GENTECH archive 8.96-97
We distributed 25 copies of the Organic Farmers Marketing Association, OFMA,
side by side (OFPA compared line by line with Codex Step 6 Draft Organic
Standards) with a very short summary, 1 page that incorporated material Steve
Sprinkel and Cissy Bowman provided. Cost $200 (69 pages, bound, still have 3
copies left). Sending final copy for putting on the OFMA Website
Crowded room half the day with 250 people, 22 nations. Ruth Lovisolo from
Australia chaired the meeting. No parliamentary process, she just feels out
the participants and makes the decision. This is in the Organic Working
Session. The full Codex meeting starts tomorrow, or today, Tuesday. In the
Organic Working Group only the government representative of sovereign nations
and the non-governmental representatives recognized by WHO/FAO can speak,
just the same as the full Codex meeting that follows. Michael Hankin is
speaking for the US, Ana Lilia Alfaro Lemus of SAGAR represented Mexico and
Bruce Dexter for Canada are the national spoke persons today in discussion of
organic issues. Ken Cummins, a gentleman from Germany and Tom Harding
represent IFOAM. Michael Sligh is now an NGO representative for RAFI on par
with IFOAM. Tim Sullivan, Roger Blobaum, Katherine DiMatteo, Joe Smillie,
Jim Riddle all here from US.
Joyce Ford and Jim Riddle, of the US based Independent Organic Inspectors
Association, produced an analysis of Codex comparing Australia, Canada, BC
Canada, NOSB recommendations, EU program, plus IFOAM. The issues they chose,
or the US based Organic Trade Association chose, who commissioned IOIA ) ,
skirted most of the controversial issues. They compared terms regulated,
minimum buffer zones, conversion requirements, organic plans, GMO's, labeling
and product content livestock feed, material list formulation, parallel
production, raw manure application, recordkeeping requirements, residue
testing. The issues of strong consumer concern: synthetics (ingredients,
processing aids or food additives) in organic processed foods, the specific
categories of active synthetic ingredients that can be considered for use in
organic farming, organic labeling categories, synthetic inert ingredients,
public access to information, the inspection, certification, accreditation
system to make sure consumers are getting what they are paying for were not
covered, etc. were not covered. His report did identify the requirements for
100% organic feed, but didn't document time to feed before marketing most
It is very clear that organic farmers and consumers have to be involved all
through the yearly Codex process, commenting in detail during the course of
the year to get there impact felt.
Extremely difficult to influence the USDA/NOP positions at the meeting.
Appears the greatest contribution OFMA can make at this Codex meeting is to
acquaint folks with OFMA, make personal contacts, hold quality conversations
and encourage folks to hold it to Step 6 in concert with OFMA's Board motion.
There is total resistance to using the synthetic/natural paradigm of OFPA.
Not once in the Codex Step 6 Draft is there a mention of prohibiting
synthetics, while in OPFA it is used 15 times. People just do not understand
it, and return to making long list of qualified acceptables.
Many, many definitions are not clear. And many terms are used in the Step 6
document that have no definitions, i.e. compost or fresh manure from
"Factory" farming being prohibited for use on organic farms.
The entire inspection/certification/accreditation/competent authority process
is not clarified along with procedures for carrying it out.
The general consensus of the group except for the EU and IFOAM is to limit
the details of organic farming and handling (no-one even uses the word
handling) and try to develop the concepts of organic. This is very difficult
to do. The definitions are not even agreed upon and it is clear that the EU
countries are very rigid about certain basically theoretical points, while
very lenient about practical points. i.e., they do not want sterile male
insects released, but approve of selling organic milk and milk products after
milk producing animals have been feed organic for 4 weeks. The EU is
proposing to allow any normal livestock medicine or synthetic parasiticide
to be used as in conventional production with double the withdrawal time and
then being able to be sold as "organic", while prohibiting conventional
compost from being used on organic farms.
Codex's criteria for evaluating substance for putting on their Annexes needs
improvement The Annexes which contain all the substances that can be used in
organic, fertility products, pest control products, livestock products,
processing aids, etc. are not all that large, but the criteria for reviewing
substances and placing them on the list is pretty poor.
All the qualified representatives participated in the Organic Working Group
discussion. Ms Lovisolo ran the meeting quite well. She has been dealing
with Codex for 14 years and is a beef farmer along with being in charge of
phytosanitary and quarantine for Australia.
There is going to be a thorough examination of the EU's livestock document on
The US is obviously at a disadvantage in these discussions, although Michael
Hankin is doing excellent, because over the last 3 years the USDA/NOP did not
provide the Codex organic working group with a US position based on the
Organic Foods Production Act. (Mexico and Canada are at a similar
disadvantage lacking a consolidated position on relevant issues.) Therefore,
the sections of OFPA that could have formed a basis for moving Codex forward
have never even been offered to the Organic Working Group or Codex, while
standards from other nations have yearly been incorporated. The USDA/NOP
approach appears to be that OFPA was going to be changed by a final rule and
therefore, they couldn't offer input to Codex. The US as exporters and in
protecting US farmers against low standard imported organic products is at a
tremendous disadvantage by not offering the concept of handling, the
certification/accreditation concept, the National List concept, livestock
standards, as stated in OFPA before now. USDA/NOP is the forum through which
standards are offered for consideration.
Of utmost importance is the clarification that nothing in Codex supersedes
national autonomy. Though we all quake at the thought of the world order,
the report from the Codex scene is we are all safe as far as organics is
concerned. OFPA remains so far ahead of anything on earth, no matter how
long it has taken us to get where we are, the US organic farmer just has to
remember, that the US government in the form of AMS and FAS (with
counterparts in Mexico and Canada) is there to defend farmers from
illegitimate imports and export trade barriers and distortions. The power
is in the government to defend its constituency, farmers and consumers. Use
Two possible outcomes in light of the drive to make this incomplete Codex
document an international organic standard.
Either it will move forward without handling or livestock, inadequate as it
is and become a provisional international standard (this possibility has been
refuted by the UK who says in 1995 the Codex world body declared there would
be no more provisional standards. any standard that gets to Step 8, is the
world standard), Ruth says it is possible to move the Codex Step 6 Draft to a
final Step 8 in June 1997 as a Provisional Organic Standard, subject to
review over the next two years before becoming final.
Or, Codex will stay at Step 6 and get more time for input. I think the EU,
Japan, UK and member states of the EU want it to stay at Step 6. The primary
movers to Step 7 is IFOAM and Ruth Lovisolo who feels smaller nations need
some guidelines to get their organic products into world trade.
And so from the top of the Citadel Hotel at the 23rd floor (the US
delegation choose the Citadel) we bring you the news that isn't to
noteworthy, but will have an impact on our lives.