Unfortunately, the relaxation of federal standards concerning the legal definition of “organic” was also a major contributing factor in this growth, which has prompted tension as to whether the USDA Organics program should allow small amounts of non-organic, supposedly non-health-threatening, or whether it should abide by a more strict interpretation, allowing only non-synthetic ingredients. As it stands today, synthetic ingredients are allowed in products with an attractive, green and white “USDA Organic” logo on the front. For example, synthetic choline, a water-soluble essential nutrient, is allowed in “organic” Gerber baby food, even though this synthetic compound was never even approved for use in Organic products (“Synthetic Nutrients in Organic Foods”). Also, powdered cellulose derived from wood starch is allowed in “organic” grated cheese for the purpose of preventing clumping. While there is no research indicating that cellulose poses health concerns, it is indigestible by humans, and the fact that a product containing synthetic ingredients is being labeled by a federal program as “organic” under the current definition of the word only brings about confusion and questions of validity.While large food manufacturers are at fault for their flawed claims, and the USDA is at fault for allowing them to happen, the uninformed consumers of the organics market are significant facilitators of this issue. A person might pay up to twice as much for an item of produce flaunting a USDA Organic sticker that has been unintentionally crossbred with an adjacent field of GMO produce, causing this first item to become genetically modified. In another instance, a person might purchase a product with a “USDA Made With Organic Ingredients” label at a high price than its “non-organic” counterpart, without realizing that this product is legally allowed to contain up to 30% synthetic ingredients (organic.org). This kind of semantic confusion might understandably hit a nerve with consumers of organic baby products, for example, since these consumers will be worried about giving their child the healthiest upbringing possible.
As a scholar who is associated neither with the production in the organics market nor with the rearing of infants, I was able to step back from the whole ordeal, take a unbiased look, and devise a way to alleviate the confusion of labeling and purchasing organic food. In fact, what I am about to propose will benefit both parties; under my plan of action, consumers will have truly Organic foods to feed their family, and will no longer have to worry about navigating their way though aisles of unclear labels in order to find the product they seek. Consumers will no longer need to actively determine the validity of Organic products, and producers need not concern themselves with this validity either. Since my proposition is based on an immutable fact of nature, the organic status of each product will be inherent. The genius of my proposal is that consumers can continue buying the products they have grown to love, and the only change producers may have to make is an investment in green and white printing ink.
I will now explain the idea I have been speaking about, and I hope it will be met well by my readers.
Currently, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) advises the USDA on the legal definition of “organic”. However, after making investigations into the matter, I have observed that everything made on earth comes from the earth. Therefore, it is with no small pride that I suggest that the USDA takes an executive decision and accepts all ingredients as Organic.
With the USDA Organic label on literally every package in every grocery store in the US, consumers will have no trouble finding 100% USDA Organic products. The meaninglessness of the label will finally be openly admitted, and consumers will no longer have cause of worry regarding its intended communication. Producers will also benefit from this easy-to-understand format, because the less time consumers spend trying to decipher confusing labels, the more time they will have to buy products. Also, it is likely producers will be able to charge more for products they were, until now, not allowed to brand with the USDA Organic label.
With every great new idea comes doubters and detractors, and this is no exception. Some may suggest that the use of so-called “artificial” fertilizers invalidate the USDA Organic label, and to these critics I encourage a closer inspection of the chemical makeup of the substances in question. For example, a vast majority of fertilizers are made up of ammonia, which is made up of three molecules of hydrogen for every molecule of nitrogen. The air we breathe everyday is made up of about 78% nitrogen (“Introduction to the Atmosphere”), and last time I checked, hydrogen makes up two-thirds of water. I cannot think of two more naturally occurring, and therefore, Organic, elements. Others may disagree with my inclusion of GMOs under the USDA label, but Merriam-Webster defines organic as “of, relating to, or obtained from living things”. Although a GMO has been altered in some way, it is still fundamentally an organism, and being derived from a living thing, is therefore Organic.
As can be seen from the points I have made, my solution is clearly superior to those attempts of others to alleviate ambiguity of USDA Organic labels. Attempts like alternative organic certification labels with easy-to-understand websites and contact information for each associated farm, such as the “Homegrown” label of the Montana Sustainable Growers Union only brings about confusion about which label to trust, and clutters external package information, taking the focus away from the only important label: USDA Organic. Alternative labels like “Certified Naturally Grown” that encourage farms to market locally, and requires members to inspect each other’s farms to enforce compliance have the same problems as previously stated, with the addition of distracting farmers from their actual job: growing USDA Organic food. Since all things will be considered Organic under my proposition, these labels will become obsolete anyway. In response to any suggestions of stricter policies for the USDA Organic label, and legislation to enforce these policies, and to make USDA practices more transparent, I encourage the consideration of cost of this venture. This is money that could be used to print more USDA Organic labels.
In the words of Thoreau, “simplify, simplify, simplify”. We must calm this storm of confusion and unite under a single banner: USDA Organic.
Given all that I have said here, I want to stress that my intentions for this proposal were solely aimed at the clearing up of any misunderstanding between producer and consumer. My proposed changes would not benefit me, or, with the exception of the joy of watching the improvement of the lives of my human cousins, affect my personal life at all for that matter. As a goat, my diet consists of vines, shrubbery, and anything else that I can fit inside my mouth.