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Point/ Counterpoint


Corporate overtake of organics

*Check out OCA's "Point/Counterpoint" series of articles, providing readers with an opportunity to view arguments from both proponents and opponents of the organic industry.

Countering the Corporate Attack on Organics and
Fighting for the Family Farmer

Now that the organic industry has grown to over $12 billion in annual sales, agribusiness and biotechnology giants evidently view organics as a viable threat. Over the past few years they have launched a sophisticated and well-funded corporate attack aimed at discrediting organic food and farming practices. Although their activities do not seem to have put a dent in sales growth, or consumer support of organic agriculture, nonetheless, their activities, including lawsuits and intimidation from government officials , have organic marketers and consumers rightfully concerned.

Attacks on organics have come from right-wing think tanks, lawsuits from Monsanto, threatening letters from the FDA, and have been facilitated by journalists who are either complacent about or outright hostile to organic agriculture. Some of these attacks have included:

Organic Food Is Dangerous?
The junkyard dog of the corporate attack on organic agriculture has been Dennis Avery of the ultra-conservative Hudson Institute. Avery, the author of Saving the Earth Through Plastics and Pesticides, has never missed an opportunity to denigrate organics. In 2000 he appeared on ABC's 20/20. Host John Stossel's sensational claims included that organic food has a higher level of a deadly E. coli bacteria and that, in terms of pesticide residue, organic food is no safer or "cleaner" than organic produce.

After being caught with their pants down by the Environmental Working Group and being further exposed in a scathing article in The New York Times, Stossel was forced to apologize and admitted that ABC never did testing for pesticide residues or E. coli, as they represented. In fact the Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports, along with other research, has concluded that not only does organic produce have fewer, or no, toxic contaminants, but organic food also contains dramatically higher levels of vitamins and minerals. Based on the truth, score one for organics.

*For more info, check OCA's "Point/Counterpoint" series of articles, providing readers with an opportunity to view arguments from both proponents and opponents of the organic industry.

Organic Food Is Contaminated with
Pathogens from Livestock Manure?

Avery was at it again with a series of articles and interviews warning of potential serious illnesses after eating organic food contaminated with E. coli or salmonella because organic farmers rely on livestock manure as fertilizers.

Avery conveniently left out a few important details that the public might not be aware of: (1) The vast majority of all animal manure is spread on conventional crops, not on organic farms. (2) The use of manure on organic farms is highly regulated, and its use is prohibited for as long as 120 days prior to harvest (no such restriction exists for conventional farmers). (3) Conventional farmers are free to use municipal sewage sludge (human waste) that has the potential to be contaminated with toxic chemicals. This is strictly prohibited in organic production. (4) There has never been any evidence to suggest that organic food is in any way more dangerous than conventionally produced products-this was just Avery's imagination, via conjecture, working overtime. Chalk up another point for organic farmers and consumers.

*For more info, check OCA's "Point/Counterpoint" series of articles, providing readers with an opportunity to view arguments from both proponents and opponents of the organic industry.

Stop Labeling Lies
Hudson Institute launched a Web site in 2003 indicting the organic industry as hucksters lying on their labels and misrepresenting how their food is produced. As opposed to popular belief, organic farmers really do use toxic chemicals on their fields and treat their cattle with antibiotics. Shame!

Mr. Avery must be taking yoga classes because he can bend over so far backward in his attempt to twist the truth in his effort to defame the organic label.

Pesticides: Because of good crop rotation practices and carefully chosen resistant varieties, field crops virtually never have problems with pests that would economically justify using insecticides. Organic vegetable producers sometimes resort to natural, botanically based pesticides in order to "rescue" a crop. These natural poisons, derived from flowers, have distinct environmental benefits over highly toxic man-made chemicals. They break down in the environment very quickly, so they kill or injure many fewer "non-target" species. Man-made pesticides can continue to kill for days, weeks, or months-long after an insect infestation is resolved. Furthermore, the risks to farm workers are far, far fewer (although these materials should still be treated with care). And most importantly to the consumer, unlike chemical pesticides, these materials are not "persistent." They break down quickly in the environment, and that should relieve fears that the next apple you eat might have had a chemical cocktail applied, with long-lasting residual effects.

Antibiotics: Organic livestock and dairy producers are prohibited from using antibiotics for either production or therapeutic purposes. Many conventional producers dose their animals continually because the animals will gain weight quicker with antibiotics in their feed or because the animals are kept in such abysmal, crowded conditions that without antibiotics they would quickly perish. Organic farmers rely on a clean and healthy environment to prevent disease and use natural remedies if an animal does become ill. In the interest of humane treatment, just as with other members of their family, they will use an antibiotic if it is the only way to cure an animal. However, that individual is then separated from the rest of the herd or flock and is sold, commonly to a conventional neighbor. It will no longer be certifiable as organic.

In his attempt to indict organic farmers as liars, Mr. Avery sites the fact that, like conventional producers, organic dairy and livestock farmers sometimes use artificial insemination (semen) to produce quality offspring. Farmers receive the semen frozen in a straw-like tube for introduction into the animal. It contains a trace of an antibiotic-like material used as a preservative. Talk about a drop in the bucket! In the life of an animal, not pregnant and producing milk when she is inseminated, that trace amount of antibiotic would probably amount to less than .0001% of the antibiotics fed animals that end up in the meat cases at many conventional supermarkets. Score another point for the organic farmers who go out of their way to give their animals healthy living conditions.

Milk is Milk?
Avery and Hudson were at it again when they launched their Web site Milk Is Milk. Their claim here is that there is no difference between milk that comes from cows injected with genetically engineered, recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and milk that comes from non-treated organic cows. After all, all milk contains hormones (to say otherwise would be another "labeling lie").

Even with all their corporate funding, including from Monsanto, the manufacturer of rBGH, Hudson still loses this argument. When the FDA approved the sale of milk from cows treated with rBGH in the early 1990s they describe the product as being "virtually identical." Virtually identical might be good enough for the political appointees at the Food and Drug Administration, many of whom formerly worked for Monsanto and other biotechnology firms before being named to their government posts, but for many consumers, their assurances aren't good enough. Many folks want good old-fashioned milk with hormones produced by the cow, not in a test tube.

*For more info, check OCA's "Point/Counterpoint" series of articles, providing readers with an opportunity to view arguments from both proponents and opponents of the organic industry.

Monsanto Sues Family-Owned Dairy
For the third time, Monsanto has sued a dairy plant that had the audacity to communicate to their customers that their farmers have committed not to inject their cows with rBGH. Monsanto claims that by virtue of letting customers know their practices, this dairy is somehow defaming Monsanto's rBGH product, Posilac, and suggesting that milk produced without rBGH is somehow superior. ... And what a coincidence-at about the same time as Monsanto's lawsuit was filed and the Hudson Institute was promoting their Milk Is Milk Web site, friendly Bush administration officials at the FDA sent a warning letter to the dairy industry threatening to clamp down on "rBGH free labeling."

Luckily, dairy marketers have the United States Constitution to fall back on. They have the inherent right to communicate with their customers as long as they are truthful and not misleading. After fighting the state of Maine, who approved "no rBGH" labels, Monsanto has turned their vengeance on the family-owned Oakhurst Dairy. To their credit, at great expense, they're fighting Monsanto in court, refuse to modify their labels.

Organic Agriculture is Bad for the Environment
Joining the Hudson Institute is another conservative, corporate-funded think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Both of these groups are using their vast funding from corporate agribusiness, biotechnology, and the military-industrial complex to undermine farmers who are making a living outside of the industrial, petroleum-based agricultural model. Their environmental pitch is that farming with genetically engineered crops (corn, soybeans, etc.) that allow weeds to be killed with an herbicide instead of a cultivator, or crops that have pesticides spliced right into their genes protect the environment by conserving topsoil or by planting fewer acres due to their purported improvement in crop yields. They suggest that environmental groups will abandon their support for organics and instead embrace genetically modified crop technologies.

Again, Hudson and AEI fail to tell the whole story. Not only are organic farmers required to incorporate soil-building crops into their rotations (as an example, leaving fields in hay for multiple years instead of planting crops that promote erosion, like corn), but they avoid the exponential increases in toxic chemical use that are polluting our nation's drinking water and food supply. And as far as needing to plant more acres to feed the world organically, conventional farmers are suffering from record low prices due to worldwide surpluses!

Hudson claims that the trend will be for environmental groups to get on board and support genetically engineered food, but the reality is just the opposite. When the group Waterkeepers Alliance, headed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and dedicated to preserving the quality of surface water, especially the Chesapeake Bay, decided to partner with farmers in the effort to advance their agenda, they did not seek the disciples of Monsanto and high technology, but rather the 500 members of the nation's largest organic farmers cooperative, Organic Valley. Waterkeepers understands well that the industrial model for agriculture, where feed crops are produced in mass quantities in one location and livestock are concentrated on factory farms in another, is a prescription for environmental disaster. Whereas, the true model for environmental stewardship, and the economic sustainability for the families involved worldwide, is the diversified organic farm where livestock, pasture, cover crops, and perennial forages are incorporated into a crop rotation, and nutrients are recycled.

The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is a grassroots nonprofit public interest organization that deals with crucial issues of food safety, industrial agriculture, genetic engineering, corporate accountability, and environmental sustainability. We are the only organization in the U.S. focused exclusively on representing the views and interests of the nation's estimated ten million organic consumers. Through our Organic Watch Campaign, we monitor corporate buyouts and corporate involvement in organic and GE food-related government regulations, while educating and mobilizing consumers, like you, all around the world.

*For more info, check OCA's "Point/Counterpoint" series of articles, providing readers with an opportunity to view arguments from both proponents and opponents of the organic industry.

Get Involved!

The Problem:

  • 1% of U.S. corporations produce 80% of private sector food product output.

  • Today in the U.S., only 8% of farms account for 72% of sales.

  • 80% of U.S. agricultural subsidies go to the top 30% of farms.

  • Nearly 75% of U.S. farmworkers earn less than $10,000 per year and 60% of farmworker families have incomes below the poverty level.

  • The average adult in the U.S. watches 21,000 television ads annually, 75% of them paid for by the 100 largest corporations.

  • Nearly half the typical 30,000 items found in an average supermarket are brought to us by just 10 corporations.

  • An estimated one of every 10 dollars U.S. consumers spend on food is going to just one corporation -- Altria (the former Phillip Morris).

  • Genetically Modified Organisms now grow on 96 million acres in the U.S., nearly 9 million acres in Canada, and millions more in 14 other countries, yet only a handful of companies benefit. Five -- Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, Aventis (Bayer) and Monsanto.

  • The top four U.S. beef packers made up 81 percent of the market, the top four pork processors and producers 59 percent, and the top broilers 50 percent.

  • Worldwide, the top ten seed firms now control 30% of the $24.4 billion seed market (the top three are DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta).

  • The top ten agrochemical corporations control 84% of the $30 billion agrochemical market (the top three are Syngenta, Monsanto and Bayer).

The Good News:

  • America has 13 million households and 30 million consumers currently buying organic products.

  • Consumers bought $13 billion worth of organic foods in the U.S last year.

  • While conventional food sales are virtually flat, the overall annual growth rate for organic food is around 20 percent.

  • According to the Food Marketing Institute, 66% of consumers have purchased organic foods.

  • In the past decade, farmers' markets have increased by 79 percent in the U.S. with 15% of consumers buying various amounts of local produce at farmers' markets each year.

  • Community Supported Agriculture has grown from an idea in 1985 to more than 1,000 across North America today.

  • According to Time Magazine, "Organic farming used to be about saving the planet; now it's about saving the family farm."

  • One organization that has been successful in the marketplace, yet is owned by almost 600 family-farmers who produce dairy, eggs, meat and vegetables for the co-op, is Organic Valley. Calling themselves a Family of Farms this cooperative distributes their products in all 50 states and enjoys the goodwill of some of the fiercest supporters of organic agriculture.

Natural Cosmetics organic Cosmetics Body Care Products Organic Standards Organic Cosmetics USDA organic makeup natural skin care animal products lipstick lotion soap eye liner eye shadow deodorant

Want to see more "Good News" posted here? Support OCA's campaigns, and together we will work to protect health, the environment and sustainable agriculture!

OCA's Web Forum


3/27 - Organic Dairy-Rating Report Sparks Fierce Debate

3/23 - Organic Dairy Label Being Corrupted by Factory Farms

3/23 - Safeway Supermarket Chain Moves Aggressively into Organics

3/23 - Cornucopia Institute Issues Report Exposing Factory Style Dairy Farms Claiming to Be Organic

3/23 - New York Times: Survey by Cornucopia Institute Ranks Organic Integrity of Nation's Organic Dairies

3/21 - Safeway Supermarket Chain Moves Aggressively into Organics

3/7 - Investors Challenge Dean Foods/Horizon Organic Calling Factory Dairy Farms "Organic"

2/10 - Organic Trade Association--Now a Corporate-Dominated Lobby Group--Attacks Organic Watchdog

1/12 - Consumer Reports Covers the Organic Industry "Food Fight"


12/23 - Corporate Concentration Continues to Rise

12/13 - More on Organic Standards Debate

11/11 - Cornucopia Files Complaint Against Aurora Organic, Factory Farm Supplier of Milk to Wild Oats, Safeway, Costco & Horizon

11/10 - While Controversy Grows Over Factory Farm Dairies, Organic Milk is Booming

10/25 - Alert: Stop Factory Farm Dairy Feedlots from Labeling Their Products as "USDA Organic"

10/21 - Critics Fear USDA Will be Cowed by Large Dairies

9/17 - Sneak Attack: US Senate Moving to Weaken Organic Standards

9/15 - New York Times Covers the Controversy in Organic Community over Factory Dairy Farms

9/15 - More on Organic Dairy Fight

8/16 - Should Factory-Style Dairy Farms Like Horizon & Aurora Be Able to Call Themselves Organic?

4/5 - Analysis of Federal Court Decision Tightening Up Organic Standards

4/4 - Federal Court Will Allow Synthetics in Products Bearing "Made with Organics" Labels

3/29 - More on Label Fraud & the Future of Eco-Labels from Grist Magazine

3/23 - ABC News Covers Controversy on Factory Dairy Farms Labeling Their Products as Organic

3/22 - Activist Speaks out in Grist Magazine on Fraudulent Eco-Labeling

3/18 - Statement from OCA & Allies on Court Decision Tightening Up Organic Standards

3/17 - Federal Advisory Panel Recommends Mandatory Pasture Access for Animals on Organic Farms

3/9 - OCA & Family Dairies Pressure USDA on Allowing Factory Farms to Label Products as "Organic"

3/2 - Small Organic Dairy Farmers Concerned About Factory Farms Certified as "USDA Organic"

2/24 - ACTION ALERT: Stop "Organic" Factory Farms

2/18 - Nation's Largest Organic Dairy Brand, Horizon, Accused of Violating Organic Standards

2/17 - Organic Valley Speaks Out Against Intensive Confinement Dairies Certified as "Organic"

2/17 - Action Alert--Stop Allowing Factory Farm Dairies to Be Certified as Organic

2/17 - More News on the New Federal Court Ruling on Organic Standards

2/8 - Bush's Budget: Robbing Farmers & the Poor to Pay the Pentagon

2/4 - More on Federal Court Decision to Tighten Up Organic Standards

2/4 - Cornucopia Institute on the "Greenwashing" of Organic Factory Dairy Farms

1/26 - Debate: Can a Factory Farm Dairy Really Be "Organic"

1/24 - Mega-Dairy Aurora Organic Admits It's an Intensive Confinement Organic Feedlot

1/14 - USDA Feels the Heat on Allowing Factory Style Dairies to be Certified as "Organic"

1/12 - Group Files Complaint to USDA on "Factory-Style Dairy Farms" Certified as Organic

1/11 - Industrial Organic Milk vs. Organic Family Farmers


12/6 - The Corporate Organic Conquest

12/1 - Is Bigger Better? Corporate Clouds on the Organic Horizon

11/25 - The Corporate Attack on Organic Agriculture

11/24 - Propaganda Campaign Against Organic Food Based Upon Lies & Bad Science

11/9 - Lies & Smears from Biotech Industry in Latest Attack on Organic Food

7/1 - Anti-Organic Lobby Tries to Distort Study Showing Safety of Organic Food

6/13 - Agribusiness and the Decline of Nutritious Food

6/12 - New Book: The Fate of Family Farming

6/7 - Vandana Shiva--Industrial Ag & Globalization Are Destroying Rural Communities Worldwide

5/30 - Minnesota Townships Stop Agribusiness from Preventing Local Bans on Factory Farms

5/25 - Action Alert from Organic Family Farmers to USDA on Degrading Organic Standards

5/10 - Factory Farming at its Worst

2/17 - New Report on Corporate Takeover of Organic Industry Available Online

2/6 - What Are Monsanto & the FDA Hiding Regarding Controversial Cow Hormone?

1/28 - More on Monsanto's Cutback of Controversial Cow Hormone

1/26 - Monsanto Announces Mysterious Cut Back in Production of Controversial Bovine Growth Hormone

1/3 - Monsanto's Victory in Maine rBGH Lawsuit A setback for Consumers


12/29 - Maine Dairy Caves In to Pressure from Monsanto on rBGH-Free Labeling

12/29 - Monsanto Intimidates Maine Dairy into Label Compromise

12/29 - Mysterious Production Problems at Monsanto's rBGH Factory

12/21 - Time Magazine Covers the Monsanto-Oakhurst Dairy Story

12/16 - Monsanto & Maine Dairy May Settle Lawsuit on rBGH Labels

12/1 - Oakhurst loses bid to move lawsuit

10/24 - Farmers: Endangered Species

10/15 - The Push/Pull of the Food Movement by Anna Lappe

10/10 - More on Monsanto & FDA Attack on rBGH-Free Dairy

10/10 - Consumers Must Get Political to Change the Marketplace

10/10 - Organic Pushing into Mainstream Market in USA

10/10 - Wal-Mart Grows Despite Damage to Workers & Smaller Businesses

9/30 - Battle Continues over Truthful Labeling for Milk & Dairy Products

9/29 - Anti-Trust Case Against Monsanto & Gene Giants Moves Forward

9/22 - Industrial Agriculture & Corporate Power

9/19 - Horizon Organic, Now Dean Foods, Threatens Livelihood of OrganicFarmers

9/19 - Whole Foods Killing off Small Natural Food Stores

9/14 - FDA, Monsanto's Handmaiden, Bullying rBGH-Free Dairies

9/1 - State of Maine Supports Dairy Being Sued by Monsanto

9/1 - Natural Food Leader Hain will Collaborate with Cargil on"Enhanced Foods"

9/1 - Report Shows Large Transnationals Manipulate WTO

8/21 - Horizon Organic, Now Dean Foods, Downplays Difference Between Organic & Conventional

8/15 - Support Grows for Maine Dairy Sued by Monsanto

8/11 - OCA & Consumers Union Slam Monsanto Lawsuit Against Maine Dairy

8/8 - Monsanto's Bullying of Maine Dairy Backfiring

8/1 - Corporate America Looming Larger in Organic Sector

8/1 - Organic "Evolution"

7/25 - Market Research Shows Rapid Growth of Organic Food

7/25 - Organic is Saving Family-Sized Dairy Farms

7/14 - More on Monsanto Suing Maine Dairy over rBGH Issue

7/7 - OCA Voices Dissent Over Dean Foods Buyout of Horizon Organic

7/3 - PR Watch Exposes "Anti-Organic" Center for Consumer Freedom


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