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The Aftermath of the DARK Act Continues: Dr. Bronner’s and OSGATA Quit the OTA. However, the Organic Farmers Association is Formed

A few months after the DARK Act passed, which many in the industry called a massive betrayal of organic by the Organic Trade Association, the fallout continues.

As I shared the news on Facebook recently, Dr. Bronner’s, one of the leading and most vocal GMO-labeling advocates in the country, has quit the Organic Trade Association in protest.

On its website, the company released this statement:

Dr. Bronner’s, North America’s leading natural brand of soap and organic body care products, has resigned from the Organic Trade Association, citing the association’s betrayal of the consumer-led GMO labeling movement, and general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement. The OTA compromised their initial position of opposition to the DARK Act and lent the crucial support that allowed anti-labeling legislators to push that same legislation through the Senate and be signed into law by President Obama this summer.

David Bronner, the company’s CEO, wrote a lengthy piece in The Huffington Post on August 3rd explaining his take on the entire situation. And with the company no longer supporting the OTA, it “has pledged to instead use its organizational resources to help power consumer, farmer and industry organizations that more authentically and courageously represent the vision of regenerative organic agriculture, versus the disaster of soil destroying industrial agriculture.”

Dr. Bronner’s quitting the OTA was hardly the only fallout.

  • Nature’s Path, another incredibly dedicated GMO-labeling advocate, resigned from the OTA board of directors. And for those keeping score at at home, this is the second time that Nature’s Path has quit the OTA board of directors. The first time was more than five years ago.
  • OSGATA, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, withdrew its membership from the OTA, citing “OTA’s duplicity towards organic farmers and consumers”.
  • More than 60 groups have called on members of the Organic Trade Association to cancel their membership in the OTA. These groups include many of the leading organic consumer non-profits including the Center for Food Safety, Organic Consumers Association, Food Democracy Now!, Cornucopia Institute, and Food & Water Watch, among many others.

Yet, one of the most interesting developments over the past few weeks has been the announcement of the Organic Farmers Association.

Launched by the Rodale Institute, the world’s leading organic agriculture research organization, and supported by Dr. Bronner’s as well, the new Organic Farmers Association will exist to provide a voice for organic farmers on policy issues, help organic farmers network and share information, and serve as a resource center for organic farmers to succeed.

Elizabeth Kucinich (Photo courtesy of Rodale Institute)

Maybe the most significant aspect of the Organic Farmers Association is that it will have a physical presence in Washington, D.C, with Elizabeth Kucinich spearheading the lobbying efforts. As a Board Policy Chair for Rodale Institute, Kucinich has extensive policy experience in the nation’s capital including serving as the former director of policy at the Center for Food Safety and former director of government affairs at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). She is also an advisory council member of DC EFF, the world’s largest environmental film festival, and is a producer of GMO OMG and Organic Rising.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring organic farmers’ voices and their experience with agriculture to policymakers in Washington, D.C.,” said Elizabeth Kucinich. “Policymakers have not yet grasped the significance of organic agriculture for resilient, reliable, non-toxic food production, and its ability to mitigate climate change while restoring our nation’s soil health. We have an opportunity to benefit organic farmers, while positively impacting our nation’s health and mitigating our climate crisis.”

The other thing that policymakers have failed to grasp is that the Organic Trade Association does not represent all interests in the organic industry. Certainly, the OTA represents a segment of the organic industry. But in my view and that of many others as well, the OTA does not represent the interests of organic consumers or farmers.

Let’s hope that this new Organic Farmers Association can change that perception among policymakers and having a full-time presence in Washington, D.C. is the only way to do it.

Jeff Moyer, Executive Director of the Rodale Institute, says “A lot of people say they speak for farmers, but there are no national organizations that exist specifically for organic farmers, by organic farmers. A lot of organic farmers are still isolated in their communities. We’d like to unite the nearly 20,000 organic farms around the country to provide that voice, provide a network, and provide the resources that farmers need to be successful.”

In a sea of negativity surrounding the DARK Act, the Organic Farmers Association is a very positive development.

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