USDA Failures Necessitate Independent Corporate and Governmental Oversight
WASHINGTON, Sept. 4, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Beyond Pesticides, a Washington, DC-based public interest organization founded in 1981 to advocate for healthy air, water, land, and food by eliminating the use of toxic pesticides and advancing organic practices, has announced the formation of its new investigative arm, OrganicEye. The watchdog agency will focus on defending the time-honored philosophy and legal definition of organic farming and food production.
"Trusted certified organic production must continue to offer a healthier marketplace alternative and critical environmental protection," stated Jay Feldman, Executive Director of Beyond Pesticides and former National Organic Standards Board member.
As organic agriculture and food marketing has grown into an over $50 billion industry, corporate agribusiness has influenced USDA to shift primary organic production from family-scale farms to large livestock factories, and allow massive hydroponic/soilless greenhouses and fraudulent imports – all devastating to ethical farmers, businesses, and consumers.
"We are happy to announce the hiring of Mark Kastel to serve as the Director of OrganicEye," Mr. Feldman said. Mr. Kastel, one of the founders of The Cornucopia Institute, a venerable organic farm-policy research group, brings over 30 years of diverse involvement in the organic industry. He has worked as a certified agricultural producer, business development consultant, and registered lobbyist, and is one of the most experienced independent fraud investigators in the organic industry. He has advanced major enforcement actions leading to decertification, fines, modifications to ongoing operations, cessation of organic fraud by international crime syndicates, and millions of dollars in settlements of consumer fraud class action lawsuits.
"With Mr. Kastel's deep roots in the farming community and high degree of respect among key organic business leaders, we will amplify the voices of committed organic stakeholders who share our strong belief that continued growth of trusted organic practices is essential to solving escalating environmental and health problems, from the climate crisis to the insect apocalypse," said Mr. Feldman.
Mr. Kastel stated, "We launch this project with the backdrop of thousands of cases of fraud submitted to the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP), a number of independent audits by the agency's Office of Inspector General (OIG) criticizing their weak oversight of certifiers and poor record of bringing fraudulent operations to justice." A recent legally mandated peer review also sharply criticized USDA oversight of documented cases of illegal organic certificates, domestic fraud, and imports laundering conventional commodities as organic.
In their first official action, OrganicEye has sent formal letters urging the OIG and Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate NOP's recent enforcement failures.
With 113 years of organic industry-related experience, the OrganicEye team is also joined by Terry Shistar, PhD, an ecologist and one of the nation's top experts in analyzing synthetic substances used or proposed for use in organic production.
OrganicEye has established a toll-free hotline, 1-844-EYE-TIPS (844-393-8477), to gather confidential tips from the public on threats to organic integrity.
For more information, visit www.organiceye.org.