David Abel’s article “From organic dream to toxic nightmare: Residents’ contaminated wells likely tied to local composting business” (Page A1, July 7) sheds much-needed light on the PFAS crisis. However, the use of the word “organic” requires clarification in the context of this story. The compost in this case was not approved for use in organic agriculture. The danger of PFAS, or “forever chemicals,” presents another reason why consumers continue to rely on the organic label.
Organic certification standards explicitly prohibit the use of compost made from industrial waste or sewage sludge (see National Organic Program Regulation 205.105). Mass Natural’s compost was not an approved input for use by organic growers, according to Baystate Organic Certifiers. Farmers and gardeners looking to grow organically should choose inputs approved through a certifier such as Baystate Organic.
For consumers, certified organic products are still the best option to reduce exposure to toxins. While PFAS last forever and will probably be found in soils across the country, organic certification means that farmers are not actively adding synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, or sewage sludge. Look for an organic certification label and, whenever possible, talk to your farmer.
As the Massachusetts agricultural community responds to the PFAS crisis more generally, we hope to follow Maine’s fourfold approach: Fund testing; provide income support for affected farmers; fund infrastructure adaptations; and support farmers’ mental health. The cost of such a campaign should be paid for by the manufacturers of these “forever chemicals.” The health and safety of our families must be prioritized, and that burden must not fall on farmers, organic or conventional.
Marty Dagoberto L. Driggs
Northeast Organic Farming Association