the USDA about what should and shouldn't be allowed in organic food. He was named the 2012 Farmer of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, is a current member of the Cornucopia Institute’s Policy Advisory Panel, and he has been active in many other environmental organizations including the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, the Leopold Group Sierra Club in Southeast Iowa, the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission, and Food Democracy Now.
The appointment is an important one, as the Organic Foods Production Act grants the NOSB sole authority to recommend that the USDA add materials to or remove materials from the National List, which is of utmost importance to consumers of organic foods. The NOSB also makes recommendations on organic pet food standards and organic inspector qualifications, among others.
In general, the U.S. has lagged behind other industrialized nations in banning certain food additives and GMOs from the food supply, so a dedicated environmentalist and experienced organic farmer can only be a boon to the NOSB which helps represent consumer interests in the organic sector.
In recent years, watchdog groups have accused the board of corruption, conflicts of interest, collusion with big ag firms, and illegal appointments. But the Cornucopia Institute and others are heralding Dr. Thicke as a well qualified and impeccably credentialed appointment to the board.