August 5, 2008
On July 24, WJLA News in Washington, D.C., reported low levels of pesticide detected in organic ginger, and followed with a subsequent story airing Aug 5. Like shoppers, the organic community is very concerned about reports of such pesticide contamination in the food supply. Consumers choose organic products because they trust organic farmers to not use toxic and persistent pesticides that can end up in the food chain.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) supports the steps taken by the companies involved to move quickly and remove products from the shelf and provide rapid trace back to the source in China. OTA also urges the National Organic Program (NOP) to quickly determine specifically how the contamination occurred. OTA would urge the organic community to use the findings to take steps to improve the system to help prevent such incidents in the future.
The way organic foods are grown and processed is more closely monitored than other types of food production, and organic foods must meet or exceed all federal organic regulations as well as all applicable food safety regulations. For over 12 years, OTA has been advocating for proper funding for NOP, so that it has the resources it needs to create and enforce the organic regulations that cover all organic food and beverage products sold in the U.S. OTA continues to support the work of the National Organic Program.
Organic crops, like any crops, may be inadvertently exposed to agricultural chemicals that are now pervasive in rain and ground water due to their overuse during the past fifty years, and due to drift via wind and rain. In the United States alone, more than one billion pounds of pesticides are released into the environment each year. As a result, consumers are exposed to them daily in the food they eat, the water they drink, the air and dust they breathe, as well as on surfaces inside their homes and at work, and in public places. Aldicarb, like many toxic and persistent pesticides, remains in the environment long after application.
Organic agriculture is about the process of production, and cannot guarantee that all farm products are free of pesticide contamination that already pervades the planet. And yet, organic farming is part of the solution to reduce reliance on potentially dangerous pesticides and fertilizers highly dependent on oil and natural gas for their production. Supporting organic farmers, no matter where they are on the planet, helps to take care of the water and soil resources.
It is really important that such incidents as the one reported come to light and that a determination is made on what went wrong so the findings can be used to improve the system. Strict enforcement of organic standards can bolster consumer confidence in the integrity of organic products they buy.