This note came of MDA, Colleen Collier as an FYI piece. Thought you may
be interested in this as I listen to unhappy farmers who have certified
organic produce. 


>>> "Jacqueline Ostfeld" <[log in to unmask]> 4/11/2007 4:34

PM >>>





Dear Colleen M. Collier,




Please find below an op-ed I recently authored in The Buffalo News

titled "Blowing the Whistle on Sham 'Organics.'"




As organics go mainstream and new players enter the market who value

profit over principle, the danger rises that corners will be cut and

organics standards driven down. If that happens, it's not only the bad

actors who will suffer. Consumers will look upon everyone who flies


organics banner with suspicion and cynicism. That's not fair but it is

reality. So it falls upon each of us to do what we can to protect the

reputation of organics. 




My name is Jacqueline Ostfeld and I am the Food and Drug Safety


at the Government Accountability Project, a non-profit whistleblower

protection organization. For 30 years, GAP has been defending the free

speech rights of government and corporate employees as they disclose

information relevant to the public interest. I write to you today to

commend you for all of your hard work developing and maintaining a

vibrant organic food production and distribution sector. As the public

debate over the future of the organic label rages on, I want you to


that GAP is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the organic

standards and defending the rights of people who raise their voices to

hold all players, even the giants, accountable to these standards.




GAP works closely with Congress, media, relevant agencies and other

organizations to ensure that whistleblower disclosures (both public


anonymous) inspire positive change. If you or a colleague knows of a

violation of organics standards and you want to correct it, please


free to contact us. GAP is here to protect your rights!




Please visit GAP's website <>  to learn

more about our work and achievements, and how you can confidentially

report <>  a

violation of organics standards and seek our guidance or assistance.


 Here are the highlights from this WEB site:

What is a Whistleblower?

reporting wrongdoing or a violation of the law to the proper authorities
such as a

        supervisor, a hotline or an Inspector General

(b)    refusing to participate in workplace wrongdoing

(c)    testifying in a legal proceeding

(d)    leaking evidence of wrongdoing to the media


Blowing the Whistle: Twelve Survival Strategies


1.)    Before taking any irreversible steps, talk to your family of
close friends about your decision to blow the whistle.


2.)    Be alert and discreetly attempt to learn of any other witnesses
who are upset about the wrongdoing.


3.)    Before formally breaking ranks consider whether there is any
reasonable way to work within the system by going to the first level of
authority. If you do decide to break ranks, think carefully about
whether you want to "go public" with your concerns or remain an
anonymous source. Each strategy has implications: the decision depends
on the quantity and quality of your evidence, your ability to camouflage
your knowledge of key facts, the risks you are willing to assume and
your willingness to endure intense public scrutiny.


4.)    Develop a plan-such as strategically-timed release of information
to government agencies-so that your employer is reacting to you, instead
of vice-versa.


5.)    Maintain good relations with administration and support staff.


6.)    Before and after you blow the whistle, keep a careful record of
events as they unfold. Try to construct a straightforward, factual log
of the relevant activities and events on the job, keeping in mind that
your employer will have access to your diary if there is a lawsuit.


7.)    Identify and copy all necessary supporting records before drawing
any suspicion to your concerns.


8.)    Break the cycle of isolation research and identify and seek a
support network of potential allies, such as elected officials,
journalists and activists. The solidarity of key constituencies can be
more powerful than the bureaucracy you are challenging.


9.)    Invest the funds to obtain a legal opinion from a competent


10.)  Always be on guard not to embellish your charges.


11.)  Engage in whistleblowing initiatives on your own time and with
your own resources, not your employer's.


12.)  Don't wear your cynicism on your sleeve when working with the


To make a complaint

Call Colleen M. Collier

Organic Program Manager

Michigan Department of Agriculture

Pesticide and Plant Pest Management Division

P.O. Box 30017

Lansing, Michigan 48909

(517) 373-0280

[log in to unmask]



Feel free to share this notice with any individual or organization you

believe might be interested in learning more about GAP's commitment to

protecting organics whistleblowers.










Jacqueline Ostfeld


Food and Drug Safety Officer


Government Accountability Project


1612 K St. NW, Suite 1100


Washington, DC 20006


Phone: (202) 408-0034 Ext. 153


Fax: (202) 408-9855


[log in to unmask] 





An abridged version of this op-ed appeared in






Blowing the Whistle on Sham 'Organics'



February 12, 2007


Written by GAP Food & Drug Safety Officer Jacqueline Ostfeld 


The organic food industry is booming. In this country alone, sales


grown from $4 to $18 billion in just ten years. The sharp rise is

largely due to increased public skepticism about the conventional food

supply. Last year brimmed with food safety scares and scandals. Now


the impending market arrival of cloned animal products, consumer

concerns about the wholesomeness of their food are commonplace.


The public is ripe for change - and big business is geared up for the

challenge. Nothing could have better symbolized organic food's entry

into the lives of mainstream America than when, last summer, Wal-Mart

announced it would introduce organic products at affordable prices.


is that really what consumers are getting? 


As major retailers stock their shelves with "organic" products,

underselling the existing industry, longtime organics advocates fear


the standards. Cutting costs invites cutting corners. While the vast

majority of organic farmers, ranchers and retailers follow legal

standards, violations by the few, combined with inadequate oversight,

threaten the integrity of the entire sector.


The allegations have begun. Horizon and Aurora, the country's two

largest organic dairy producers, have been hit with a consumer boycott

for confining their cows to feedlots rather than providing required

access to pasture. Cows cramped in feedlots spend their lives


in a mixture of mud and feces. Studies show that cows fattened on


rather than corn, are far less likely to harbor the dangerous and

sometimes deadly strain of E. coli that continually threatens our food



Consumers expect that organic milk comes from cows grazing on

pesticide-free pastures. A recent poll by the Center for Food Safety

found that over 60 percent of women - primary household shoppers - who

purchase organic milk, would stop if they knew that cows were confined

rather than grazing. Smaller distributors have already dropped Horizon

from their shelves.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is soon expected to

clarify guidelines detailing the level of pasture access organically

raised cows must receive. Whether or not the rule change will satisfy

public expectations remains to be seen. Even if it does, it will be


to USDA-sanctioned, but privately or state-employed organic


to monitor compliance. Their track record of enforcement is


Dear Colleen M. Collier,Dear Colleen M. Collier,

China has four times the amount of land in organic food production


does the US. China's organic exports, growing at a rate of 50 percent

annually, now total upwards of $200 million. While most of the exports

enter European markets, a significant and growing portion are reaching

American dinner tables. Yet a USDA economist acknowledged that China


probably too polluted "to grow truly organic food." 


A Dallas Morning News investigation disclosed the discovery by a

Japanese inspector of an empty herbicide bag on an "organic" soybean

field in China. Could soy from this field enter the US market?

Absolutely. The USDA says it would not look behind the claim that the

herbicide bag was carried by the wind onto the farm. Rather, it relies

on organic certifiers to make the call.


The Cornucopia Institute, a farm advocacy group, discovered last

September that Wal-Mart was falsely labeling conventional products


organic sales tags in its retail stores across the country. Wal-Mart


yet to clean up its act, compelling the Organic Consumers Association


call a nationwide boycott of what it calls "America's retail Death



Perhaps the USDA is asleep at the wheel. More generously, they are

overworked, under-staffed and under-funded. The USDA's National


Program, still in its infancy, is unable to keep up with the galloping

market growth. Last year, the Dallas Morning News revealed that the


has no idea to what degree organic standards are being violated.


no wonder, as the agency has been nonchalant about following up on


into potential misbehavior.


Because of organic advocacy groups and committed journalists, some

violations of the standards have been exposed, action is being taken


the public is becoming more discerning about which organic food brands

and retailers they can trust. But holding appropriate parties

accountable to organic standards is everyone's job. Government and

corporate employees on the inside are also critical to ensuring the

integrity of the industry. Let's keep organic organic.


Jacqueline Ostfeld is Food & Drug Safety Officer at the Government

Accountability Project, a nonprofit whistleblower protection

organization. For 30 years, GAP has been defending the free speech

rights of government and corporate employees.


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