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Big Business Enters the Organic Market Place
By Paul Tick <ptick@nycap.rr.com>


The sale of organic food has been increasing by 20 percent per year for the past 10 years. It has been the fastest growing segment of the food industry. Last year, the food industry sold $11 billion worth of organic products. While this still is only a fraction of the overall food industry, it is big enough to make the commercial giants take notice and begin investing in it. In the short run, this investment means that more organic food will reach more people because of the large-scale distribution networks of big businesses. In the long run however, it may also mean that small-scale farms and small distributors lose their share of the marketplace.

The commercial giants are rapidly buying up the organic labels that consumers of natural foods have come to trust. The giants often continue to contract with the smaller farms but they simply lower the prices they are willing to pay the farmers for their products, keep the price to the consumers, maintain the price for the consumer and pocket profits. Besides endangering the independence and well being of the smaller operators, this practice may mean quality compromises hasten the end of small farms in our country. Decisions that were once made on the farm are now made in the boardroom meaning that, profits are the bottom line rather than our health or the health of the planet.

These days, when we shop at cooperatives or other natural food stores, we aren¹t likely to know that when we buy organic foods we may be buying from the same companies that push cigarettes, Sugar Frosted Flakes, genetically modified foods, foods laden with pesticides, colorings or endangering the environment, or have a history of labor abuse. Some of the world¹s biggest companies have bought the labels of some of our most successful organic producers. The name on the products stays the same and the labels may not even change. Often, the new owner is not even identified on the label. Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products, for example, now note that they are distributed by Small Planet Foods. There¹s no hint that Small Planet is owned by General Mills. Similarly, if you search a Terra Chips package you might find, in very small print that Terra is a division of Hain Celestial, with no notice that Hain has been bought out by Heinz.

Fortunately, those who want to support small businesses and small farmers are not helpless. With some adjusting of our shopping and organizational habits we can make a difference.

1. Using the chart below, we can make food-shopping decisions based on where our products come from and who will get our money.

2. Store managers can use the chart to help decide what foods to stock and how they are displayed. They can give special displays to small food producers rather then rely on prices as their guide, giving shoppers

3. Notice the real companies behind the products. What the labels don¹t tell us, the management can. Updated copies of the chart can be made available to shoppers.

4. Boards of Directors and managers can work with other natural food markets to publicize this issue. Board can review their mission statements to see how if they include support of small farmers and small food producers.

By doing the above, we can work together to ensure that we are not, one day, transformed into simply another market venue for commercial giants.

Label True Owner
Concerns+

Brown Cow Hershey
international child labor,

3000 workers strike over health benefits

Earth Best Baby Food Heinz
low human rights rating,

Arrowhead Mills Heinz CEO
earns 100x average

Hain Pure Food Heinz
American worker, cited for

Terra Chips Heinz
violating international baby

Garden of Eatin¹ Heinz
food code, pesticides in baby

Westsoy Heinz
foods, animal testing

Kashi Kellog
boycotted for use of GMOs*

Millstone Organic Coffee Proctor and Gamble broke
numerous agreements


promised in NAFTA drive,


animal testing, using GMOs*

Nature¹s Farm Chicken Tyson
one of 10 worst corporations,

illegal dumping, workers rights, illegal payoffs to officials, etc.

Cascadian Farms General Mills CEO got
19 million in total

Muir Glen General Mills
compensation in 1999, 670x

average American worker, some concern re. GMOs*

Knudsen Juices Phillip Morris tobacco,
alcohol, govn¹t
influence, discrimination,


Ethics, use of GMOs*, etc.

Quaker Oats (rice cakes) Quaker Oats
age discrimination, use of
GMOs*, additives in animal
feed

Odwalla Coca-Cola
boycott due to human rights

Abuses, aggressive advertising to children, racial and gender discrimination, polluting, one of ten worst corporations

As noted at www.responsibleshopper.org <http://www.responsibleshopper.org%20more%20information%20is%20availaable%20
on%20these%20companies%20at%20this%20website/>

See this website for more details about each of these companies and many more

* Genetically modified organisms

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