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E-M:/ mda urges withdrawal of organic rule

Enviro-Mich message from Dave Dempsey <davemec@voyager.net>

                                           Contact: Denise Yockey
                    Marketing & Communications Div., 517-373-1104
                                       Contact: Christine Lietzau
                  Office of Agriculture Development, 517-241-2178
                                                      May 8, 1998

  State Agriculture Director Asks U.S. Department of Agriculture
        to Withdraw Proposed National Organic Program Rule

Michigan Department of Agriculture (MDA) Director Dan Wyant has requested
the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to withdraw its proposed National
Organic Program that would establish standards for organic food products.
The program has been under development since the early 1990s and includes a
rule that would set the first U.S.-wide standards for organic foods. 

"The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Michigan's organic industry are
united in their concerns over this proposal," Wyant said.  "We do not
believe that a few modifications will produce a final rule that can
maintain and expand the organic industry in this state, nor will it meet
Michigan organic food consumers' expectations."

The proposed federal rule for organic foods is required by the U.S. Organic
Foods Production Act, adopted in 1990, and administered by the USDA's
Agricultural Marketing Service.  The proposal would establish labeling,
handling, processing and growing requirements for organic
producers and food processors, as well as enforcement provisions.

"Although we are pleased the USDA has taken a leadership role in proposing
uniform standards for organic food products, the draft rule contains too
many inconsistencies with traditional organic farming, processing and
handling methods," Wyant said.  The proposed federal rule allows for the
use of irradiation, nonorganic animal feeds, genetically-modified plants and
animals, sewage sludge, and synthetics incompatible with the practice of
organic farming.

"A consistent nationwide program and standard are critical elements in the
expansion of organic farming in Michigan," Wyant said.  "We urge the USDA
to move quickly toward a new rule that provides a clear distinction for
organic food which is consistent with present international organic
standards and the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board."

The U.S. organic food market was valued at $2.5 billion in 1997, and is
projected to grow to $10 billion by 2002.  Individuals interested in
obtaining a complete copy of MDA's comments to the USDA should contact the
MDA Office of Agriculture Development at 517-241-2178.

(This news release may also be viewed on the World Wide Web at

Dave Dempsey
Policy Director
Michigan Environmental Council
119 Pere Marquette, Suite 2A
Lansing, MI 48912

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