Organic Consumers Association

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Corporations Using 'Greenwash Marketing' to Cash in on Demand for Organic Food

With the growing success of organics and increasing consumer interest in buying foods grown on sustainable farms without toxic chemicals, many food companies are launching new marketing campaigns chock-full of environmental-friendly catchphrases and re-packaging products that lend the appearance of the company "going green" - even if little or no actual change to the product has occurred.

In February, mega-food company Sara Lee  launched the Eco-Grain™ label for its EarthGrains breads with a major marketing campaign that blanketed the Web, Facebook, Twitter and National Public Radio.

Sara Lee billed the trademarked product as "environmentally friendly" bread that "will save the earth, one field at a time" because Eco-Grain wheat is grown with "precision agriculture."

Though actually used in small proportions in its EarthGrains brand breads, Eco-Grain is touted by the company as more sustainable than organic grain. What has been described as a "crass and exploitative marketing ploy" has angered many in the organic community.

"For Sara Lee to claim that their wheat is ecologically grown and sustainable, when they appear to make no effort to reduce or eliminate their use of toxic pesticides that have terrible effects on the environment and public health, is highly disingenuous," said Nathan Jones, an organic farmer from King Hill, Idaho, and chairman of the Organic Advisory Board of the Idaho state department of agriculture.

The trouble with calling Eco-Grain environmentally friendly is that synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, neither of which are environmentally friendly, are still used in the production of the wheat that is used to produce Eco-Grain. Also, precision agriculture isn't exactly something new, or something exclusive to Eco-Grain farmers. In fact, more and more conventional farmers of all the major commodity crops are using precision technology in applying chemical fertilizer to their fields.

 In precision farming, satellite imagery is used to identify various levels of soil nutrients of a given field to determine fertilizer requirements for different areas of that field. Also known as "variable rate technology" (VRT), this allows the farmer to pinpoint which areas of the field need more or less fertilizer, instead of blanketing the entire field with one big dose.
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