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
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 <http://www.whistleblower.org/> to learn
more about our work and achievements, and how you can confidentially
report <http://whistleblower.org/template/page.cfm?page_id=14> 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 lawyer.
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 authorities.
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
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.
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
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.