Setback for Organic Beer Drinkers

(For background posts on this issue, click “organic/GMO” in the categories list to the right.)

Organic budLast Friday, the USDA approved a rule change allowing non-organic hops to be used in beer labeled USDA Organic. But they also extended the public comment period on this rule change for an additional 60 days due to widespread protest about the rule and because the originally comment period was a mere seven days (yet they received over 10,000 comments protesting the proposed change).

The rule change allows 38 non-organic ingredients in products labeled USDA Organic because: 1) they are “minor” ingredients in their products; and 2) they are not commercially available in organic form.

In other words, just to make this very clear, they are saying that hops are: 1) a minor ingredient in beer, even though in America and Germany beer is legally required to be made with hops or it can’t be called beer; and 2) organic hops are unavailable commercially, even though Seven Bridges Cooperative commercially markets (both retail and wholesale) seventeen varieties of organic hops in both whole hop and pellet form.

Furthermore, last week when Anheuser Busch got scared that their organic beers might get yanked from shelves because they did not contain organic hops (the rule changing procedures got stalled, temporarily requiring organic hops), they swiftly shidted their organic beers to be brewed with all organic hops and issued a public statement to that effect.

To recap: hops are a mandatory ingredient in beer, they are commercially available, and the world’s second largest beer company markets two organic beers brewed with organic hops – yet the USDA says organic hops are a minor ingredient in beer and are not available commercially so they are exempted from being used in beers labeled USDA Organic.

Click here to file a public comment with USDA protesting this rule change. If my math is correct, the new public comment period ends on August 23.

Tell your friends to comment. These comments have an impact. USDA has proposed bad industry-sponsored rule changes in the past (like allowing GMOs to be used in organic products) but widespread public outcry has stopped them. Let’s do that again so organic beer will really be organic. You can be guaranteed that A-B will switch their organic beers back to non-organic hops if this rule change is allowed to stick.


6 Responses to Setback for Organic Beer Drinkers

  1. […] штатівському шанувальнику пива за […]

  2. kvh says:

    In regards to Hops being exempted from the required organic ingredients list, I would like to add this comment:
    While most beer advocates will jokingly tell you that “Anheuser Busch’s beers don’t HAVE any hops in them”, setting the bar this low sets precedent for everyone after them to push the limits a little bit farther and a little bit farther.
    Making the argument that the required hops are not available in organic form simply gives in to the status quo. A-B, in fear that this ruling would fall the other way, rapidly and successfully procured a supply of organic hops. While I’m sure they are relieved to now be able to dump that account, the farmers they were working with are probably now left without a contract, and fighting in a market where they cannot reasonably compete.
    To argue that the hops in AB beer is a minor ingredient is probably accurate. That said, beers produced in smaller breweries nationwide contain hops that are much more than a ‘minor’ ingredient. However, this ruling, with big-beer’s money and lawyers pushing it through will only serve them, and effectively lie to the american public about what is and is not present in the bottle of suds in front of them.
    Please re-review the AMS-TM-07-0062 proposal. Thank you.

  3. kvh says:

    oops – meant to add that this was the comment I just sent through to the USDA. Thought I’d add it here too.

  4. I went to the regulation site, and viewed each of the comments they received on this ‘rule’.

    They received 51 – all objections that I could tell.
    And there were many, many companies writing in – tell them flat out – I SELL THIS STUFF IN ORGANIC FORM you idiots!!!

    Go here:

    Then key in the reg# AMS-TM-07-0062

    you can see each and every comment.!!

  5. Where did you read that they have extended the commend period to August 23rd?

  6. beeractivist says:

    KVC – thanks for stopping by and sharing your USDA comments.

    todayyesterdayandtomorrow – The federal regulations website is mind-numbingly complex and unpredictable but once you navigate it correctly you can find that there were actually 1,264 comments during the original seven day comment period. My quick browse through them looked like they were ov erwhelmingly opposed to the rule – actually I couldn’t find any in my brief look that were in support of it. I did in fact post my own comments, as did Seven Bridges, both noting (as many other commenters did) that organic hops are available. It is maddening. However, I was unable to figure out how to post any new comments for the new comment period. But here’s where I read that the comment period was extended:

    I’ll publish a new post with instructions for how to read all the original comments and with a link to the Organic Consumer’s Association website where you can submit our opposing comments without needing to navigate the federalregulations website.


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