Yesterday, the Chicago Sun-Times’ Lynne Marek profiled the role of the White House executive chef, writing that to work for a president, a chef must “have strong culinary skills” and “be willing to check ego and politics at the door.” Quoting former executive chef Walter Scheib, Marek notes that First Lady Laura Bush has been “adamant” about eating organic food:
Both Clinton and Laura Bush were focused on the nutritional value of food, with Bush adamant about using organic products, Scheib says.
In a blog posting, Scheib wrote that Bush was “adamant that in ALL CASES if an organic product was available it was to be used in place of a non-organic product.” The fact that the first lady was “adamant” about organics at the White House is commendable, but it is also a bit hypocritical considering her husband’s poor policies:
— In April 2004, Bush’s USDA issued legally binding guidances allowing the use of antibiotics on organic dairy cows and synthetic pesticides on organic farms.
— Another 2004 guidance narrowed the scope of the federal organic certification program to crops and livestock, meaning that national organic standards would “not be developed for fish, nutritional supplements, pet food, fertilizers, cosmetics, and personal-care products.”
— Though then-Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman reportedly “rescinded the directives” after activist uproar, the vice chairman of the National Organic Standards Board told the Chicago Reader that the USDA “sticks to their interpretations, only now they are no longer posted.”
— In June 2007, the USDA greenlighted a proposal “allowing 38 new non-organic ingredients in products bearing the ‘USDA Organic’ seal, despite more than 10,000 e-mails and letters from concerned consumers and farmers.”
— This past September, the USDA “abruptly halted a government program that tests the levels of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and field crops, arguing that the $8 million-a-year program is too expensive.”
Even as Bush exits office, organic farmers are concerned that his USDA is pushing “the broadest rewrite of federal organic regulations in the $20 billion industry’s relatively short history” without input from the organic community or the National Organic Standards Board.