NOSB member said to bend organic rules for profit – National Organic Standards Board
The Organic Consumers Association (O.C.A.) has learned that someone at the National Organic Standards Board (N.O.S.B.) has a financial conflict of interest related to her role in establishing organic standards for cosmetics. The conflict stems from the Board’s eventual recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on organic standards for cosmetics. The O.C.A. believes that the Board member’s role as a consultant to a California manufacturer of floral waters (hydrosols) demonstrates that she has a clear financial incentive to institute the practice of counting tap water from steam as “organic” in floral waters. Under the National Organic Program (N.O.P.), non-plant water cannot count as organic.
At the Organic Trade Association’s Personal Care Task Force (O.T.A.P.C.T.F.) meeting in Anaheim, California, in March 2003, she stated that added water from steam in floral waters is accurately counted as organic in shampoos, conditioners, and other body care products even though the main active ingredients in these cosmetics are cleansing and foaming agents in part or wholly derived from petroleum.
The N.O.S.B. is the public body charged with safeguarding organic standards and integrity. Because .counting water from steam as organic in floral waters is a transparently absurd and contentious issue, the O.C.A. argues that a Board member has no business taking money from one of the interested companies.
“Manufacturers of floral waters such as [this company] stand to financially benefit from watered-down organic standards that will dramatically increase demand for these filler ingredients,” said Ronnie Cummins, the O.C.A.’s Executive Director. “The clear financial gain [they] will derive from [her] support for counting water from steam in floral waters as organic should result in [her] being prohibited from voting on N.O.S.B.’s recommended organic cosmetic standards.”
The Board member subsequently pointed out that she had stated, in part at the March ‘and May O.T.A.P.C.T.F. meetings, that she was “working with” the manufacturer on regulatory issues regarding floral waters. However, this veiled reference did not indicate a formal financial consulting relationship, which would be inappropriate for an N.O.S.B. board member.
The California Organic Standards Act of 2003 stipulates a mandatory 70 percent minimum weight of non-water/non-salt agricultural organic content in a product for a “Made with Organic” label claim to appear on the front panel and forbids synthetic ingredients not allowed under the federal N.O.P. The O.C.A. has demanded that organic body care standards mirror the standards for organic food products. This means
* certified organic agricultural feed stocks, in contrast to petroleum or conventional vegetable feed stocks, are used exclusively in the manufacture of the key basic cleansing and conditioning ingredients.
* the manufacture of such ingredients is reasonably simple and ecological.
* the toxicity of each ingredient is minimal.
* non-agricultural water is not counted, in any shape or form, as contributing to organic content.
(Source: The Organic Consumers Association, June 2003.)
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