Campbell hopes to restore "organic’ food standard |

Campbell hopes to restore "organic’ food standard

SUMMIT COUNTY – Kathy Jones fumes every time she sees groceries on the shelf labeled “organic” when she can look at the back of the label and see they’re not.

“I’ve been around this industry for 25 years,” the Alpine Natural Foods owner said. “I knew enough to really look at the back part of the label and not believe what it said. I hated to see that “organic’ was going the same direction as the word “natural.’ Everything’s called natural. It could have a bunch of preservatives and still be “natural.’ Producers were calling things “organic’ when they only had two organic ingredients in the whole box.”

The federal government approved a set of standards in October outlining what products can be labeled “organic.”

“It’s a good thing and a bad thing,” Jones said. “The good thing is that it gives organics some credibility. On the other hand, any time you get the government involved in something, there’s a lot of paperwork, plus the money aspect. Some (organic) farmers don’t go through the process, and they can’t call it USDA certified organic.”

A rider on the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill would have eliminated the USDA standards, leaving consumers guessing about the ingredients in their food.

“It really upsets me,” Jones said. “It took years to get this organic standard through the federal government.”

But U.S. senators voted to approve an amendment Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell introduced last week to eliminate the rider. The House will review the 2003 Omnibus Appropriations Bill – without the rider – later this month.

“Colorado is home to the most successful organic businesses in the world,” Campbell said. “Our state has the largest amount of certified organic pastureland in the country and is the second-largest producer of certified organic vegetables.”

The semantic argument surrounding organic foods began with the surge in popularity of healthy foods. Organic foods are free of pesticides, fertilizers, hormones and food additives. For years, there were no standards in place, so food processors could legally say their products were organic even if only a small percentage of the ingredients were truly organic.

Other phrases health-conscious people must be aware of include “free-range,” meaning an animal has spent the majority of its life outside a cage, “preservative-free,” and “hormone-free.”

Jones, however, is more afraid of so-called GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. Those products have in them genetic material from other plants and animals to make them more tolerant to insects, molds, temperature variances and other things that challenge farmers.

Jones said researchers are combining the genes of glow worms with potatoes to help farmers determine the location of the potatoes in the ground and if they are ready for harvest. Another genetic blend involves a flounder gene that researchers put into tomatoes to make them more resistant to frost.

The repercussions of such tampering could prove to be fatal, Jones said. She said she read that a woman had eaten a GMO tomato and fell seriously ill – but didn’t die – because of her allergy to seafood.

Other countries, notably England, Thailand and Australia, have banned genetically modified foods from their shelves.

“The U.S. is dragging its feet,” Jones said of the GMO. “I think it’s due to pressure from big companies. If they have to say it’s genetically remodified organisms, people will say, “What is this?'”

Her store stocks nothing but 100 percent GMO-free products, and if a company can’t prove the ingredients in their products are free of genetic alterations, she takes them off the shelves.

Campbell noted that House representatives put the rider on the bill at the last minute, so it wasn’t subject to a review or vote by either chamber.

“This issue needed to be discussed in the light of day, not slipped into a 3,000-page bill under the cover of night,” he said.

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