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May 23, 2000


National Survey: Organic Labels Are Misleading



The article below illustrates one more reason to contact the USDA and let
them know how you feel about the new Organic Program proposal, which, this
study shows, "will seriously mislead consumers into thinking the products
are safer, better in quality or more nutritious."

To submit comments directly, please go to

There you will find pre-drafted comments which you can submit, or you can
edit or erase the text and write your own letter. Thank you for taking the
time to make a difference.


Business Wire
May 24, 2000, Wednesday 10:43 AM Eastern Time

National Survey: USDA Organic Food Labels Are Misleading
WASHINGTON, May 24, 2000

A new poll finds the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) proposed rules
for labeling organic food products will seriously mislead consumers into
thinking the products are safer, better in quality or more nutritious.

The survey, conducted by International Communications Research of Media, PA
on behalf of the National Center for Public Policy Research, found
two-thirds of the public would be misled by the proposed USDA seal on
several key issues:

-- 68 percent said they would interpret a product labeled "USDA Certified
Organic" to be safer to eat than non-organic foods;

-- 67 percent believed "USDA Certified Organic" to be better than
non-organic foods; and,

-- 62 percent believe "USDA Certified Organic" to be healthier for
than non-organic foods.

"Neither organic nor conventional producers are served by misleading the
public over such important issues of food safety and nutrition," said John
Carlisle, director of the Environmental Policy Task Force at the National
Center for Public Policy Research. "A level playing field for organic
growers can only exist if consumers are informed about the real benefits
and risks of purchasing organically certified products."

According to both the USDA and the leadership of the $6 billion organic
industry, organic certification is only an accreditation of production
methods used by farmers and not an assurance of food safety, quality,
nutrition or health. USDA Secretary Dan Glickman, in announcing the
proposed rules, stated that the USDA organic certification does not mean
food labeled organic is "superior, safer or more healthy than conventional
food." In a recent interview on ABC News' 20/20, Organic Trade Association
director Katherine DiMatteo reiterated that organic products are not safer
or more nutritious than other foods, noting, "Organic agriculture is not
particularly a food safety claim. That's not what our standards are

The proposed USDA rules, developed in response to the Organic Food
Production Act of 1990, are to help consumers distinguish products grown
using national standards for organic production methods. Today, no national
standards exist, and, according to the Organic Trade Association, as much
as 50 percent of all foods sold as organic lack any certification on which
consumers can rely to inform their purchase choice.

In other findings, this national consumer poll found seven out of ten (69
percent) said the USDA label would imply these products are better for the
environment and four out of ten (43 percent) believe these would be more
nutritious. In fact, the label provided no information on either of these

"Consumers pay significant premiums, sometimes as much as 200 percent, for
these products based on misperceptions that will be heightened by this USDA
proposed label," noted Carlisle. "Clearly, consumers want the USDA to amend
this rule to include specific language on the USDA proposed seal to inform
consumers that organic certification is based on production methods and
conveys no assurance of food safety, nutrition or other quality."

The Environmental Policy Task Force is a project of The National Center for
Public Policy Research, a non-partisan, non-profit education foundation. To
obtain a copy of the poll or to interview scientific experts, contact John
Carlisle at The National Center for Public Policy Research at 202-371-1400,
ext. 107, or Jcarlisle@nationalcenter.org

CONTACT: John Carlisle of the National Center for Public Policy
Research, 202-371-1400, ext. 107;
Web site: http://www.nationalcenter.org <http://www.nationalcenter.org/>