This week, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) took contributors of the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) to task over a series of recent op-ed pieces (found here and here), which target the FDA and the organic industry. The OTA noted that the articles were “misleading and derogatory attacks,” and the association published a full-page ad in the Journal—the nation’s best selling newspaper—refuting those claims with facts about the organic industry.
“It is the mission of the Organic Trade Association to protect and promote organic, and it is our responsibility to get the facts out. It’s critically important to push back against these attacks,” noted Laura Batcha, CEO of the OTA, in a press release. “Consumers deserve to know the truth. Organic’s strength is its transparency, and organic farmers and businesses work hard every day to uphold the standards of organic and to honor the trust that we’ve earned from consumers everywhere. We will not let these charges go unanswered.”
The WSJ made a number of potentially strident claims in articles published August 5, 2018, and August 31, 2018—claiming, in the former article’s title, that “The Organic Industry is Lying to You.”
The OTA’s sponsored ad was titled: “Here’s a long list of chemicals you should never have to read.” It featured a comprehensive detailed list of the hundreds of chemicals prohibited in organic production and processing, with a link for readers to the U.S. Department of Agriculture—which oversees the list of substances allowed and prohibited in organic.
“…[W]hen it comes to the $47-billion-a-year organic industry, the FDA gives a complete pass to blatantly false and deceptive advertising claims,” Miller's first op-ed article claimed. The article went on to say: “Giving the organic industry and others a pass to engage in such active deception undermines consumers’ choice, erodes trust in the market, and rigs the game.”
Scott Gotlieb, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, took to Twitter to offer some “initial thoughts” on organics shortly after the publication of Miller's article.
Noting that organics “are in the news,” Gottlieb tweeted: “#FDA is focused on empowering consumers with tools and information to make good food choices consistent with public health recommendations, and encourage development of healthier foods by industry. This also means making sure terms on labels are actionable go.usa.gov/xU7Fy.”
The Journal also subsequently published a letter in which Batcha and the Center for Food Safety's Cameron Harsh contests Miller's claim.
The OTA’s full-page, black-and-white ad was published Wednesday, September 12, in the A section of the Journal’s Capitol-region edition.