The  U.S. Department of Agriculture announced in November that it will introduce additional testing for organic foods aimed at maintaining the integrity of the USDA National Organic Program. Beginning January 1, 2013, organic certifying agents must test samples from at least 5% of the operations they certify on an annual basis.

“While testing has always been a part of organic product oversight and is required by the Organic Foods Production Act, today’s action specifies the minimum amount of testing that must occur,” USDA said.“This additional testing will help certifying agents identify and take enforcement action against farms and businesses intentionally using prohibited substances or methods.”

Accredited certifying agents may test USDA organic farms and processors across the United States and throughout the world for any prohibited substances and methods, including:

• Prohibited pesticides
• Arsenic or other contaminant metals
• Genetic engineering
• Synthetic hormones
• Antibiotics, except in organic apple and pear production per USDA organic regulations

This increased oversight will increase consumer confidence in organic products worldwide, supporting continued growth of the $32 billion organic industry in the United States.

In October, the National Organic Standards Board passed a motion to classify Biodegradable biobased mulch film as synthetic and rejected proposals to weaken standards.

Economic Justice for Family Scale Farming group the Cornucopia Institute alerted stakeholders that USDA was seeking public comment on a rule that would continue its policy of allowing the indiscriminate and illegal addition of synthetic nutrients to organic foods, due December 26, 2012.

The Cornucopia Institute said nutrients occur naturally in foods, and many are essential for good health. But organic consumers expect that any added nutrients in processed foods be derived from natural or organic sources rather than synthetic versions that are mass-produced in laboratories and factories by chemical corporations, often using hazardous petrochemical solvents.

“If you agree that organic foods should be free from unnecessary synthetic ingredients, as the federal organic regulations require, please make your voice heard,” the Cornucopia Institute said. “In the past six months, organic stakeholders won a string of victories at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings, which upheld organic integrity and rejected corporate petitions for eight synthetic nutrients.” “Rather than respect the organic law and accept the NOSB recommendation and the will of the organic community, corporate food manufacturers like Nestle have refused to remove the synthetic nutrients from organic foods, and have turned instead to the USDA for help.”

The Cornucopia Institute believes that the organic community must make clear that synthetic nutrients should be individually reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board, and if approved, should be individually listed on the National List of allowed materials. All loopholes and incorrect interpretations of the organic standards must end now.

“The NOSB, after considering extensive public comment, has made clear that synthetic nutrients have no place in organic foods. The USDA must take immediate enforcement against any and all synthetic nutrients that are not on the National List of allowed materials and that have been rejected by the National Organic Standards Board,” Cornucopia said.