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October 2, 2007

Aurora Dairy threatens to sue watchdogs

According the Organic Consumers Association, Aurora Organic Dairy has threatened legal action against OCA, Cornucopia, and the Center for Food Safety for defamation because of their characterization of last August's Aurora-USDA consent agreement (see Target milk, blogged here).

The Letters received yesterday by The Cornucopia Institute, Organic Consumers Association, and the Center for Food Safety from Aurora Organic Dairy, based in Boulder, Colorado, threatened the three public interest groups with a lawsuit if they did not retract statements they had made concerning Aurora and refrain from filing a lawsuit against Aurora alleging consumer fraud.

The legal threats by Aurora are the latest salvo in a media battle stemming from formal legal complaints filed by The Cornucopia Institute in 2005 and 2006 with the USDA over Aurora's alleged organic management practices.   On April 16, 2007, the USDA confirmed Cornucopia's allegations by making administrative findings that the giant industrial-scale dairies, milking thousands of cows each, were not providing their cattle with pasture, as required by law, had illegally brought conventional cattle into their operations, and had committed a number of other serious improprieties.

Note: OCA will provide the letter upon request.  I did not find it online on any of the involved organizations' websites.

The Aurora website characterizes the consent agreement as a dismissal of claims against its organic practices (which is technically correct under the language of the agreement), and it refers the fact that its organic certification was not revoked as "affirmation" of its organic status. 

The consent agreement, itself, requires a large reduction in herd size, increase in pasture, and other improvements, as well as Aurora's agreement not to seek recertification of one of its Colorado facilities.  The agreement also specifies daily access to pasture and provides maximum grazing densities.  (The National Organic Program regulations do not provide this level of specificity).  Finally, the agreement provides for a one year "review period" during which failure to meet the standards can result in revocation of certification.

October 2, 2007 in Organics | Permalink


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