Monday, May 15, 2006

Organic foods advisory board

You may never have heard of the National Organic Standards Board, but it was formed in 1990 as part of the 1990 Farm Bill's Organic Foods Production Act. Its 15 members are meant to assist the Secretary of Agriculture, Mike Johanns in developing organic food standards. Members have five year terms. According to the Department of Agriculture, "The current board is comprised of four farmers/growers, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one scientist, three consumer/public interest advocates, three environmentalists, and one certifying agent who sit on various committees." Except if you look at the current roster, you'll find a vacancy. It's in the Consumer/Public Interest slot.

That slot was left vacant in February when its occupant resigned. Losing one of three "Consumer" members isn't such a good thing, perhaps, but this particular individual was also a food industry lobbyist, Katrina Heinze, manager of global regulatory affairs for General Mills. Her appointment was protested by Consumers Union (CU) and the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) when she was appointed in December. So that left, two. But one of the two is occupied by Daniel Giacomini, a consultant to the organic dairy industry. He's still there.

Bad enough. But now we learn the vacant Consumer slot will remain vacant for the rest of the year.
When asked why the consumer position would remain vacant for the remainder of the year, Valerie Francis, staff officer for the NOSB remarked, "It was the Secretary's decision to pick [Ms. Heinze] and he didn't want to pick anyone else." (Integrity in Science Watch alert, May 1, 2006)
That says it all.