The fledging, but potentially lucrative, organic wine sector’s very existence is under threat from USDA plans to ban sulphur dioxide. Despite only holding a niche in the world market, international ramifications range from bankruptcy to a GATT lawsuit.From prohibition to punitive distribution laws, the wine producers of the USA are used to fighting American bureaucratic prejudice against the wine industry. However, even the most lobby-hardened California vintners are shocked by the latest proposals to hit the negotiating table concerning the production of organic wine.Under the cloak of the National Organic Program, the US Department of Agriculture has proposed plans to ban the use of sulphur dioxide in any wine with the word “organic” on the label. It also plans to eliminate the use of the phrase “made from organically grown grapes,” closing off the loophole that currently allows California growers to claim organic origins while using SO2.The UDSA’s official line states: “Numerous commentators opposed the use of sulphur dioxide in organic wine because it produces sulphites, which are prohibited in the OFPA as a by-product. We concur with the commentators and further believe that the trend in the organic industry is to prohibit all uses of sulphur dioxide except in underground rodent control. Therefore we are proposing to prohibit its use as an ingredient in or processed food including the production of organic wine.”Whatever the logic behind the move, the fact remains that, if the proposal becomes law, which the USDA believes will happen by December, the US organic industry will be in chaos. For, having spent years marketing the word “organic” around 80% of the U.S.’s previously “organically grown wines” will no longer classify for any organic label because they use SO2. Furthermore this will then have a knock on affect in Europe and other wine growing countries.The full report and analysis can be found at:

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