USDA Organic: The Label Doesn't Guarantee Clean Food
The term organic means something specific to consumers...purity, safety, absence of chemicals, pesticides, frankenfoods, adulteration. But is your supermarket Organic food as clean as you'd like? [In the following article, Organic with a capital "O" represents the corporate, government approved and regulated standard.]
In truth, the USDA Organic label is not a pure standard ensuring that consumers are purchasing and eating Real Clean Food. The moment that government regulators became involved in the world of organic food production, the standards became adulterated, the lines blurred. Years ago, clean food farmers warned their peers to avoid signing a deal with the USDA, but the warning was unheeded and (official) Organic food quality has been and will continue to be subject to regulation whims and corporate adulteration.
Rather than protecting consumers from conventionally grown food's harm, the USDA Organic standards provide lawfully tainted foods. As Mercola reports:
There are currently almost 300 non-organic and synthetic compounds approved for use in organic farming or food production. ... In November, 2011, the USDA's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) held a meeting in Savannah, Georgia. During that meeting, two 12-billion-dollar corporations--Martek Biosciences(a division of the Dutch biotechnology giant DSM), and WhiteWave (a division of the dairy behemoth Dean Foods)—received approval for synthetic, genetically mutated DHA and ARA oils derived from algae and soil fungus, which are then grown in a medium of genetically engineered corn products and organics.
The allowed chemicals and substances in Organic production include chlorine (a potent toxin), chlorine dioxide (a dangerous endocrine disruptor and carcinogen), tetracycline and streptomycin (antibiotics), processed carrageenan (an inflammatory and potentially carcinogenic "stabilizer" derived from seaweed), and other questionable substances. Additionally, corporations have been found sneaking synthetic preservatives into their Organic offerings.
We should be concerned about the USDA Organic label and its integrity, considering that the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, caved to Monsanto and approved GMO alfalfa and defends pink slime, and that the National Organics Standards Board is highly influenced by big business. (Vilsack went so far as to say that the USDA wouldn't approve pink slime if it weren't safe. Oh, I feel so much better now. Another government agency known for cronyism says everything it approves is all A.O.K. Whew! We can all sleep better knowing the USDA is planning our meals for us.) The NOSB has been appointing voting representatives from big food industry players, like General Mills, since the mid-1990s. This should not sit well with organic consumers, and it doesn't sit well with certain organic producers, including Eden Foods' president, Michael Potter:
Chairman and President of Eden Foods, Inc., Michael Potter ... has witnessed, first-hand, the deteriorating standards of the NOSB. A deterioration so disturbing that despite the millions of dollars he stands to pocket by selling Eden Foods to one of the many large corporations who have offered to buy it, Mr. Potter stands strong in his refusal to compromise the values of a company he worked hard to build. In fact, he’s even trending carefully with regards to his children, making sure they understand values of Eden Foods. Each one of his four children “must earn any control of the family company” according to the New York Times.
As the NYTimes article reveals, even voters from Certified Organic companies make sell-out moves while acting on the NOSB:
During her tenure, Ms. Fulwider, Organic Valley’s animal-husbandry specialist, has voted almost in lock step with its corporate members, even though her vote may be supporting something Organic Valley does not allow its own members to do. ... Ms. Fulwider surprised many observers at a board meeting in May by voting in favor of keeping carrageenan on the organic list. Before that meeting, Organic Valley was saying that it planned to find an alternative to the additive, and there is a long and active list of consumer complaints on its web site about the cooperative’s use of it in things like heavy cream and chocolate milk. Ms. Fuldwider has also voted to let organic egg producers give their chickens just two square feet of living space, when Cropp requires its own farmers to provide five.
The chart below demonstrates the food industry's corporate ownership of "Organic" brands:
The danger of these strange food bedfellows is already becoming apparent. In addition to the concerns I mentioned above, organics watchdog group Cornucopia Institute regularly reports on the drawbacks associated with allowing big government and big business to influence organic food production. For example, as the Institute recently reported, "Corporations Stab Organic Consumers in Back:"
Corporations owning some of the nation's most popular organic brands (Horizon, Silk, Kashi, Cascadian Farms, R.W. Knudsen's, etc.) have joined Monsanto and the biotechnology industry in fighting California citizen initiative, Proposition 37, that will mandate GMO labeling. And if we win in California, companies will then likely be forced to label GMOs nationwide.
In reality, this conundrum was inevitable. When you allow the government to control and regulate food production (or anything, for that matter), you are asking for trouble. The government took over, companies betrayed organic ideals, and Organic food offerings are now and will continue to be subject to whatever adulterations the NOSB, USDA and corporations deem appropriate. Will we see an Organic future including factory farms and GMOs? Really...what did we expect? That a partnership with a government regulatory agency and its buddies wouldn't mean swallowing a bucket of compromises? (Cautionary tale 101: Beware making deals with the devil.)
The best way to guarantee you are feeding your family clean food, truly organic food, is to purchase food grown from farmers with whom you can build relationships...whose farms you can see...whose methods and practices you can question. Their food need not be Certified Organic (approved by the infamous USDA) to be truly organic food. In my experience, most food from local organic producers is cleaner than anything I can purchase in a store. And the farmers care about their local reputation. Often, to differentiate themselves from the Certified Organic crowd, farmers will call their offerings "beyond organic." When they are genuine, the quality of their food exceeds what the USDA allows to pass as Organic. To avoid the pitfalls of corporate Organics, buy from smaller producers who are accountable to you, their patrons.
Sometimes we have no choice. We all still must eat. In that case, I recommend the supermarket USDA Organic foods over their conventionally produced cousins. Certified Organic may not be perfect, may not be pure, may not be playing fair, but as far as we know now, it is less toxic than the non-Organic counterparts and is the healthier choice.
Certain problems associated with the "allowable" Organics standards affect processed food offerings. If you are relying heavily on Organic processed and packaged foods, you should consider learning to prepare your own meals and snacks from scratch with Real Food components. Blogs abound with recipes and instructions. A steady diet of processed foods, even Organic, will not properly nourish you or your family. The further you get from the genuine food article as it appears in nature, the less nutritious it is...and the more likely to be subject to additives, preservatives and ingredients that you cannot understand nor recognize, because they are not Real Food. Nothing that is produced in a lab is Real Food...not even if the label says "natural." Real Food grows out of the ground and from the animals that eat what grows out of the ground. When we support the farmers who believe in and produce Real Food, we are supporting our health and our future well-being.