USDA has requested that the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) revoke the standards-development accreditation of the Leonardo Academy, the entity behind the development of a sustainable agriculture standard that was published as a draft standard for trial use in ANSI’s Standards Action in April 2007. Details about an initial stakeholder meeting held in November to discuss the draft standard appear in Issue 237 of this Update. USDA has also asked ANSI to withdraw the draft standard for trial use.

In its September 2008 letter to ANSI, USDA contends that (i) the draft standard exceeds the scope of the academy’s approved scope of standards activities by straying into fair labor practices, community benefits, product quality, and product safety and purity; (ii) the academy failed to develop or publicize “its procedures with respect to draft standards for trial use”; (iii) the academy “failed to afford materially affected interests the opportunity to challenge the decision to register a [draft standard for trial use] with ANSI”; (iv) flawed procedures have led to a flawed process that cannot be administered, and consensus will be impossible to attain on “too many issues”; (v) interested stakeholders did not provide input into the standards development committee’s formation; thus, certain industry segments are over-represented and others are under-represented; (vi) the academy lacks the ability to administer its announced standards development
procedures; and (vii) the academy’s operations do not comply with ANSI’s requirements for coordination/harmonization, due process or with “normative American National Standards policies and administrative procedures.”

The Leonardo Academy responded to USDA’s appeal with a document that exceeds 200 pages, essentially contending that the agency’s appeal is “without foundation.” It suggests that its newly minted standards committee is “very diverse and experienced” and that it has diligently followed ANSI’s essential requirements.

Thereafter, on September 29, the academy issued a press release to announce that the development of a sustainable agriculture standard has moved into “high gear.” Its standards committee met, identified issues that need to be resolved, agreed to form work groups, and outlined future tasks. Among the issues to be addressed are “the relationship between organic, mainstream and sustainable agriculture”; “the place of genetically engineered crops in sustainable agriculture”; “the strength of labor protections”; “the intersection of product safety and sustainability”; and “whether the scope of the standard should extend beyond plant agriculture to include livestock and other sectors of agriculture.”

According to the academy, the standards committee agreed to set aside the draft standard for trial use, noting that it would serve as one of several reference documents in future standards development deliberations. The academy also solicited contributions “to fund its work on this standard development initiative and to support active participation by the full range of stakeholders in the process.” See Leonardo Academy Press Release, September 29, 2008.

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