Sorry Monsanto: Organic Food Demand Is Absolutely Exploding

Natural Society
by Christina Sarich

Perhaps you remember a time not too far in our collective grocery-shopping past when regular grocery stores chains and places like Walmart had no idea what organic food was. Organic milk? Bread? Produce? They didn’t carry it. You had to find an obscure health food store or a farmer’s market if you didn’t live near a Whole Foods to find non-GMO, healthful food that wasn’t full of pesticides. But thankfully, consumers are demanding different products now. Demand for organic food has busted through its glass ceiling.

You can attribute this change in market demand to education. You can attribute it to the mass awakening happening around the planet. But either way, you can’t argue with the numbers. Eating organic is no longer ‘fringe’ or something done solely by health-nuts and athletes, hippies, and paranoids. In fact, consumer demand for organic food is seeing double digit growth year over year, and it doesn’t show signs of stopping.

Over 20,000 stores now offer organic food products. A report has shown that in 2012, more than $28.4 million was spent on healthful organic food, and that number has grown since the report published such findings. According to Nutrition Business Journal, organic food sales will reach a startling $35 billion this year. For those of us who don’t take our health for granted, this is just the beginning of a food revolution.

We’re eating better in every category of food, too, not just organic apple and oranges. People are boycotting toxic food-producing companies faster than you can say ‘lawsuit’ as they realize we’ve been lied to. People now know that something made in vats with chemical additives or spliced and diced with GMOs is anything but ‘natural.’

We are turning away from companies like Kellogg’s and Pepsi-Co, Coca-Cola, and Kraft to companies that we can actually trust – companies that don’t sell us non-food and call it food.

Or how about putting harmful additives used to make yoga mats in bread, as Subway once did before individuals pressured them to remove azodicarbonamide from their food? We just won’t sit silent anymore. Even beer companies are feeling the pressure to not only disclose toxic ingredients, but to change their ways, and stop using them.

While fresh fruits and vegetables leading the way in organics for the past three decades, and accounting for 43% of U.S. organic food sales in 2012, dairy, bread, packaged foods, snack foods, meat, poultry, seafood, and even condiments are seeing an up-turn in organic sales.

For now, individuals are purchasing their organic foods primarily through conventional and natural food supermarkets and chains, according to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), but this is also changing as more people turn to food co-ops and even neighbors for fresh, organic food.

We’ve come a long way since the organic food movement’s beginnings. Yes, our grandparents and great-grandparents just grew… food. They didn’t even call it organic, though they often didn’t use pesticides or herbicides, and certainly not petroleum-based or chemical fertilizers.

The modern organic movement began at the same time as industrialized agriculture. It began in Europe around the 1920s, when a group of farmers and consumers sought alternatives to the industrialization of agriculture. In Britain, the organic movement had gathered pace in the 1940’s. Today, people around the world, from the US to Bhutan, are asking for, and even growing organic food.

Indeed, growing our own food is becoming an absolutely essential part of our collective future.

In the same way that petrochemical companies don’t want to see the impending evolution of solar and wind power, Big Ag doesn’t want to accept what is happening with our food consciousness. We know better now, and so we ask for better. Our wallets are truly determining the future food landscape.

Top US Healthcare Giant: GMOs Are Devastating Health

Natural Society
by Anthony Gucciardi

Just days after a leading genetically modified organism (GMO) researcher spoke out against GMOs and how many pro-GMO ‘scientists’ are in bed with Monsanto or carry their own GMO patents, the largest managed healthcare provider in the United States is now publicly speaking out against GMOs. In a recent newsletter, the Kaiser Permanente company discussed the numerous dangers of GMOs in a recent newsletter and how to avoid them.

Explaining how GM ingredients have been linked to tumors and organ damage in rats in the only lifelong rat study available, the newsletter highlighted how the only real long- term research indicates that GMOs are a serious health danger. The newsletter, which you can view here, states:

“Despite what the biotech industry might say, there is little research on the long-term effects of GMOs on human health. Independent research has found several varieties of GMO corn caused organ damage in rats. Other studies have found that GMOs may lead to an inability in animals to reproduce.”

Top Health Giant Says Buy Organic for Proper Health

The newsletter then goes on to tell readers how they can avoid GMOs in their food through buying high quality organic and looking for other non-GMO indicators. It is important to remember the organic labeling meanings when shopping organic, however, which this newsletter unfortunately does not address. Make sure you know which ‘level’ of organic you are consuming:

Products labeled ‘100% organic’ – These items are made with 100% organic ingredients and are the highest quality organic products you can purchase. No GMOs are allowed.

Labeled ‘organic’ — These products are to contain at least 95% organic ingredients overall. Still no GMOs are allowed.
‘Made with ‘organic ingredients’ — This is the lowest form of organic content. This label is only required to contain 70% organic ingredients, meaning that the remaining 30% can be conventional. The conventional items, however, are not allowed to contain GMOs. These products don’t qualify for the USDA seal, whereas the previous two do.
You can also look for the ‘Non-GMO Verified’ logo on food items to be sure that they are GMO free.

But why does a major corporation care that you are eating GMOs? Well the fact of the matter is that the research (and common sense — eating pesticide factories mixed with the DNA of viruses isn’t going to end well) indicates GMOs are causing problematic health conditions across the board. Of course the issue lies in the fact that GMOs are not immediately considered as a cause and actually influence disease through a series of complications that are not easy to trace. But as the only lifelong study has showed us, 50% of male and 70% of female rats died prematurely when consuming GMOs.

And the bottom line is that this is costing Kaiser Permanente. If members of the healthcare juggernaut were to switch to high quality organic foods free of GMOs, pesticides, mercury-containing high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners, then Kaiser would be dishing out millions upon millions less for healthcare costs.

More and more organizations and individuals alike are speaking out against GMOs and the effects of GMO consumption as the evidence becomes more and more clear on a daily basis. Perhaps next time Monsanto tries to push a new outlandish creation into the food supply they will be met with crushing opposition thanks to a global increase in awareness

You Are What You Eat

Waking Times
by Anna Hunt

“The Doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas A Edison, 1847-1931

Eating healthy can be challenging in a world of convenient, processed and fast foods. In the US, food companies collectively spend more on advertising than any other industry, even more than Big Pharma (which coincidentally spends about twice as much on advertising as it does on research and development, as reported in Science Daily). We are talking about billions of dollars spent each year to make us believe that a sausage biscuit is just as good to eat as a bowl of granola because it has similar calories, or that you will have more fun when drinking a coke, and that processed GMO’ed snacks are “natural” and “healthy”.

On top of all this, billions more are spent to sell us pills to help with the various ailments and illnesses that often arise due to poor diet.

Many people are stuck in this vicious cycle because they lack proper nutritional education, and don’t have a personal history of eating well. Aside from a few days covering the food pyramid (which in itself is questionable, as there is a heavy dependence on grains and animal products and no mention of vegan or vegetarian diets), not much else is taught in schools about nutrition. Most medical professionals are not taught to address our illnesses with nutrition, but instead promote drugs, and shockingly some even dismiss diet as a cause of poor health.

Public and government organizations can in no way match what is being spent by the food processors to help promote healthy-eating initiatives. In 2006 alone, food companies spent $1.6 billion marketing their products to children, with millions more spent targeting other demographic groups. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control’s combined budget to spend on improving the public’s nutrition and physical activity totaled about $51 million in 2008. Source: Washington Post

These organization may try to raise awareness about good food, but their efforts simply cannot compete. The USDA outlines a set of dietary guidelines to help guide Americans towards healthier food choices and, as per the USDA, “confront [the] obesity epidemic.” But who listens and actually adheres to government guidelines about what to eat?

New research conducted by the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion in Alexandria, Virginia surveyed over 8000 Americans to find out what they ate in a day, and compared this to USDA nutritional recommendations. “Overall, the researchers found that children and adults as groups each scored 56, while seniors scored higher with 65, meaning they did a better job meeting the USDA standards than most younger people, but no one came close to a perfect score of 100.” Source: Fox News

Now that we understand that our health and diet is being attacked by corporations, and that our already over-reaching and over-extended government is in no position to positively influence public health, what can we do abut this serious issue?

As with many problems that face the world today, the best way to begin fixing this is to stop pointing fingers and to take a look in the mirror. What are you eating? What are you serving your children? What companies are you supporting with your spending dollars? What types of dishes are you bringing to pot-luck dinners during this Holiday Season? Perhaps an interesting dish that’s packed with super-healthy, leafy greens will start an inspiring conversation about food, versus leaving the guests bloated and reaching for antacids.

There are many resources on the Internet, numerous books and recipe apps that bring us a wealth of ideas on how to cook and eat healthy. Here are some of my favorites:

Greens Glorious Greens: More than 140 Ways to Prepare All Those Great-Tasting, Super-Healthy, Beautiful Leafy Greens, by Johnna Albi

Wild About Greens: 125 Delectable Vegan Recipes for Kale, Collards, Arugula, Bok Choy, and other Leafy Veggies Everyone Loves, by Nava Atlas

Power Foods: 150 Delicious Recipes with the 38 Healthiest Ingredients, by the Editors of Whole Living Magazine

Raising the Salad Bar: Beyond Leafy Greens–Inventive Salads with Beans, Whole Grains, Pasta, Chicken, and More, by Catherine Walthers


The 10 Things You Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them, by Dave Lieberman

Superfoods: The Food and Medicine of the Future, by David Wolfe

Related:  US diets not up to US standards, study finds

Organic: Food Justice for the 99%

Cornucopia
by Charlotte Vallaeys, M.S., M.T.S.

Dr. Oz in Time Magazine Slandering Families Who Choose Safe, Organic Food for Their Children — Off-Base/Ill Advised

As Americans become increasingly aware of the story behind conventional foods—the ecologically destructive monoculture fields, the petrochemical fertilizers, the toxic pesticides and dangerous fumigants—the agrochemical industry has launched an all-out media offensive against the booming organic industry.

The agrochemical industry’s communications specialists have apparently found willing partners in major nationwide media outlets like The New York Times and Time magazine, which have recently published articles discouraging people from buying organic foods. The message is nearly always the same, as industry-friendly researchers and reporters downplay the role and harm caused by agricultural chemicals and focus instead on the differences between a handful of common nutrients. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, the conclusion is always that organic foods are not worth the extra price because the nutritional differences are minimal.

First, we must set the record straight. Scientific studies show that milk from pastured cows contains higher levels of beneficial fats. Beef from grass-fed cattle and eggs from pastured hens are lower in cholesterol and saturated fat and higher in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamins A and E. Organic strawberries and tomatoes contain more healthy antioxidants. These are all undisputed facts laid out in a myriad of published, peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Consumers increasingly turn to organic and grass-based foods, based on this scientific evidence that has been reported in magazines, including Time, in recent years. Now, the latest issue of Time mindlessly repeats the agribusiness mantra: “Nutritionally, an egg is an egg.” Milk is milk. And canned peas, with toxic pesticide residues, heated to extreme temperatures during processing, and then placed in a container lined with a suspected endocrine disruptor, are just as healthy as those for sale at a farmer’s market, picked fresh from a local field just hours ago.

The purpose of these media reports and stories seems to be to pull Americans away from thoughtful discourse about our food and back to blissful ignorance. Concern over pesticides, animal welfare, fostering local economies, and pollution turn people toward organic and local foods—and that’s bad for business for the chemical and industrial farming industries. No wonder they want us all to look at an egg, whether produced on a factory farm or laid by a free-range, pastured hen, and see nothing more.

The paternalistic message—to shut up and eat our food—is no longer working. Americans are no longer ignoring the mounting scientific evidence that pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, hormones, antibiotics and other drug residues are harming us, even at extremely low levels, and especially our children.

This scientific evidence about pesticides’ harmful effects, most recently reviewed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and covered in the latest issue of Pediatrics, will continue to be a major driving force behind the booming success and growth of the organic food movement.

The agrochemical industry will not win the hearts and minds (and stomachs) of Americans, especially when the health of our children is on the line. So they have turned their latest attempt to bring Americans back to blind trust in conventional foods by focusing on our collective class resentments. A more sinister message has taken hold, likening a diet of conventional foods to “The 99% Diet” and a chemical-free organic diet as “elitist.”

In Time magazine, Dr. Mehmet Oz, who once told millions of viewers, “I want you to eat organic foods” and “your kids deserve better than to be part of a national chemistry experiment,” has seemingly changed his tune and turned the decision to buy organic foods into a political and class issue.

Not only did Dr. Oz write that conventional foods are nutritionally equal to organic foods (he never mentions pesticide contamination), he calls organic foods “elitist.” Suddenly, a middle-class mother who decides to pay extra for a safe haven from pesticide contamination is called “snooty” and a “food snob” by the very same celebrity physician who once urged her to protect her children from agricultural chemicals by choosing organic.

Of course, the scientific evidence has not changed since Dr. Oz told us to buy organic. The study, for example, that showed statistically significant higher rates of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children with higher levels of dietary pesticide exposure has not disappeared, and is considered as scientifically sound and convincing today as it was when it was first published in 2010 and reported in media outlets including Time.

The conventional food advocates are now attempting to dissuade Americans from buying organic foods by turning the issue into one of class and privilege. The tactic is to paint food as a reflection of one’s position in society, like owning a Mercedes or fancy yacht, rather than a question of health and safety—organic food is painted not as a safe haven from pesticides, but as an elitist food for the “1%.” Would any of us 99%’ers want to be considered a “snob?”

Middle-class Americans who prioritize personal finances and choose to protect their children from harmful pesticide residues should be proud of this decision, and should not be bullied or shamed by Oz. Our children, as Dr. Oz once noted, should not serve as the human equivalents of lab rats. Rather than malign organic foods as elitist, we must recognize the very real and indisputable health benefits of organics and work to make pure, wholesome, uncontaminated foods more accessible and affordable for all.

Charlotte Vallaeys, M.S., M.T.S.
Director, Farm and Food Policy
The Cornucopia Institute

The Time cover story from 12/3/12 on “What to Eat Now” by Dr. Mehmet Oz is available, click title.

Excerpts from the article, with Cornucopia’s responses:

Dr. Oz: “Nutritionally speaking, there is little difference between the farmer’s-market bounty and the humble brick from the freezer case.”

Cornucopia response: Dr. Oz compares conventional and organic foods throughout the article by focusing exclusively on the differences between a handful of nutrients. This is exactly what the agrochemical and conventional farming industries, and their front group, the Alliance for Food and Farming, would like the American public to focus on. Just two months ago, Dr. Oz told the viewers of his syndicated television show to buy organic vegetables to avoid pesticide residues. Now, in his copywritten Time story, the word “pesticide” or “agricultural chemical” is never mentioned.

Dr. Oz: “Dispelling these myths—that boutique foods are good, supermarket foods are suspect and you have to spend a lot to eat well—is critical to improving our nation’s health. Organic food is great, it’s just not very democratic.”

Cornucopia response: What can be more democratic than consumers voting with their food dollars to support organic farmers who protect our environment and our health by eschewing harmful and polluting agrochemicals?  Even if there were no direct benefit to our families (plenty of published scientific research indicates there is), when we choose organic food we are protecting farmers and farmworkers from exposure to toxic chemicals. Many farmers, farmworkers and their children have elevated levels of certain cancers and chronic diseases.

Dr. Oz: “The rise of foodie culture over the past decade has venerated all things small-batch, local-farm and organic—all with premium price tags. But let’s be clear: you don’t need to eat like the 1% to eat healthily.”

Cornucopia response: Organic foods are not for the “1%.” Organic foods are for everybody, and are accessible and affordable to most families who prioritize their expenses. Many organic consumers forgo other “luxuries,” whether it be iPhones, vacations, new cars – all of which are advertised in the same Time magazine where Dr. Oz’s article appears – in order to be able to afford organic foods to protect their family’s health. These decisions should be applauded, not turned into a character flaw.

Dr. Oz: “After several years of research and experience, I have come to an encouraging conclusion: the American food supply is abundant, nutritionally sound, affordable and, with a few simple considerations, comparable to the most elite organic diets. Save the cash; the 99% diet can be good for you.”

Cornucopia response: Dr. Oz’s research apparently missed the countless studies showing that organic foods are nutritionally superior, lower in pesticide residues, lower in antibiotic-resistant pathogen contamination, etc. In addition to being published in peer-reviewed journals, testing by independent sources such as Consumer Reports (Consumer Union) and government agencies such as the USDA corroborate these findings.

Dr. Oz: “I consider it a public-health service to the consumer who has to feed a family of five or the person who wants to make all the right choices and instead is alienated and dejected because the marketing of healthy foods too often blurs into elitism, with all the expense and culinary affectation that implies.”

Cornucopia response: The added expense of buying organic foods is an investment in health. In the interest of public health, Dr. Oz should have mentioned the pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, synthetic preservatives, artificial dyes and sweeteners, and other harmful inputs used in conventional farming and food production. Comparing nutrients is just one aspect of a cost-benefit analysis. Dr. Oz owes his loyal fans, who respect his judgment, a more thoughtful and nuanced analysis.

Dr. Oz: “There’s no question that free-range chickens and grass-fed, pasture-dwelling cows lead happier–if not appreciably longer–lives than animals raised on factory farms. They are also kept free of hormones and antibiotics and are less likely to carry communicable bacteria like E. coli, which are common on crowded feedlots. If these things are important to you and you have the money to spend, then by all means opt for pricier organic meats.”

Cornucopia response: Yes, Dr. Oz, avoiding hormones and antibiotics is important to us, and it should be to you, too.
However, just because a package says “free range” or “grass-fed” does not mean it is certified organic, and therefore is not certified to be produced without some of the most dangerous and objectionable drugs. Concerned consumers should go out of their way to seek out the organic seal.

Dr. Oz: “But for the most part, it’s O.K. to skip the meat boutiques and the high-end butchers. Nutritionally, there is not much difference between, say, grass-fed beef and the feedlot variety.”

Cornucopia response: Dr. Oz’s statement is not backed by scientific data, which consistently shows lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat and higher levels of beneficial omega-3 fats and vitamins in grass-fed beef compared with feedlot beef.

Dr. Oz: “Let’s also take a moment to celebrate the tuna-salad sandwich, which is to lunch what the ’57 Chevy is to cars–basic and brilliant.”

Cornucopia response: It is unconscionable that Dr. Oz touts the nutritional benefits of canned tuna, without mentioning the FDA and EPA warnings concerning methylmercury contamination. The FDA and EPA recommend that women who may become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers and young children limit their consumption of canned light tuna to no more than 12 ounces per week, and their consumption of canned albacore tuna to no more than 6 ounces per week.

Dr. Oz: “Preserves and jams without added sugar can be great sources of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.”

Cornucopia response: Preserves and jams without added sugar often contain added artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, which has been linked in studies to cancer and neurological damage. Aspartame and other artificial sweeteners are banned in organic products.

Dr. Oz: “We know more about the connection between food and health than ever before—down to the molecular level, actually. This has provided us the curious luxury of being fussy, even snooty, about what we eat, considering some foods, well, below our station. That’s silly. Food isn’t about cachet. It’s about nourishment, pleasure and the profound well-being that comes from the way meals draw us together.”

Cornucopia response: Dr. Oz spends the entire article attempting to convince the American public that there are few, if any, differences between conventional and organic foods. Yet in his closing paragraphs he tacitly acknowledges that we “know more about … food and health than ever before – down to the molecular level.” This contradicts his earlier statements that there are no differences.

Most people who buy organic foods do so not because they are “snooty,” as Dr. Oz suggests, but because they seek to protect themselves and their families from the widely recognized harmful effects of pesticides and other agrichemicals.

Ground Truth: Two things about California’s GE labeling fight

by Heather Pilactic

Amidst the food movement’s flurry of post-election analysis and reflection, here are two salient facts about California’s ballot initiative fight over the proposed mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food:

1) Pesticide and processed food industries outspent a rag-tag citizen’s coalition of pro-labeling forces by 5-to-1, and still only narrowly (53% v. 47%) defeated the initiative (Proposition 37); and

2) California’s battle over GE labeling kick-started the national conversation in a way that’s going to make it much harder for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue rubber-stamping new GE crops — as the agency is poised to do once again in coming weeks

Numbers & Facts

Proposition 37’s late-game reversal of fortunes is stunning by the numbers alone, and these warrant a closer look. Among California’s 11 very expensive ballot initiatives, Proposition 37 is alone in showing such a clear reversal of public opinion in tight correspondence with corporate ad spending.

Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer Crop Science and BASF (a.k.a. the “Big 6” pesticide corporations) joined processed food conglomerates in spending $46 million dollars to defeat Proposition 37. Meanwhile, supporters of the ballot initiative cobbled together a mere $9 million, and nearly won. Up until early October, in fact, polls showed Californian’s favoring GE labeling by a factor of nearly 3-to-1.

We at PAN were among the many in the trenches of the Yes on Prop 37 campaign, and remember when the tides began to turn (early October). Behind that turn was an apparently unlimited ad budget, coupled with a stunning infidelity to facts. (Watching the World Series here in the Bay Area and seeing one misleading commercial after another attack Prop 37 is something I’ll not soon forget.)

As Tom Philpott notes, the No on Prop 37 campaign was “truth-challenged.” But propaganda and misinformation notwithstanding, at least two myths surrounding agricultural biotechnology have begun to unravel. A broader cross-section of the American (and especially California) public now knows that GE crops drive up pesticide use rather than curbing it, and that in fact, the science around the safety and efficacy of these products is far from settled.

Prior to Prop 37, the link between the pesticide industry and GE crops was almost a secret. (99% of GE crops either contain or are designed to withstand high application rates of a pesticide). Now, even those who opposed the measure and could not tell you exactly how GMOs and pesticides are connected know that it was Monsanto and other pesticide industry heavyweights who came out swinging against GE labeling. And after a century of bad corporate behavior, nearly every world-wise American now knows at a gut level that Monsanto is not to be trusted.

In the fuzzy-logic world of consumer culture, GE food’s brand has been seriously tarnished. And many other state-based GE labeling efforts are in the works even now, including Washington, Connecticut and others.

What next?

Whether or not all of this means that the food movement is past the pimply stage of early adolescence, the fact is that California’s labeling fight broadened and emboldened this movement’s power base just as we are heading into a series of regulatory fights over new GE crops in the pipeline, and preparing for what looks like a spring 2013 re-authorization battle over the now-expired Food and Farm Bill.

Prop 37 broadened & emboldened this movement’s power base just as we are heading into a series of vital policy debates.

If the fiscal cliff and other DC distractions succeed in keeping Congress from passing a 2012 Farm Bill in the lame duck session despite our insistence that they get off their duffs, then the very same sustainable food and farming forces that gathered together to push for Prop 37 will turn our attention and newly honed skills to securing the kind of agricultural policy that withdraws governmental support from the system of agriculture embodied by Monsanto. For every additional dollar of funding we win for organic agricultural research, that’s one dollar of public funding that will not be devoted to developing more GE crops that fail to deliver on promises to farmers and the public. And in this Farm Bill fight, we will bring to bear a broader base of power as well as a public disabused of the notion that agricultural biotechnology is the best thing since sliced bread.

Even more immediately, this not-so-nascent movement will be ready to push back when USDA moves to approve the next in Monsanto and Dow’s pipeline of new GE seeds — none of them adequately tested, and each engineered to withstand heavier applications of more toxic herbicides than the last. When our regulators fail once again to do their jobs, and we in the trenches of the sustainable food and farming movement say, “Not so fast!” — we will say so with a louder voice, and in concert with a public who has a fuller awareness of what’s at stake.

Related: The Folly of Big Agriculture: Why Nature Always Wins
30 States Pick Up Reins on GMO Labeling Initiative After Prop 37 Defeat
Goldfish Crackers targeted in ‘natural’ lawsuit over genetically engineered soy as Prop 37 supporters launch ‘GMO inside’ initiative

The Fight for Real Organic Food Continues

Waking Times
by Alex Pietrowski

Greed and power in the food industry is turning a trip to the grocery store into an objectionable experience, as processed and factory foods are further pushed onto the unwitting public.

On the positive side, however, most of us now have plenty of organic options, providing we know where to shop and how to find the good stuff. From fresh organic produce, to organic and compassionately farmed animal products, to a variety of delicious organic packaged foods, it is now easier than ever to eat healthy and stay away from unwanted pesticides, antibiotics, GMO ingredients, and synthetic additives in our food.

And now that Proposition 37 in California to label GMO foods has been defeated by the food industry and a sleeping populace, it is more important then ever to know how how to access and support the organic food movement. In a big way, your life depends on it.

Consumers must be prepared to demand and fight for high-quality organic options in our supermarkets, or we will be faced with a further degradation of production standards, questionable business practices, and conflict of interest matters.

Big Agra Conflict of Interest

A recent issue raised by various organic food industry watchdogs has been the presence of conflict of interest that has influenced decisions on what food additives are approved for use in organic packaged products. US organizations, such as the Cornucopia Institute and Center for Food Safety, have recently raised the issue of Big Agra business encroaching on the independent oversight that the US National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has over what synthetic items can be added to the approved National List. This list includes processed synthetic items and processes that are approved for use in organic packaged products.

The following video from Cornucopia Institute provides a thorough overview regarding this issue:

A conflict of interest question has been raised regarding who makes the decisions about what contractors and consultants conduct technical or TAB reviews of materials on the National List of approved organic ingredients. Currently, the NOSB does not hold the final decision in this; instead, the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP), the designated federal officer that participates in NOSB meetings, and the USDA Office of Ethics are said to carry an unethical influence over these decisions.

The decisions of the NOSB significantly affect the direction of the organic industry and what synthetic items are actually considered acceptable organic food components. Questionable items are already approved, such as the food additive Carrageenan, which was re-approved for use in organic food processing as of the Spring 2012 NOSB meeting.


“Degraded carrageenan,” which is present in all food-grade carrageenan, is classified as a “possible human carcinogen” by the International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Academy of Science in United States. – Cornucopia Institute

Who Owns Organic

It can be quite shocking to realize that we’re at a stage of having a “possible human carcinogen” approved as an ingredient in our organic products. Perhaps as awareness of this grows, concerned industry players, consumers and government officials will implement new checks and balances to ensure that less conflict of interest exists in the NOSB in the US, and in similar organic industry authorities worldwide. Industry oversight will grow in importance now that most non-organic, all-American brands, many of which are supporting Monsanto’s no GMO labeling efforts, are the same companies that have been heavily investing in the organic industry over the last 15+ years.

Some of the big food companies that have given money to the [GMO] anti-labeling cause also own organic brands, such as Kellogg Co., which owns the Kashi cereal brand, Dean Foods Co., owner of the Horizon organic dairy line and J.M. Smucker Co., which owns several organic brands. – Wall Street Journal

Here’s a PDF of the top food companies in the US and their ownership ties to well-known organic brands (as of June 2009)

Click here to download a short video created by Dr. Phil Howard, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University about who owns some of the more well-known organic brands.

How to Shop Organic

Let’s agree that buying food is much more complicated than it used to be, especially for the aware, health-conscious individual. There are more choices than ever, but these choices come from fewer companies. For shoppers, it is vitally important to understand the labeling process currently employed in the organic food industry. This is why people who want to label GMO foods are so passionate about this cause: labels are one of a few ways, if not the only way, that consumers can make informed decisions about what food they buy.

The USDA’s NOP offers some insight on its website about the labeling requirements of organic products, which can be viewed in the Labeling Organic Products PDF.

Here’s a quick video with Anne Lappe, author of “Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen,” offering an overview of how to identify organic foods in stores:

In the video, Lappe mentions that buying organic produce is easy – it’s either organic or not. But what if your organic produce selection is limited? Or you’re on a budget, and shopping all organic is breaking the bank. Here’s a quick review of what fresh produce is typically most heavily treated with pesticides and which is not.

Here is another article with some insight regarding organic dairy, meat and seafood.

Think Local

If you already buy organic products or just want to eat healthier, don’t get discouraged by this article. It is a resource. Take this opportunity to learn from the wealth of information available here, and start making even better food choices. In our world, it is difficult to be 100% organic. But there are ways you can move closer toward this goal. Support smaller organic food producers and local farms. Eat fresh and raw foods. Start an organic garden or become involved in a community urban farming project. And stay informed and educated, so YOU are the one who decides on what food ends up on your dinner table.

Related:   GM Wheat May Damage Human Genetics Permanently