Last December, the U.S. National Organic Standards Board, an expert panel that advise the USDA Secretary on organic matters, narrowly approved Martek Biosciences Corporation’s petition to allow the use of their genetically modified soil fungus and algae as nutritional supplements in organic food.
The product is an omega 3/omega-6 oil (DHA/ARA) synthesized from fermented algae and soil fungus.
The oil is extracted from this biomass using hexane, a neurotoxic byproduct of gasoline refinement that is specifically banned in organics.
The Cornucopia Institute investigated Martek’s patent and safety filings at the FDA, and discovered that the product also contains synthetic chemicals, stabilizers, carriers, and some of the ingredients are also genetically modified.
(As it turns out, some of their products were developed by Monsanto before Martek bought the technical rights.)
Martek’s formulated oils are added to “organic” milk, infant formula, and a number of different foods. After a formal legal complaint, the USDA announced in 2010 that it had “inappropriately” allowed Martek oils to be included in organic foods.
But enforcement of their removal was delayed for 18 months in an apparent effort to permit corporate lobbyists to petition for review and legal inclusion in organic food. According to the Conucopia Institute:
“Although Martek told the board that they would discontinue the use of the controversial neurotoxic solvent n-hexane for DHA/ARA processing, they did not disclose what other synthetic solvents would be substituted. Federal organic standards prohibit the use of all synthetic/petrochemical solvents”.
How Did Unapproved Ingredients Make it into Baby Food?
It is distressing to see that chemical additives have skirted USDA approval and made their way into infant formulas—some of which even bear the USDA Organic Seal! This confirms that even organic certification is NOT watertight, and you, the consumer, will need to stay on your toes.
Martek’s DHA and ARA products are synthetic attempts at omega-3 fats that have been in the U.S. marketplace since 2002, and in organic products since 2006. They are chemically extracted from certain types of algae and fungi that have never before been part of the human diet, and have never been approved by the USDA. Yet they have made their way into your baby’s bottle.
In fact, it is unlikely that the production process of these agents has been examined at all—and for good reason. The Cornucopia Institute has uncovered an entire list of questions regarding the source, processing, and other ingredients used in the manufacturing of Martek’s DHA and ARA, any one of which could result in a ban from their use in certified organic products.