Organic Food Production: “A War is being Waged for its Soul”

Last week, Washington Post reported Laura Reiley reported that, “As organic food shifts from utopian movement to lucrative industry, a war is being waged for its soul.

“Record organic sales in the United States totaled nearly $50 billion in 2017 according to the Organic Trade Association. Although organic food still represents only 5.5 percent of food sold, its year-over-year growth has been meteoric — taking a cue from conventional agriculture’s mantra: ‘Get big or get out.’

“This has resulted in organic growers and food companies that, although technically adhering to the definition of organic — no chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides — are a far cry from the idealism and high standards with which the movement began.”

The Post article stated that, “Now the Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group best known as an organic industry watchdog, is trying to promote higher standards among the accredited certifying agents hired by organic farmers, processors and handlers to ensure that their practices comply with regulations established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Organic farmers’ original intent was to create a level playing field in the market and to provide consumers assurance about a minimum uniform standard for organic production.

In a scorecard set to be released this week, the Cornucopia Institute ranked all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the spirit and letter of the organic law. The institute found significant variation in how certifiers interpret regulations, variation that frequently benefits huge corporate farms and competitively disadvantages those comporting themselves ethically.”

The Post article added: “‘Organic is the only federally set label that has legal meaning. It’s not perfect, but I know what it is,’ said George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. He suggested that ‘organic’ may best be seen as a floor, and that socially just foods and climate-friendly foods are needed.”

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