USA: Watchdog requests federal investigation

Source: The Cornucopia Institute


The Cornucopia Institute has announced it has formally requested the USDA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) to investigate corruption at its National Organic Program resulting in the use of  illegal synthetics in organic food and then allowing corporations to "game the system" for approval. The controversy surrounds products developed by Martek Biosciences Corporation. Martek has petitioned for approval of its genetically modified soil fungus and algae as nutritional supplements in organic food. These supplements, commonly marketed as DHA and ARA, are being added to milk, infant formula and other organic foods in the USA, the institute reports. After a formal legal complaint by Cornucopia, and an investigative story by the Washington Post, the USDA announced in April 2010 that it had "inappropriately" allowed Martek oils to be included in organic foods. 

But instead of immediately ordering the removal of these unapproved synthetics from organic food, enforcement was delayed by 18 months, the Cornucopia Insitute reports. In December, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the expert panel set up by Congress to advise the USDA Secretary on organic matters, narrowly approved the Martek petitions for their patented versions of DHA and ARA. Although Martek told the board that they would discontinue the use of the controversial neurotoxic solvent n-hexane for DHA/ARA processing, they did not disclose what other synthetic solvents would be substituted. Federal organic standards prohibit the use of all synthetic/petrochemical solvents, including isopropyl alcohol, which is currently used to extract DHA algal oil for use in certain products.

Martek brought in a lawyer of a powerful Washington law firm to lead their approval process. He appeared to deliberately mislead NOSB members into believing that the powdered form of Martek's DHA oil was not covered in the petition, according to Cornucopia. “This apparent subterfuge led to the NOSB's failure to review other aspects of these materials which would have disqualified them, under law, for inclusion in organic food," said Cornucopia's Mark Kastel. The scientists who testified at the meeting on the DHA issue were all employed by Martek. They focused on research showing benefits of consuming naturally occurring omega-3 fatty acids (such as those found in fish and breast milk), while ignoring the preponderance of published peer-reviewed research that shows that these health benefits are not gained from consuming Martek’s novel, manufactured DHA. The full report is available at the Cornucopia Institute.



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