Inspector General Addresses Organic Complaints

Inspector General Addresses Organic Complaints

New Inspector General report addresses complaints from the Cornucopia Institute regarding National Organic Standards Board

The Office of the Inspector General issued a "No Findings" audit report in response to the Cornucopia Institute's allegations that the National Organic Standards Board collides with corporate agribusiness.

OIG conducted the audit following a congressional request and complaint filed by the Cornucopia Institute. Many of the institute's allegations are found in its report "The Organic Watergate," released in June.

OIG report examines Cornucopia Institute complaints.

Cornucopia complained that two of the individuals appointed to board seats reserved by Congress for citizens who "own or operate an organic farm" are actually corporate agribusiness executives who did not qualify when appointed. They also said that technical reviews used by the NOSB to evaluate the safety of synthetics allowed in organics were biased and performed by corporate agribusiness executives or consultants.

The OIG report focused mainly on the list of substances that are prohibited in organic foods, to which they concluded that NOSB followed correct process for reviewing petitioned substances.

"In summary, we determined that Agricultural Marketing Service has adequate management controls in place for administering the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. We did not identify any significant reportable issues and, as such, are not making any recommendations. Therefore, no further action or response is required by AMS," the report concluded.

According to a statement released by The Cornucopia Institute, Co-director Mark Kastel said some allegations were not addressed in the OIG report.

"The limited scope of this review by the OIG simply confirmed that the USDA's National Organic Program was correctly administering the process of reviewing non-organic and synthetic substances before they were added to the National List," Kastel said. "Their audit made it clear that they did not look into the allegations documented in our heavily footnoted, 75 page-white paper, The Organic Watergate."

Kastel said that Cornucopia will be issuing a Freedom of Information Act request to review the resumes of the "suspect board members."

 "We can't hold [OIG] responsible for making the wrong call on this if they were reviewing information that was intentionally deceptive, but we are disappointed they conducted no interviews or looked no further into the specific allegations we made," Kastel said.

Kastel said the organization respects the OIG, but was disappointed that the report did not address some of their allegations. He added that there was no suggestion that the USDA wasn't following legal procedures, but "the allegations are that the process is being followed but has been corrupted."

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