Ever wonder what makes an organically labeled food organic? Soon, you'll know. The Department of Agriculture recently released its proposed national organic standards for comment on the federal register. The 146-page document includes a list of substances approved and prohibited in organic foods. The agency's first attempt at setting organic regulations, which allowed genetically engineered ingredients and the fertilization of crops with sewage sludge, drew a record 275,000 negative public comments (HCN, 4/13/98: Feds propose weak organic food rules). USDA withdrew its proposal, and hunkered down to come up with something more acceptable. After the public comment period ends June 12, the regulations will undergo congressional review. When the rules are implemented, they will be, according to Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, "the most comprehensive, strictest organic rule in the world, which is the way our consumers and farmers want it."


To read the proposed organic standards, visit www.ams.usda.gov/nop.


Comments, referencing docket number TMD-00-02-PR2, can be submitted to Keith Jones, Program Manager, National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP, Room 2945-So., Ag Stop 0275, P.O. Box 96456, Washington, DC 20090-6456, FAX 703/365-0760, or on www.ams.usda.gov/nop.