Sales of organic food have grown from one billion to over twenty billion in the last twenty years, according to the Organic Trade Association. Because of the enormous potential for profit, the organic industry — priding itself on upholding national organic standards — is vulnerable to corporate takeover by corporations masquerading as organic companies.
Attracted by huge profits, companies like Wal-Mart, General Mills, and Kellogg have joined in on the organic bandwagon. “What was once a cottage industry of family farms has become Big Business, with all that that implies, including pressure from Wall Street to scale up and boost profits”.
In organic dairy farming for instance, companies marketing themselves as organic confine their cattle instead of allowing them to graze.
“Not only do these confinement operations create an unfair competitive playing field, discriminating against all the family farmers who work hard to fulfill both the letter and intent of the national organic standards, they also are denying the consumer the extra healthful nutrients that university studies have verified as being present in the milk of cows that graze fresh green grass,” said Kathie Arnold, president of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance.
Last October the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, filed formal legal complaints seeking USDA enforcement against Phoenix-based Shamrock Farms, and the Rockview Farms Dairy of Downey, California. Both these farms market their milk as “organic”despite confining and restricting their cows from grazing in violation of organic livestock management rules. There are countless health benefits to both animals and humans in free range grazing. When chickens and cows are confined in small areas and their natural movements restricted, they secret adrenalin from stress — as well as other body chemicals — which lodges in their body fat.
Consumers really have no way of knowing whether a company is “organic”, so it’s important that the USDA hold violators accountable by enforcing laws against companies misrepresenting themselves; unfortunately, thats not happening.
“This cynical corporate takeover of organic farming, an agriculture segment that is held in high regard by consumers, resulting in a highly successful and growing market, has been aided and abetted by the gross disregard of the USDA’s enforcement responsibilities,” said Merrill Clark, a certified organic livestock producer and former member of the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board.
Some years ago, it took best-selling author and leading food export Michael Pollan more than a year to notice that the label on the carton of “Organic Cow”had been rewritten to reflect
the firm’s purchase by Horizon, a Colorado company. “Horizon,”says Michael, “is a $127 million public corporation that has become the Microsoft of organic milk, controlling 70 percent of the retail market. Notice, too, that the milk is now “ultrapasteurized,” a process the carton presents as a boon to the consumer (it pushes the freshness date into the next millennium), but which of course also allows the company to ferry its milk all over the country”
Stroll down any supermarket isle past the all-natural potato chips and organic breakfast burritos and witness first hand how the term “organic”has become corporate Orwellian Newspeak for natural and healthy — you can thank slick and deceptive Madison Avenue advertising campaigns and the USDA for that.
USDA spokeswoman Joan Shaffer said the organic label is a ” marketing program that only specifies how the food was processed and has no indication of food safety or nutrition.
We as consumers have been deceived into equating “organic”labels on processed food as healthy, along with much of the so-called organic industry.