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We reported yesterday that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has given interim approval Friday to a controversial proposal to allow 38 nonorganic ingredients to be used in foods carrying the ‘USDA Organic’ seal.

I continue to feel that this is an absurd position. Organic is organic. And now, these so-called organic products that carry non-organic ingredients will not be organic, and the companies that produce them will be guilty of government-sanctioned false advertising.

One MNB user wrote:

Your view on the organic ingredient issue is short of realistic. There are some ingredients that make a big difference in the final taste, cost and acceptability of a manufactured organic food product that are very small percentages of the total weight (5% or less is small) but they lend themselves to making the final product edible. The definition of organic can be so narrow sometimes that including some naturally occurring products and allowing them to be defined as organic is not a bad thing. Ask any trained scientist (as I have) and they will tell you most things the USDA is allowing as organic are truly considered products from nature and technically organic (realistically).

MNB user Mary C. Mulry Ph.D. wrote:

The law has always allowed non-organic products in organic foods up to a level of 5% to allow development of foods, where organic alternatives are not present. If you read the list, most are natural colorings, starches, etc that are not available in organic form.

In fact, this regulation tightens the list and replaces the prior practice of allowing certifiers to make the determination. Our so-called friends at the Organic Consumers Association and the Cornucopia Institute are continuing to fuel the fire that big companies are running organic and continue to use scare tactics and only tell half the story (at best).

As a former Board member of the Organic Trade Association, I can assure you that this regulation just codifies and tightens what has always been the case since the passage of the Rule in 2002. There is no denigration of what the word organic means here.

I understand the issue.

Let me pose the question a different way.

Would it be acceptable to allow kosher foods to have non-kosher ingredients as long as it was below a certain threshold? Or for a vegetarian entrée in a restaurant or supermarket to have just a teeny, tiny bit of meat? Or to give someone with a peanut allergy a product with just a little bit of peanut oil?

Of course not.

Why don’t people who want organic foods deserve the same sort of honest, ethical approach to labeling?

MNB user Lisa Malmarowski agreed with me:

I agree with you KC - if it's organic, then it's organic. If you can't find the ingredients you need, then you change the label to be TRUTHFUL. So, we'll do our part to inform our shoppers that the products that say they're organic, may not be 'really' organic. Just sort of. Good thing we focus a lot on getting people to eat unprocessed foods. At least there's some comfort in being able to know where your food comes from.

MNB user Angie Dahman wrote:

Ahhhh….our government at work again…But they only have our best interests in hand when making this decision.

I am a buyer of organic because I do not want the pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones in my food and I pay a premium for this. My health and the health of my family is the utmost important thing as I can imagine is for the rest of the country and by allowing these non-organic items into foods and still calling them organic is quite misleading. The use of pesticides, growth hormones, and antibiotics have been directly linked to cancer. But I guess it will be legal now because the government says so.

If the USDA is going to allow this then it should be require companies to put clearly on their product that it will contain some non organic ingredients and let the public decide whether or not they want to purchase it. I really feel that the manufacturers who produce purely organic product for a healthier lifestyle will continue to do so and those just looking to jump on the "organic bandwagon" will cut corners to increase profits.

So I guess now we can just have a sprinkling of these pesticides, antibiotics, and growth hormones on our food-just as long as they don't exceed 5%.

MNB user Tom Kroupa wrote:

The new organic labeling ingredients is such a travesty to those of us who trust the organic label! You said that the USDA was now including these 38 ingredients under the aegis of "organic" because manufacturers were pressing them to do it. I am willing to bet that none or next to none of them are from the original organic start-up companies. The majority must be from corporations who got into organics after they saw how much money was to be made! Of course they have less of a concern about the health of consumers. And the bureaucrats at the USDA who made this decision are probably former food executives themselves or have close ties to the industry. Anybody who understands the organic consumer would never even consider doing this. Now that its done will we have new organic labels saying "does not contain any of the 38 ingredients because we hate the 38!"

SInce we have a 60-day window to complain to the USDA let's use this campaign slogan: “Its Not Too Late To Drop The 38!!”

Another MNB user wrote:

Does anybody doubt who’s running the government? The USDA organic label will be even more ridiculous if this passes. I look for Oregon or California approval on products and also read ingredient labels carefully. However, the general public will probably not care since they do not seem to care about anything else. Lack of Food inspectors causing and uproar? No. Chinese ingredients killing our pets, mild issue with absolutely nothing being done. When is Paris Hilton being released anyway? By the way, our industry has a pretty strong lobby group doesn’t it? Now that most organic companies that produce processed organics have been purchased by our large manufacturers we need to change what organic means…

Another MNB user wrote:

I can understand some of these 38 ingredients, as from their name they still sound organic (dill weed oil and Turkish bay leaves), but in whose world would 19 food colorings ever be considered organic. Besides all of the rules stating what is and isn't organic, I would think one of the basic rules should be 'natural'. To my mind that would mean that the meat or produce should be sold in it's natural state and if the color isn't as bright or vibrant as its non-organic rival that should just be accepted as part of the organic experience. As a kid I used to think that pistachios were naturally red, now that I know better I only buy them in their natural state, and you know what . . . they taste the same. So why are they colored?

And another MNB user wrote:

If the USDA will allow no more than 5% non-organic ingredients in "organic" products why don't they just label it 95% organic?

Because it might reduce sales.

Here’s an interesting email from an MNB user that illustrates what the approach ought to be:

I work for Starbucks and I found an internal communication about organics to be in stark contrast to the USDA.

This past week, all Starbucks employees were advised that when we grind an organic coffee for a customer, it is no longer organic because it mixes with the residual coffee in our store grinder. We were told to advise the customer that we were more than willing to do it, but that the best way to assure the coffee remained organic is to grind it at home with a grinder that only is used for organic beans.

The USDA is allowing manufacturers to add non-organic ingredients, while Starbucks is worried about non-organic coffee crumbs.

An MNB user yesterday criticized me for, in his opinion, “buying into the whole Global Warming thing.” But another MNB user jumped to my defense:

I'm glad that you accept the theory of Global Warming. However, please don't "believe in it". Beliefs are things that we accept as true in the absence of any supporting fact or experience. A theory is a concept that is formed based on some sort of factual evidence. Theories can be proved or disproved. Beliefs cannot be proved or disproved. Much of the world's troubles are due to people confusing beliefs with reality, so it's important to be precise in this matter.

By the way, the consequence of Global Warming, which most people are unaware of, is that it results in an ice age. There is a current of warm ocean water that circulates around the globe, and influences all of our weather patterns. As the polar ice melts, it dilutes the salty ocean water with fresh water, which has a different density. This process disrupts the deep ocean conveyor (as this warm current is called) and significantly cools land masses that are not located near the equator. One reason England is embracing solutions to global warming is that their country's weather would be significantly colder if/when the deep ocean conveyor shuts down.

In an discussion yesterday about my trip to and observations about China, one MNB user wrote: -"The feeling is that a democratic republic will not work anywhere else in the world but the US and that all our efforts to try to implant our ideals to this effect around the world (Iraq comes to mind), will fail since the scenario is difficult to repeat on why the system works in the US."

To which another MNB user responded:

At the risk of being considered unpatriotic, my observation is that democracy currently isn't really working that great in the U.S. The politically incorrect truth is that part of the problem is a critical shortage of informed voters. How else do you explain the quality of our elected officials. At times I think a benevolent dictator would be a better choice.

MNB has a story yesterday about Wal-Mart deciding to curb its support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) organizations after conservative Christian groups threatened a boycott, and after some of its own employees expressed disapproval. The decision comes a year after Wal-Mart joined the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and made moves to embrace the gay community.

In my commentary, I explained both my bias and my opinion:

I have a gay sister. I love her, and am proud of her for all sorts of reasons that have nothing to do with her sexual orientation. Her sexual orientation is none of my business, nor is the sexual orientation of any other person. My sister also has a partner, who is a much-loved member of the family, and their relationship has lasted a lot longer than some heterosexual marriages that I know.

So I have a bias (one of many, actually) against anyone who implicitly or explicitly is intolerant of them and/or their choices…

Wal-Mart probably couldn’t afford to alienate its core consumer, and so it unfortunately had to knuckle under to people who, I think, clothe intolerance in self-righteousness.

But this decision doesn’t demonstrate a lot of courage or integrity.

If it had been me, I might have told the critics to go to hell. (Which probably is what they, along with a lot of other folks, would suggest is going to happen to me.) But I don’t have a multi-billion-dollar multinational corporation to protect.

One MNB user disagreed:

I appreciate and respect your views but think this decision demonstrates tremendous courage on Wal-Mart's part. Why is it that the intolerant are those whose views do not line up with the gay agenda? Why are gays so intolerant of me believing homosexuality is a sin therefore choosing not to promote the agenda?

I too have family members that live a gay lifestyle. I love them very very much but I'm heart broken by their perpetual lifestyle of sin. Don't get me wrong. I too am a sinner! Perhaps the chief of sinners! The difference is, I ask no one to accept it. Instead, I try to avoid it and thank God for his grace and mercy when I fall short.

Most of the gay people I know aren’t promoting an agenda so much as wanting to be left alone to live their lives. They also tend to be the most tolerant people I know.

Judge not lest ye be judged.

One MNB user wrote:

I think anyone who would want you to not love your family for whatever reason is wrong. I don't think anyone should be rolled up into any kind of stereotype. That includes people who don't think that is the proper way to live your life. I personally don't care what anybody does with their selected partner. I just don't want everybody labeling people who disagree as homophobes, does that in turn mean they are heterophobes!!?? I think everybody should mind their own business and leave the people on both sides of the issue alone. The world would be a better place, for everyone.

One MNB user wrote:

If I remember correctly, conservative Christian groups tried the same thing with Disney. They were going to boycott Disney, if they didn’t stop catering to the gay, lesbian and transgender community with its Gay Pride Days. Disney ignored the threat and never missed a beat because Disney has a good product and little kids still wanted to go and nagging little tikes can be more persuasive than any force known to man.

Wal-Mart also has a good product – low prices, great selection – and I doubt any single group will be affective in a boycott. Boycotts are short-term protests, especially if the alternative is to drive twice the distance to pay 20 to 30 percent more for the same merchandise.

MNB user Phil Venditti wrote:

Cowardice, bigotry, and greed all seem to underlie Wal-Mart’s change of position here, whereas perhaps greed was the only one of the three behind their earlier decisions. As for having a multibillion-dollar multinational corporation to protect, I believe the firm could have afforded to lose parts of its empire if it had really wanted to keep doing what’s right. What a disappointment!

And another MNB user wrote:

A note of support from a heterosexual Christian. I wish more people and organizations had the cojones to tell the critics of supporting gay rights where they can "go". After all, this is an integral step in the journey of how every other minority has come to justly receive their equal rights in this great nation of ours.

Homosexuality is clearly NOT a choice. It is simply how our creator made some of His people. To prove this point, ask anyone who thinks that it is a choice the following . . . "Tell me about the day that you decided to be straight". anyone who believes that any homosexual (or any person who is tolerant of homosexuality) is bound for hell, I'd be happy to debate any of them. The arguments are weak at best and can easily be rebutted. Chapter and Verse.

And another MNB user wrote:

I agree with you 100% on this issue. However, if Wal-Mart was reaching out in order to increase their business rather than do the right thing then is that any better or worse than their decision to pull back their support for the same reason. Until we, as a society, can make decisions without needing to consider race, religion or sexual identity we will continue this madness…

On the subject of in-store health clinics, one MNB user wrote:

I’d like to know who thought it was a wonderful idea to invite sick people into the grocery stores where I shop! It’s one thing to have a pharmacy – a sick person can arrange for someone else to pick up the prescription. On the other hand, if a person with the flu shows up at the supermarket and there’s a wait to see the practitioner, Mr. Sicko may decide to pick up a few items for dinner, making his way up and down the aisles, coughing and sneezing on everything and everyone. There are already plenty of walk-in clinics for those who don’t have a regular doctor or who don’t want to schedule an appointment. Why deliberately encourage germ-spreading individuals to go into a retail environment?!!!

Finally, MNB posted an email yesterday suggesting that I had mischaracterized Bentonville as “rural Arkansas,” and while I noted that I really was joking, I also conceded that "as someone who was born in New York’s Greenwich Village, I may have a somewhat imprecise view of what rural is."

To which one MNB user responded:

KC, honey, you haven't got a clue. But we love you anyway.
KC's View: