Search OCA:
Get Local!

Find Local News, Events & Green Businesses on OCA's State Pages:

OCA News Sections

Organic Consumers Association

How the NY Times Went Too Far in Slamming Big Organic

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page and our Safeguard Organic Standards page.

In a much-discussed feature that led the Sunday New York Times business section, Stephanie Strom reignites the long-simmering debate about whether the organic label has been essentially bought out and drained of meaning by gigantic corporations. She paraphrases Michael Potter, founder and CEO of one of the last independently owned organic companies, Eden Foods, like this: "He calls the certified-organic label a fraud and refuses to put it on Eden's products."

A fraud, huh? Strom's story raises many important points that need to be thought through and debated. But it misses a key one: The organic label, for all the untoward influence of Big Food players like dairy giant Dean Foods, still means something. If you buy food labeled organic, you can be reasonably sure it was grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, without genetically modified seeds, without (in the case of dairy, meat, and eggs) antibiotics and other dodgy pharmaceuticals, and on farms required to have a plan for crop rotation and (quoting straight from federal organic code) to "manage plant and animal materials to maintain or improve soil organic matter content." (For a primer on why I find the latter bit so impressive, go here.) Even the most processed certified-organic item on the supermarket shelf contains raw plant and/or animal material that was raised in ways fundamentally different than nonorganic fare.

In other words, despite 20 years of effort by Big Food to make organic friendly to GMOs, monocrops, dodgy fertilizers like sewage sludge, and more, the organic label remains the single most accessible way for consumers to avoid supporting the worst ecological practices of industrial agriculture. And consumers should know this, and not get the idea that the organic label has been drained of all meaning. (Consumers can also seek out nearby farmers and learn directly about their practices, but not everyone has the time or resources to do that.)

As an example of what the organic label means in practice, consider this 2008 study by researchers from Emory University, the University of Washington, and the Centers for Disease Control on pesticide loads carried in the bodies of children. The researchers looked at group of children fed a conventional diet for a week, then given a 100 percent organic diet for a week, and then returned to a conventional diet for a third week. They found that the level of organophosphate pesticides in the kids' urine plunged "dramatically" with the introduction of all-organic food, and then spiked anew with the return of conventional food.


>>> Read the Full Article

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords: