Is the USDA National Organic Program is Doing its Job (protecting the values of traditional organic agriculture and meeting consumer expectations)?
Let’s debate the direction of organic labeling standards with Dave Chapman and Johanna Mirenda.
David Chapman, owner of Vermont tomato operation Long Winds Farm and executive director of the Real Organic Project, has been challenging the NOP to return to organic principles for the last two years. He will defend the negative position.
Johanna Mirenda, who has worked as policy director of Pennsylvania Certified Organic and technical director of OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute) is now the farm policy director of the Organic Trade Association, replacing Nate Lewis. She will defend the positive position.
Chapman and Mirenda are on opposite sides of several issues concerning recent NOP performance and organizers expect a vigorous debate exploring this important issue. In the wake of the National Organic Standards Board’s 8 to 7 vote supporting certification of hydroponics, criticism of the failure of the NOP to catch cases of fraud in imported grain and domestic dairying, and anger over passage of the Dark Act which preempted state laws requiring labeling of GMOs, many old time organic advocates are questioning whether, in this political and economic climate, organic advocates can rely on the NOP and the legislation behind it to protect the interests of organic farmers and consumers.
Jack Kittredge, past policy director of NOFA/Massachusetts and current editor of The Natural Farmer will moderate. “For many years,” Kittredge says, “the organic movement was almost synonymous with its trade association (OTA predecessor OFPANA -- the Organic Food Production Association of North America predated the 1990 federal law which established the NOP). But as the organic market has grown and more and more conventional food companies have found a home there, the culture of the organic community has changed and grown more mainstream. This has led to schisms and some hard feelings. This year, for the first time in many, we will have a representative of OTA to give their thoughts on how the NOP is doing and if changes are required.”