The USDA defines certification of organic products as, “a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990.” A National Organic Program (NOP) hashes out specifics, or makes the rules for labeling standards. This includes alternative pesticide standards. Not surprisingly, this program has a record that is not squeaky clean. A July 2005, USDA study found that of the eight complaints received by the NOP in 2003 none of them had been resolved. One of these complaints involved a “possible prohibited substance being added to an organic product.”
So, we know of at least one case where there something, possibly a pesticide, that is not supposed to even be in organic food was there. My guess is it happens far too often. Accepting alternative pesticides as organic could invite more corruption. How do they determine a pesticide to be organic?
Are organic alternative pesticides better?
Organic farmers aren’t just rotating crops and throwing a bunch of praying mantis’ in their fields. They can apply pesticides and still be USDA certified. These approved pesticides are made from “naturally” occurring substances. A revealing article on “grist” says University of Minnesota professor of horticultural science Jeff Gilman stated that big organic farms must apply these organic pesticides more than conventional ones to be effective. He goes on to state this can be worse for the environment than conventional pesticides.
About conventional pesticides in organic foods
If we are to believe the USDA’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP) 2008 findings, pesticide residues in conventionally grown foods are well below EPA standards anyway, and they are safer than many of the older pesticides. They also point out that levels dropped significantly from 2002 to 2008. Further emphasizing their point, they explain how the majority of PDP pesticide findings are found to be below 1 part per million and this is “the equivalent of one ounce of salt in a mountain of 62,500 pounds of sugar.”
The USDA website in reference to organic produce states there are “significantly fewer pesticide residues than conventional produce”. This is significantly less than the minuscule amount of 1 ounce of salt in a mountain of sugar. Hmm…so the government is simultaneously convincing us of how insignificant the level of pesticides in conventional foods are and setting arbitrary organic standards so we can be charged much more for food that may or may not be safer for humans or the environment.
For more on organic produce seeAll About Organic Produce Food Safety.
USDA Organic Definition: http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/01001-02-HY.pdf
The grist on Pesticides: http://www.grist.org/article/Checkout-Line-Organic-chemistry/
Pesticide Data Program Findings: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop
USDA on Pesticide Residues: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml