USDA RELEASES FINAL NATIONAL ORGANICS STANDARD

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the final version of a national organics standard 10 years after the agency was ordered by Congress to develop unified regulations to replace myriad, often conflicting, state laws.ssed food products. The logo was updated to minimize consumer confusion, said officials.The final rule also includes these key changes from the initial version, released

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the final version of a national organics standard 10 years after the agency was ordered by Congress to develop unified regulations to replace myriad, often conflicting, state laws.

ssed food products. The logo was updated to minimize consumer confusion, said officials.

The final rule also includes these key changes from the initial version, released last March:

An increase in the minimum percentage of organic ingredients in products labeled "Made with Organic Ingredients," from 50% to 70%.

Adoption of the Environmental Protection Agency's pesticide residue threshold of 5%.

Allowing wine containing sulfites to be labeled "Made with Organic Grapes."

In calling the final version a win-win situation for consumers and farmers, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman answered critics of labeling, who feared consumers might misinterpret the label as promoting organics as better or safer than conventional foods.

"[The label] is not a statement about food safety. Nor is 'organic' a value judgment about nutrition or quality," he said. "USDA is not in the business of choosing sides, of stating preferences for one kind of food, one set of ingredients or one means of production over any other. As long as rigorous government safety standards are being met, we stand ready to do what we can to help support any farmer and help market any kind of food."

According to the official timeline, the final rule will be fully implemented 18 months after its effective date, when all agricultural products that are sold, labeled or represented as organic must show compliance with the regulations. The USDA seal may not be affixed to any "100% organic," or "organic," product until that time, said officials.