Is USDA Organic Certifiably Insane?

| September 2, 2010 | Reply

I saw a very brief and hurried post from ERV on ScienceBlogs. In it, she noted that organic farmers let their animals die from treatable diseases, because to do otherwise would deny them the valuable ‘organic’ label.

WTF?

In Europe, organic livestock MUST be treated humanely, and may receive therapeutic medication (including antibiotics) – to do otherwise is a complete denial of everything science and medicine has learned in the past three hundred years.

But, apparently, that’s what Organic means in the US!

As ERV says

‘Organic’ farmers? All concerned about their free-range, cage-free, at harmony with the Mother Goddess animals? They let their fucking animals die from treatable diseases, because if they treat them with even one dose of antibiotics, the animals are no longer ‘organic’.

She quotes Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association

Allowing one-time therapeutic antibiotics is “a slippery slope”, and would “undermine consumer confidence in organics. It’s the same position [I have] as on human vaccines. They are dangerous, and that’s why I didn’t vaccinate my kid.”

Never mind the epic FAIL in Ronnie Cummin’s statement about the dangers of vaccines – that woo is worthy of a post all by itself! The issue is that animals are allowed to die, often painfully, from completely preventable and treatable diseases.

Why is this so?

ERV linked to her source (this article at the blog “In These Times”). According to that article,

Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations defining organic standards mandate that if [a] calf had gotten one dose of antibiotics, even to save her life, she could never give organic milk—even after the two years it takes for her to become a milker, and even though neither she nor her milk would retain any trace of antibiotics.

So why would the USDA have such nonsensical standards for ‘organic’? It seems that

In the 1990s, an embattled organics movement defeated agribusiness’s attempt to allow all drugs, toxic pesticides and genetic engineering to fall under the proposed USDA organic label. Some speculate that when agribusiness saw that its strategy to eviscerate standards would fail, it began advocating regulations so strict that few farmers would adopt them, and those that did would become uncompetitive.

Who would have thought that agribusiness and hard-core tree-huggers would ever be on the same side, but apparently so. The National Director for the Organic Consumers Association is aligned with Agribusiness in making organic a side-show rather than a central plank of ethical food production.

Some organic proponents (myself included) recognize that a 100 percent ban on antibiotics is brain-dead stupid needs to be re-examined. Animal welfare, and the Organic label, should mean more than ideological purity – it should mean doing the best we can for our food-stocks, while limiting approaches that actively harm the environment (such as epidemic use of low-dose antibiotics, unrestrained use of excess fertilizers, mono-cultural crops, ultra-high density factory farming, and the like).

We need to apply ethical and sustainable approaches to food production. That does not mean we throw the baby out with the bath water.

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Category: Consumer Protection, Consumerism, Food, Science, Sustainable Living, Uncategorized

About the Author ()

I'm a technophile with an enduring interest in almost anything real or imagined. I suffer fools badly, and love trashy science fiction, plot-free action movies, playing guitar, and baking (especially scones. You haven't lived 'til you've eaten my scones. I've recently undertaken bread, and am now in danger of gaining in a matter of weeks the 60 pounds I've lost in the past 2 years). My wife & I are Scottish, living north of Atlanta, GA, with two children, one dog, and a growing collection of gadgets. I work for a living.

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