The Organic Consumers Association
(OCA) is a consumer protection
and organic agriculture advocacy group
based in Finland, Minnesota
. It was formed in 1998 in the wake of the mass backlash by organic consumers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture
's controversial proposed regulations for organic food. The OCA is an online non-profit public interest
organization that has over 850,000 members in its database
. The members include subscribers, volunteers, supporters, and 3,000 cooperating retail co-ops, such as in the natural foods and organic marketplace. The OCA is the only organization in the U.S focused on promoting the interests of the nation's estimated 50 million organic consumers.
The OCA deals with wide range of current crucial issues for health, justice, and sustainability. The campaigns are issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, children's health, fair trade, environmental sustainability and other crucial topics.
One of OCA's positions is that large corporations are undermining the intent of "organic" as an identifier by influencing the legislation and implementation of government standards, or by directly failing to meet existing standards. Through the OCA's Safeguard Organic Standards (SOS) Campaign and other organizations' cooperation, the organic community has been able to mobilize a great many consumers to pressure the USDA and organic companies to preserve organic standards. One of their campaigns in this regard is a call to boycott Dean Foods' Horizon Organic and Aurora Organic Dairy; as well as Dean Foods subsidiaries Silk and White Wave Foods, and private label milk supplied by Aurora.
Breaking the Chains
This campaign is geared toward making healthier choices, both morally and bodily, by supporting local businesses and farmers, purchasing fair trade and sweatshop
-free products, and depending on local products as opposed to corporate products, which often have many hidden issues that may be problematic. This campaign is concerned with outsourcing
, sweat-labour, public health
, environmental damage, unknown chemical usage and other issues.
SOS: Safeguard Organic Standards
Since 1972, various groups have worked to ensure a certain quality of organic foods. This campaign is concerned with large corporations which want to lower standards to claim their foods are "organic" and can market them accordingly and sell them to an unaware public. The campaign targets various companies, including Horizon and Aurora organic dairy products, such as the brand Silk (soy milk)
. Horizon's parent company, Dean Foods
, makes White Wave Foods
and Silk. Much of the soy
in these products are sourced abroad, primarily from Brazil and China where environmental standards and workers' rights are routinely violated in these two countries.
"In late 2005, despite receiving over 350,000 letters and phone calls from OCA members and the organic community, Republican leaders in Congress attached a rider to the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations Bill to weaken the nation's organic food standards in response to pressure from large-scale food manufacturers."
GE Free Zones
According to the OCA website, approximately 70% of the foods (from corn
to milk to meats
) in supermarkets have some component that is genetically engineered
(GE). However these foods are not labeled, leaving consumers unable to make informed decisions about their purchases. This campaign is aimed at creating laws that would require companies to label
foods which contain GE ingredients. The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act (H.R. 5269) was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives
on May 2nd, 2006.
Mad Cow USA
Only one out of every 2000 cows are tested for the mad cow disease
by the USDA. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the disease's scientific name, is a degenerative disorder affecting the nervous system in cattle. When transmitted to humans via beef consumption it can ultimately cause death, and there is no cure. The OCA is calling for the US to adopt and enforce strict standards, like ones in force in Japan and the European Union.
Children's Environmental Health
Appetite For Change is one such program to reduce children's exposure to pesticides
and junk food
. For example, stopping schools from spraying their playgrounds with pesticides that can cause harm to children, and removing lunch containers that may contain toxins (such as plastics). This campaign is also concerned with the National School Lunch Program
(NSLP), a federally assisted meal program offered across the US, aimed to provide a nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunch to 27 million children each day.
This campaign is concerned with the proper labeling of food. The USDA now has a clear label to distinguish true organic products with the highest percentage of organic ingredients from those products with lower organic ingredient content and/or those containing any range of synthetic
Millions Against Monsanto
The OCA's "Millions Against Monsanto
" campaign is an effort open to the public and directed to the company's President and CEO, Hugh Grant
. It has also been created to allow those concerned to voice their opinion regarding the company's actions regarding "…sustainable agriculture and farmer's rights."
The campaign also highlights other current, pressing issues such as labelling of GMOs
available to the public and the intimidation of smaller farmers who are currently being charged with patent infringement by Monsanto
Although the campaign itself is about specific issues, the OCA also highlights that Monsanto is responsible for the following:
Clothes for a Change
This campaign is focused on avoiding sweatshop produced clothing and advocating for organic sweat-free items. The organization teams up with farmers, consumers and companies to promote fair trade clothing.
continues to serve milk from cows that are injected with genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone, also known as rBGH or rBST.
OCA advocates boycotting GE milk and Starbucks.
The Organic Consumer Association received a low rating from the Charity Navigator
organization. Between 2005 and 2006, OCA's program expenses accounted for 68% of the organization's spending. Charities typically allocate at least 75% of their revenue towards programs. Charities which operate below this value are not functioning as efficiently as possible. OCA has a modest budget, approximately $1,000,000 annually.
| 2005 Expenses
|| Percentage |
|| 67.55 |
|| 16.5 |
|| 15.95 |
Other organizations comparable to the OCA include: