Late night switcheroo imperils National Organic Standards LawIn a corrupted legislative process, the switcheroo on organic food standards sets a new standard. The mammoth 2003 federal spending bill that passed the House and Senate Feb. 14 contained a provision that effectively undoes the 1990 National Organic Standards Law.

At the request of Fieldale Farms, a large chicken producer, Georgia lawmakers inserted an exemption to the National Organic Standards. This provision allows beef, poultry, pork, eggs and dairy products to carry the US. Department of Agriculture organic label even though they are produced from livestock that consumed non-organic feed.

Writing for the Capital Press last week, Larry Swisher reported, "The exemption has already created a backlash." Consumer and farm groups are angered, and Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont has prepared legislation to undo the damage. Leahy sponsored the 1990 organic law.

Millions of Americans are paying more attention to what they and their families eat. Books such as Fateful Harvest and Fast Food Nation offer cautionary tales for the skeptical consumer. Organic farmers are finding that households will pay more for food from animals that are given healthier feed.

Only a total novice would be surprised at the nefarious late-night sleight-of-hand that Georgia's lawmakers completed on behalf of their giant farm constituent. But it stinks and it is bad for business. Lawmakers such as Sen. Gordon Smith and Congressman Greg Walden should aid Sen. Leahy in his rescue mission.

The marketplace has spoken. Organic foods represent the future of agriculture. The poultry growers in Georgia represent the past.

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