Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

Copyright JC Politi Photography

Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Have you put a lot of thought into this decision?

An article in the New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized” is raising eyebrows this week. The article explores the recent boom in organic food products and takes an in-depth look at the body that regulates what is certified organic and what is not.

In particular, the article examines the National Organic Standards Board, which is the board that decides which non-organic ingredients can be included in certified organic foods.

The article points out the number of large corporations who have been taking advantage of the new market. For example, it surprised me to read:

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.      

Copyright JC Politi Photography

But certainly the most concerning portion of the article is the description of the people serving on the National Organic Standards Board.

While there is certainly room for corporations to serve on the board in the slots allocated for those interests, it is troubling to learn that executives from General Mills and other major corporations have served in positions reserved for consumers.

It appears that Congress specifically designed this board to ensure that it would represent a broad range of interests, but the appointments to this board have clearly been corporate-heavy.

Our family buys organic because we are concerned about the hormones and additives and preservatives that are found in most foods today. I understand that buying organic is a luxury, but we feel that it is an investment in our long-term health. This article makes me wonder if we are being duped.

What do you think? Do you go out of your way to buy organic foods? Why have you made the choices you have? Are you concerned about big businesses controlling the organic food standards or do you think that having big business involved is the only way to grow the industry to scale? Where do farmers markets fit into this equation?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!  

If you liked this, you may also like:

Grist BlogPost: Multinational Food Corporations Thank You For Buying ‘Organic’

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Environment, Ethics, Fitness, Food, Health, Income inequality, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures

43 responses to “Are Organic Food Standards a Hoax? The Green-Washing of America

  1. We are pretty careful about buying organic but I am by nature suspicious and suspected that the corporations had a hand in it. This is not really surprising. But it is disappointing. I will still buy organic because I think, on balance, it is a better way to go. But this confirms my suspicion! Thanks for the good blog!

  2. We do choose organic products as much as possible. It is disconcerting that larger corporations could influece organic labeling to their advantage. It’s not an easy issue to know what to think sometimes. That’s why I’m increasingly growing more of my own food and going to farmer’s markets when possible. I also think that those who cannot afford organics or have access to them are in an unfortunate position from their health. This is an important issue that you bring up, thanks for opening up my mind further on this issue.

  3. Barneysday

    I saw this yesterday in the NY Times, and in fact talk about it in an upcoming blog. There’s no way to justify 250 additives to products and still call it organic. Thanks for writing about this.

  4. I read the article too..and though I am conscious of what I purchase, I have a somewhat jaded eye about the quality of ‘organic’. Whole Foods may make their fruits and vegetables look far fresher than the local supermarket, but their sprinkler system is on a timer so everything is refreshed regularly. I am trying farmer’s markets more now, and feel a bit better about what I am bringing home.

  5. I am skeptical about most foods and all labels. I tried a different farmers market yesterday. One look at their table and I knew most, if not all, were not from local farmers and I would venture to say, none of it organic. I will go back to my favorite shop later in the week. I do not trust them 100%, but they at least make an effort to buy organic and as local as possible.

  6. Well this will certainly make me think twice the next time I am buying organic. Although nothing too much seems to surprise me anymore. I’ve got 2 farmer’s markets very near my home that I use because of the convenience.

    • I still think organic is probably better than no regulation, but it is a shame that this regulating body allowed its credibility to be compromised like this. Thanks for the comment!

  7. it’s been like that for year in Germany … just cause it says Organic doesn’t mean it is that much better for you … for some it is true of most it is a sales pitch

  8. The more I look into food safety and truth in labeling, the less I want to eat. So, I guess it is do the best we can…and give everything a vinegar water bath.

  9. Thanks for bringing it up. It’s disconcerting that large corporations are representing consumers in positions where consumers should be representing consumers.

    • I think so too. Again, I still think organic is probably a little bit safer or healthier than non-organic, but I would feel better if the regulating body was less biased.

  10. When I was in the dominican, I thought most of the meat was rather lean and tough, chicken especially had hardly any meat on the bone…..I’ve since learned that it’s hormones in the feed that give chicken so much white meat…hmmmmmmm and seem to make other meats more tender….

  11. This article was just brought to my attention a few hours ago. I haven’t read it yet, but I think it is a cautionary tale. Corporations exist to make money. I think they could very much compromise organic standards. This is something we have to keep a close eye on. Thanks for the post!

  12. Great post. I think organic is a good path to follow, yet I sense companies slap the word “organic” on a label when the product may be partially or not organic. Per Dr. Sandra Steingraber in “Raising Elijah” corporate farming is done in a way to maximize product on the site. Yet, by not rotating different crops, the soil does not have the benefit of the natural soil degradation and replenishment – hence, they need more chemicals to maximize crops which will not be truly organic.

    • Yes, I think you are right. It is such a shame. It seems the only way to really know what you are eating anymore is to grow it yourself, but how many of us can do that consistently? Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comment, as always!

  13. I try to buy fresh whenever possible &/or frozen with no preservatives added. We live where winter prevails 6-7 months of the year and cannot always get fresh. I am suspicious of processed foods that are supposedly organic and the whole concept of ‘organic’ sometimes has me confused. One might assume it means that everything is produced ‘naturally’ with no chemicals added, but we must consider, the soil needs fertilizer to make it conducive for growing and they have to do something to reduce insect damage. Do they simply use manure for fertilizer or other chemicals? Do they spray with chemicals to make bugs go away? Like someone suggested, mild vinegar solution to soak fruits and vegetables will remove most chemicals and kill bacteria so your produce will stay fresher longer – and I assure you, you don’t taste the vinegar! 🙂

    • Excellent questions. I find it confusing too. Especially the term natural – that seems to be a real marketing ploy – aren’t pleanty of toxins natural? Thanks for reading and for your comment!

  14. Pingback: Eating Tips » Non Organic Food Hoax

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  16. My impression is that UW consnsteitly has a higher dewpoint reading than the airport. As I type this, UW has 24.2 and the airport has 21.4. I haven’t watched this closely, but I feel like pretty much every time I’ve ever looked (which is very rarely lately, but fairly frequently when I lived in K-W for a few years, a number of years ago), it’s been that way.

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