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An exciting year of news at the Organic Trade Association

by Christina DiMartino | August 30, 2011

Michael Funk of United Natural Foods Inc. and Mark Lipson of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will receive the Organic Trade Association's prestigious Organic Leadership Awards for 2011.

Michael Funk

"This announcement is big news for the OTA," said Barbara Haumann, senior writer/editor for Brattleboro, VT-based Association. 

Christine Bushway, OTA's executive director and chief executive officer, said in a press release dated Aug. 2, "Both Michael Funk and Mark Lipson have had a long commitment to the organic movement. Michael has been instrumental in the growth and advancement of the natural and organic industry for over 30 years, while Mark has demonstrated personal commitment, leadership and vision with regard to advancing organic farming since the early 1980s."

Mark Lipson

Mr. Funk will receive the OTA Organic Leadership Award in the "Growing Organic Industry" category. Mr. Lipson will receive the award in the "Growing Organic Agriculture" category.

The 2011 Organic Leadership Award recipients will be honored at the Sept. 21 OTA Awards Gala during OTA Member Day activities at Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore. Recipients will receive a hand-blown glass planet made by artist Josh Simpson.

Other big news at the OTA was the July 5 announcement that Canada and the European Union had reached a historic agreement to recognize each other's organic standards and laws after nearly four years of formal negotiation.


This is only the second such agreement to have been reached in the world. In June 2009, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture signed the very first 'organic equivalency arrangement,' which opened the significant U.S. organic market to Canadian exports.

The OTA reports that the global organic trade is now estimated at over $55 billion per year, with 96 percent of the figure being represented by the U.S. and EU markets. Canada is now the only country in the world able to deal directly with these two key markets through its domestic standards.

In a press release dated July 5, Matthew Holmes, executive director of the Canada Organic Trade Association and an organic sector advisor to the Government of Canada on international trade and market access, said, "This is an absolute game-changer for Canadian farmers and food manufacturers. With full access to European markets, suppliers and ingredients, Canada's organic sector now has a strategic edge. This agreement will increase trade and boost Canada's organic sector, from the farm to the consumer."

Also in July, the OTA's board of directors reviewed, revised and voted to adopt an updated policy position on GMOs.

In its statement, the OTA said it would continue to call for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMO) in agriculture. The Association shall adopt policy positions that uphold the long-term goal of a moratorium on GMOs. Until that goal is reached, it supports mandatory labeling of all agricultural GMOs and their products.

The Association will also adopt policies that address the problems the industry faces as a result of continued GMO deregulation, and it will bolster organic as the gold standard by advocating for continuous improvement of the organic-practice standard. Further, OTA will advocate for policies that assign the cost of contamination prevention and market loss to the developers of GMO technology.

The statement added that OTA recognizes the critical role of seed in the supply chain and shall advocate for policies that secure a seed supply to the organic sector that is free of GMOs. The OTA is also taking to task the responsibility of educating the public and policy makers regarding the environment and health concerns emerging with GMOs.

A 313-mile march, titled the GMO Right2Know March on the White House is being planned by organic companies in October to raise consumer awareness and pressure the U.S. government on the lack of labeling of foods made with GMOs. The march will kick off at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on Oct. 1 and will feature daily events in cities along the East Coast before ending at the White House in Washington, DC, on Oct. 16, which is World Food Day.