WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Already flooded with comments on its proposal for national organic-food standards, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided to extend the period for receiving comments on its blueprint.
"We have already received over 4,000 comments on the proposed rule, including many requests for an extension of the comment period," said Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, in a statement.
When released in December, the organic standard -- seven years in the making -- unleashed widespread criticism among organic-food retailers and farmers who consider the proposal a betrayal of their all-natural tenets. Specifically, the organic sector is alarmed at the USDA's proposal that irradiated or genetically engineered food and produce fertilized with sludge be permitted to be called organic.
Despite the absence of a national standard, the organic-food market is thriving. Last year the industry posted $3.5 billion in sales, which is forecast to increase by 20% a year. The USDA's proposal would allow produce, dairy products and meat to carry a federal "Meets USDA Organic Requirements" label.