Blog: Dean BestNature's Path quits US organic trade body in "protest"

Dean Best | 4 July 2018

The Organic Trade Association, which represents the organic industry in the US, has seen a high-profile member quit the organisation, taking a swipe at the body's stance on policy issues.

Nature's Path Foods, the Canada-based supplier of organic breakfast products, has left the OTA, insisting its move was a "protest to save organic".

The privately-owned business accused the OTA of "shifting its commitment from supporting and representing the core principles of the organic food movement, to begin pushing a non-organic agenda which threatens the future of organic".

Nature's Path said the OTA's support for "a vague and misleading national GMO labelling law" and the organisation allowing "hydroponics to fall under the organic certification label where there is no organic agriculture nor soil present" were central to its decision.

In response, the OTA insisted its "only agenda is organic" and pointed to its ongoing litigation to "defend the organic standards".

Nature's Path has been a proponent of clear labelling on GMO ingredients. In May, the US government issued its proposals for how to label food containing genetically-modified ingredients.

However, the plans show the US Department of Agriculture has yet to come to firm positions on issues including how much genetically-modified material a product contains before needed to be labelled.

Dr Bronner's, the US organic body-care group, withdrew from the OTA in 2016, citing "the association’s betrayal of the consumer-led GMO labelling movement, and general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement".

Nature's Path hit out at the OTA's stance on GMO labelling, saying the organisation's support for the bill up for consultation was given "without the knowledge or expressed consent of many organic members".

Arran Stephens, the founder and co-CEO of Nature's Path, said: "We believe organic can protect and enhance the health of people and planet. Organic can build a better world, free from food with chemical residues, free of toxic environments for farmers, and free of catering to big business at the expense of real people. We’re alarmed the new bill works against our basic human right for food transparency which exists in 64 other countries around the globe with clear GMO labels.”

Asked for a reaction to Nature's Path decision, the OTA provided a statement from its CEO and executive director Laura Batcha.

She said: "The Organic Trade Association’s only agenda is organic, and we work every day to represent the interests of all of our members. We are in active litigation to defend the organic standards, and many OTA members have stepped up to support our legal fund. We are successfully advocating on the Hill for a historic increase in organic research dollars, an overhaul of the oversight system, and a strong defence of the National Organic Standards Board. No single group does or has done more than OTA on these fronts. Our members represent the full chain of organic, from organic farmers of every size to processors and handlers and retailers, and they invest in this agenda.

"Our members are engaged and diverse, and we welcome and encourage open and thoughtful discussions on the best policy goals to help advance organic. An important strength of the organic community has always been its diverse and many voices, all dedicated to advancing the organic sector. We respect any company’s choice about the best affiliation to further their commitment to organic, but we believe OTA remains the best positioned organization to advance its members’ organic priorities nationally."

Arran Stephens, the founder and co-CEO of Nature's Path, 

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