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The Corporate Corruption of Organics--A New Web Site

June 2003

What We Need to Know About the Corporate Takeover of the "Organic" Food Market

by Paul Glover

Multinational Ownership Impacts on Organic Standards List of Boycotted Brands Health Impacts Packaging Miscellany The Good News GreenStar Education Committee Most goods sold at GreenStar Co-op (Ithaca, New York) are chosen with a high degree of concern for the environmental and labor impacts of manufacture, and the health effects on shoppers.

GreenStar's Mission Statement emphasizes "exercising ecological responsibility and leadership in our choice of product line..." and "being sensitive to the working and living conditions of those whose labor produces the goods we sell..." But exploring GreenStar's aisles, one finds that several of our favorite products are now owned by global corporations which damage the environment, oppress labor, and endanger world peace.

The good news is that there are alternatives to these products, and we should stock them. In fact, GreenStar can use its capital to help start new businesses which rely on local culinary talent to create new products of greater variety and quality. HERE ARE THE DETAILS: € Bearitos, Bread Shop Granola, Celestial Seasonings, Garden of Eatin', Health Valley, Imagine Foods (Rice Dream), Terra Chips, and Westbrae (canned vegetables, soy drinks, pastas, Little Bear Corn Chips), are all owned by the Hain Food Group whose prime investments are managed by companies like "Wellington Management."

Their principal stockholders are PHILIP MORRIS (cigarettes), MONSANTO (genetically modified food), CITIGROUP (rainforest destruction), (genetically modified foods), EXXONMOBIL (global warming), WAL-MART, ENTERGY NUCLEAR, LOCKHEED MARTIN (weapons), WASTE MANAGEMENT INC (giant landfills), PFIZER (drugs), MERCK (drugs), BANK OF AMERICA (racial discrimination) & (animal cruelty), etc. All of the above are themselves significantly owned by Citigroup, "the World's Most Destructive Bank" --Rainforest Action Network. Citigroup backs corporate prisons, Third World debt, genetic engineering, predatory lending, and rainforest destruction. H.J. Heinz Co. owns nearly 20% of Hain: Editorial in Natural Progressions, by Bob Swientek 11/99: "Back in April, I wrote in this column that the corporate suits (mainstream food manufacturers) were overrunning the tofu eaters (natural foods processors) at the Natural Products Expo-West. Well, the "run" is now a full-fledged sprint.

In September, Heinz bought a 19.5% stake in Hain Food Group for nearly $100 million. Hain, the leading producer of natural foods in the country with annual sales of $206 million in '99, acquired the Earth's Best baby food brand in the deal. By gaining entry into the natural and organic foods arena, Heinz may be in the initial stages of reinventing itself. It better...most of its businesses, including its profitable ketchup franchise, are slow growth." Heinz itself is owned by same mutual funds that own Hain, and its prime stockholders include the same multinationals. € Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen are owned by Small Planet Foods which is owned by GENERAL MILLS, whose principal investors are PHILIP MORRIS, EXXONMOBIL, GENERAL ELECTRIC, CHEVRON, NIKE, McDONALD'S, TARGET STORES, STARBUCK'S, MONSANTO, DUPONT (weapons & pesticides), DOW CHEMICAL (Agent Orange, breast implants, napalm), PEPSICO, ALCOA ALUMINUM, DISNEY (exploit Third World labor), TEXAS INSTRUMENTS (weapons: one of GW Bush's top contributors), PFIZER.

General Mills is also being boycotted for animal rights abuse. € Stoned Wheat Thins is made with GMOs and is owned by NABISCO, which has been bought by PHILIP MORRIS (12/00), which also owns KRAFT General Foods Philip Morris Boycott & In Fact & Nabisco/Labor & Nabisco News & pension funds & other € Odwalla Juice is owned by Coca-Cola, part of the Minute Maid unit. Coca-Cola prohibits unionizing: WASHINGTON, Nov. 19 /PRNewswire -- Edgar Paez, of the Colombian trade union Sinaltrainal, was joined on Monday by Teamster representatives, the AFL- CIO, members of the clergy, civil rights activists and political leaders as he described the brutal torture, kidnapping and murders of union workers in his country -- particularly those working at Coca-Cola bottling facilities.

The group assembled for a peace vigil in front of the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, GA. "My brothers and sisters in Colombia have suffered unspeakable horrors because they belong to a trade union," Paez said. "We stand united with American workers to demand that Coca-Cola stop the violence." Coca-Cola paid $192.5 million to settle a U.S. racial discrimination lawsuit in 2000. Fresh Samantha, a Maine juice brand that merged with Odwalla in May 2000, "has already begun reducing its fresh-fruit content by boosting the water content--a way to make juices cheaper and longer-lasting," according to Bill Sipper, marketing vice-president of the Ultimate Juice Company.

  • Boca Burgers is owned by Kraft Foods, which is owned by Philip Morris.
  • Hearty & Natural veggie burgers is owned by Sunrich Food Group, which is owned by Stake Technologies, which is owned principally by Gruber & McBain Capital Management, whose principal investors are Boeing, Lockheed Martin and by Polymedica, whose principal investor is Safeco, whose principal investors are ExxonMobil, General Electric, and Citigroup.
  • Morningstar Farms (Kellogg's) has been contaminated by Starlink GM corn. € Silk Soy Drink is owned by White Wave, which is owned by Dean Foods (5/9/02), whose main shareholders are Microsoft, GE, Philip Morris, Citigroup, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, Coca Cola, Wal-Mart, PepsiCo, Home Depot.
  • Stonyfield Farm (yogurt) is not yet dominated by multinationals, but has "partnered" with GAIAM, whose major stockholders include IBM, EXXON, CITIGROUP, JOHNSON & JOHNSON, WAL-MART, and will be owned by Danone by 2004, which has been (like Nestlι) 'breaking code on baby milk for Third World' (1/17/03 http://www.independent.co.uk). Danone is publicly traded: (DA) and has trace ownership by Citigroup, GE, Wal-Mart, Exxon, etc.
  • Gardenburger is getting on the corporate gravy train, with 20% of its stock owned (8/02) by such companies as PFIZER, WAL-MART, MICROSOFT, CITIGROUP, AMERICAN EXPRESS, GILETTE, EXXON. Among their brokers is Patman Foods, a major factory farm meatpacker.
  • Arrowhead Water and Poland Spring Water are owned by NESTLE, which is being boycotted because its "breast milk substitute" causes the deaths of millions of babies. Nestle Boycott & breastfeeding.com & Baby Milk Action: "These babies are twins.(see photo) Their Pakistani mother was wrongly advised that she would not have enough breastmilk to feed both and so bottlefed her daughter while breastfeeding her son. The girl died the day after this photo was taken in Islamabad Children's Hospital. 'Use my picture,' said the mother, 'if it will help others not to make the same mistake.'"
  • Seeds of Change is now owned by M&M-Mars Candy: "Women are from Venus, Seeds are from Mars "Earlier this year, Seeds of Change, an idealistic company formed in the 1980s to "preserve and spread a diversity of organic seeds through the gritty, caring hands of backyard gardeners," was bought out by M&M-Mars, Inc, the candy company. As Seeds of Change Vice President Steve French explained to the incredulous editors at Food & Water magazine, "I don't think there are any real differences between Seeds of Change and Mars.... whether it's a Mars product or it's a Seeds of Change product, the product benefits are very, very similar if we're talking about nutrition here." --Earth Island Journal, Fall 98 Impact on Organic Standards & Supply Some have said they welcome major corporate investment in the natural food market, as vindication of the value of natural foods.
  • We should be concerned, however, that control of the natural foods industry by fewer companies will result in multinational corporate control of organic acreage and marketing, forcing out smaller regional/family suppliers, reducing competition, leading to weakened organic standards (sewage sludge, irradiation, GMOs). We have already seen the political effects of media integration-- once there were thousands of independent radio stations and daily papers, now there are a handful of TV networks and newspaper chains owned by these same corporations. As well, payments by GreenStar shoppers to these companies reinforce corporate control of other markets and of lobbying, where they do great damage. "If we don't pay attention to the politics of health food industry then we will shortly not have organics." --Milo MacTavish, manager, Whole Foods Co-op, Norfolk, VA For additional corporate link updates, see also VeganBuyout HEALTH IMPACTS GreenStar's Mission Statement: "Emphasizing the sale of nutritious food in as natural a state as possible."

    BOTTLED WATER BOYCOTT:
  • "Evian is Naive spelled backwards"
  • "most bottled water is nothing more than tap water in a bottle" --New York State Department of Consumer Affairs
  • "Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?"
  • FDA Rules for Bottled Water are Generally Less Strict than Tap Water Rules --Natural Resources Defense Council
  • "Every year 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water and toxic chemicals can be released during the manufacture and disposal of the bottles." --Worldwide Fund for Nature
  • "Bottled water may be no safer, or healthier, than tap water in many countries, while selling for up to 1,000 times the price." --World Wildlife Fund
  • "If you are concerned about the quality of your drinking water and regularly buy bottled water, you should invest in a water filter. The production, packaging, and transportation of bottled water uses an enormous amount of resources. Water filters are economical when compared to bottled water and much kinder to the earth." --Co-op America
  • Categories of Bottled Water
  • Breast cancer and plastic bottles
  • Increasing drinking water protection in New York State REJECTED: A.3205-C: "This legislation requires the water resources institute to prepare and disseminate information regarding cryptosporidium to those individuals who are more susceptible to illness caused by exposure to cryptosporidium. Cryptosporidium is a waterborne pathogen which may cause death to individuals with compromised immune systems and may cause illness to healthy individuals.

    It may be transmitted through bottled water as well as by way of regular tap water. Consumers of bottled water will be better informed about the dangers of a variety of waterborne pathogens through the enhanced labeling program set forth in this legislation." This bill passed the Assembly but died in the Senate." "NATURAL FLAVORS". may include aspartame, a potent carcinogen. "Since it was granted blanket [FDA] approval it's mixed with sugar and other sweeteners, unlabeled and mixed in artificial and natural flavors." citation more and more and see also FLAVORS "Natural flavorings" in Celestial Seasonings contain "free glutamic acid," the bad part of MSG. See also www.truthinlabeling.org Tom's of Maine toothpaste contains Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS), a known mutagen. See also Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate "Harmful if Swallowed" GreenStar is prohibited from selling products containing refined sugar.

    "Brown sugar" consists primarily of refined white sugar coated with a fine molasses film. Milk hazards to health & environment & "Not Milk!"

    Petguard contains "Ocean Fish" which may include unregulated non-dolphin-safe tuna catch. Animal Protection Institute & Pet Food Ingredients & more yuck Food Additives is book describing harmful ingredients in health foods. "While not all vegetable-protein products are 100% organic, most of them sport the label 'made with organic soy.'

    According to the new FDA rule, this means no genetically modified foods. The Wall Street Journal decided to challenge GMO-free labeling by testing 20 products labeling that claim. One product tested showed 40% of the soybean DNA in a veggie bacon came from genetically modified plants." --Soyinfo.com Ten Reasons Why GMOs Will Not Ensure Food Security To say that the cosmetics industry is very poorly regulated is an understatement. The FDA can make suggestions or recommendations to manufacturers about cosmetic products or their ingredients, but the manufacturers do not have to comply. "Most products are labeled to 'sell' rather than to provide accurate information about the product. Terms like natural and hypoallergenic do not have official definitions, so the manufacturers can use them to mean anything they want.

    This often leads to misleading information about the product on the label." --From Dying to Look Good: The Disturbing Truth About What's Really in Your Cosmetics, Toiletries and Personal Care Products By Christine Hoza Farlow, D.C.

    HARMFUL INGREDIENTS IN SHAMPOOS AND COSMETICS --EcoMall Harmful Ingredients in Personal Care Products "When it comes to soaps and shampoos, "almost every product out there labeled organic isn't," said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association. The United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates organic food labeling, has neither standards nor the authority to regulate labels on personal care products." -- NYTimes 5/18/03: "Is Organic Shampoo Chemistry or Botany?" "Restoring Health to Health Foods" EXCESS FOOD PACKAGING is one of GreenStar's founding concerns. "Recycled" soymilk containers are taken to the Tompkins County Recycling Facility, then trucked to Philadelphia where they are "hydropulped" (paper part removed).

    The plastic and aluminum parts are trucked to New Jersey, where they are burned in a "waste-to-energy" plant. Burning the plastic creates dioxin, which causes birth defects and cancer downwind. Here are overpackaging details. As well, Food packaging may contain carcinogens. MISCELLANY: no dolphin safe tuna due to weakened purse seine standards: "At least six to 10 percent of eastern spinner dolphin mortality, and 10 to 15 percent of northeastern offshore spotted dolphin mortality, is caused by the separation of baby dolphins from their mothers during the chasing and netting process." --National Marine Fisheries Service The current supply of GreenStar t-shirts ("Ithaca Is Gorges") were assembled in Honduras and El Salvador.

    Chances are above 90% that these shirts are made by teenage girls working long hours in brutal conditions for less than livable wages: € "Right now, no college code contains a provision that companies must pay a living wage. But without this provision, we will not be able to call our university clothing "sweatshop free." € "When I look at a college sweatshirt made in Honduras, I feel pretty confident it was made in a sweatshop," said Ginny Coughlin, the sweatshop campaign coordinator for United Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees. T-Shirts & Sweatshop Watch & Sweatgear & CISPES e-mail. Here's an alternative: Union-made t-shirts CHOCOLATE: Chocolate Slavery & Cadbury attacks chocolate slavery & Thornton's against Chocolate Slavery. GreenStar has slavery-free brands. Corporate Agriculture Research Project & California's Central Valley

    THE GOOD NEWS:
  • There are healthy and tasty alternatives in all of these food categories, owned by companies which are locally/regionally- and/or family-owned.
  • GreenStar's GreenFuture explains how GreenStar can help create more locally-owned businesses to supply our health food needs.
  • Shopping is Voting (cartoon) dramatizes the difference between corporate and co-op food supply.
  • Co-op members here and elsewhere have a lot of power: "Did you know there are more than 48,000 cooperatives in the United States serving 120 million Americans and generating in excess of $500 billion in economic activity? From childcare to healthcare, agriculture to housing, electricity to telephone service, hardware stores to grocery stores, credit unions to media outlets, cooperatives provide Americans with the basic services they use everyday. Revenue generated by cooperatives tends to stay in the community as it is distributed to local members rather than removed shareholders. Cooperatives exist not to generate a profit for themselves or outside investors, as do other businesses, but rather to provide goods and services at the lowest possible cost. With cooperatives serving almost 40 percent of all Americans, cooperative members comprise a significant percentage of the electorate." --Alison M. Christie Marketing, Merchandising, & Member Services Manager, GreenStar Cooperative Market, Inc.
  • Building a Green Store from the Ground Up This web page therefore is created not only for GreenStar members who care about environmental and labor issues, but for members of all co-ops and all other grocery shoppers. Together we can create a loyal national market for independent non-corporate organic brands, and restrain small labels from selling to multinationals. GreenStar's Mission Statement: "emphasizing and promoting locally produced goods, and items made or distributed by other cooperatives."
  • Co-op America's Green Pages is an inspirational portrait of the variety of alternatives available. € Organic Agriculture and the Small Farm Crisis € GreenPeople and Organic Consumer's list thousands of alternative brands. € Organic Certification € Community Food Security Coalition € The Food Alliance € Organic Means Local € PCC Natural Markets: A Partner in the Community € Harvest Co-ops

  • Links to Vegetarian Products -- The Vegetarian Resource Group € CROPP: largest organic farmers cooperative in North America (owns Organic Valley) Loyalty to the farming members is the guiding principle for CROPP's operations. "We plan to stay a cooperative," says Siemon. "We are not planning for growth so that we can sell to a corporation or for a favorable business valuation; we have no exit strategy." € Quill's Apothecary in Buffalo, N.Y. sells natural soaps. "When any of our suppliers is bought by a chain traded on the stock market, we cease purchasing that brand." homemade skin care € Natural Organic CHIPS: Here's a look at tortilla chip machines & Organic Production Index € Pecans for our pecan pies could be bought from this Georgia co-op of black growers. € Consumer Reports water filter survey. water filter recycling GreenStar Education Committee GreenStar's Mission Statement: "Educating ourselves about the co-op, the goods we sell, and the principles to which we subscribe." To revive the founding purposes of GreenStar (favoring regional/local producers, least packaging, boycotting companies which damage nature and labor, educating members about these issues), the following reforms are presented to GreenStar's board and members: 1) Formation of an independent GreenStar Education Committee (not appointed by the board) dedicated to bringing this information to GreenStar's members.. 2) Display space in the front of the store about these products, and alternatives. 3) Placement on lower shelves for products which are owned by publicly traded corporations. 4) Promotion and shelf prominence for regional products in these product categories. 5) Color coding on shelves (red, yellow, green) to grade products according to corporate ownership, packaging, environmental impacts, labor impacts, local/regional ownership. 6) Creation of two superworker shifts for research into the above. If GreenStar's board takes the initiative to enact these reforms, then our co-op will get credit for upholding these values, and will further distinguish GreenStar from Wegmans and Tops. The change of product line will be orderly and will least affect our budget. See our REFERENDUM to enact the above. GreenStar's Mission Statement: "...to build an alternative social and economic structure..." To join the GreenStar Members' Education Committee and/or provide more information, contact Paul Glover (member since 1972) (607) 272-4330, or Marlo Cappocia The GreenStar Members' Education Committee has endorsed the following candidates for GreenStar's Council (elections throughout April 2002): DISSIN, HARBER, RADIN, YOUNG, ZWACK. See statements by all candidates at GreenStar's website and at ithacanews.org/greenstar.candidates.html" Shopping is Voting!

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