Organic coffee is safe, for now.

In a victory for organic farmers in the developing world and organic coffee drinkers here, the USDA’s National Organic Program has backed down and said that there will be no immediate change in the way these farmers are certified.

I want my organic brew

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The NOP had quietly announced in March that it was changing certification procedures for these farms, meaning that their future as organic farmers was in jeopardy. The change would have increased costs sharply and choked off the supply of organic coffee, cocoa, and other crops from farming co-ops in the Third World. I wrote about the issue at length on Salon and kept hammering away over at Chews Wise blog. A petition campaign soon started, fueled in part by caffeinated Gristies. The National Organic Coalition organized the drive and roasters like Equal Exchange also played an active role. Hats off to them.

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In a statement issued Wednesday, the NOP said it was keeping the “status quo” and would work with the National Organic Standards Board — the citizens advisory panel on organic regulations — on any changes. This is key, for it means that any future changes will come in the form of official “rulemaking,” leaving room for public comment and refinement. This is the way it should have happened in the first place.

For those who think organic regulations have been compromised by big business, this shows — as other actions have in the past — that transparency and advocacy work. In other words, we’ve got to keep manning the barricades to keep it real.

The NOP statement issued today can be read in full here.

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