Big Food Companies Corrupting Organic Standards

Texarkana Roadtrip (CC)

The organic food movement in the United States has become a victim of its own success, with corporate food giants buying up most of the successful organic brands and dominating the standards board, writes Stephanie Strom in the New York Times:

Michael J. Potter is one of the last little big men left in organic food.

More than 40 years ago, Mr. Potter bought into a hippie cafe and “whole earth” grocery here that has since morphed into a major organic foods producer and wholesaler, Eden Foods.

But one morning last May, he hopped on his motorcycle and took off across the Plains to challenge what organic food — or as he might have it, so-called organic food — has become since his tie-dye days in the Haight district of San Francisco.

The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic.

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo, of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.

Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry. Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore…

[continues in the New York Times]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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17 Comments on "Big Food Companies Corrupting Organic Standards"

  1. charlieprimero | Jul 8, 2012 at 11:44 am |

    A government program does the opposite of its stated purpose.  Imagine that.

  2. Noah Way | Jul 8, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

    Grow your own food. Seeds are cheap, rain and sunlight are free. No GMOs, no chemical fertilizers, no pest/fungicides, etc. Nutritious and delicious, and stops putting money into the corporate financial complex. Don’t forget to save some seeds for replanting …

  3. I worked for the environmental movement for fifteen years and the organic movement was one of those trends that I came into contact with early on. I was taken by it initially, I have to say and I did my best to adopt the lifestyle. The more I looked at it though, the more I began to have doubts. Finally I read Alex Avery’s ‘The Truth about Organic Foods’ and it cleared up the misconceptions which I had been having. It’s not that I’m anti-organic now. It’s just that I can see the wood from the trees. There is more aspiration than science where organic food is concerned and a lot of it is simply inobtainable. Modern food production methods are not inherently evil either. The devil is in the detail I suppose.

    • Jin The Ninja | Jul 8, 2012 at 8:30 pm |

       “Modern food production methods are not inherently evil either.”

      my bad, i’ve always supposed the blood spilled to attain petrochems, the poisoning of the top soil, the poisoning of adjacent communities, the pollution runoff into water systems, gmo mutagens, and the degradation of wild and heritage seeds IS in fact evil.

      • its technofix mentality coupled with short-sightedness. really, industrial agriculture is bad in every way, except for 1: shear production capacity(for now). the world runs on cheap, “easily” produced food, and moving to the less unnatural style of production will lead to a notable drop in supply (at least at first). and that drop is just “unacceptable” to those who don’t think more than a decade ahead.

      • Yes, I went through that phase myself once. I can understand completely where you are coming from. What happened to me is that I came to the realisation that I didn’t really know what I was talking about. If you are an honest person and genuinely inquisitive, I am certain that you will reach that level of understanding too. 

        • Jin The Ninja | Jul 19, 2012 at 12:34 pm |

          you went through a phase where you actually saw the world for what it is? and then you came to the realisation that you couldn’t integrate what you knew, with survival within the american jungle? don’t worry i understand. you don’t live in the third world, you can’t see the day to reality truth the green revolution and corporate monoculture. however if you’re a genuinely inquisitive and honest person you would find resources online that would inform you. i hope you do, for you could reach an understanding of at least that which is outside your sphere of knowledge.

  4. Apathesis | Jul 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm |

    And my predictions have become reality.

  5. if you grow your own food
    or know the person who grows most of the food you consume
    and avoid all processed foods
    (you know, like they did 100 years ago)
    then you’ve got no problem at all

    but if you think that there’s an honest Big Food Business
    you’ve been eating too much of their crap
    but the “organic cane powder” makes it taste yummy

  6. Whats organic? I take a dump, it goes through a series of pipes, than kiss a vegan and inadvertently I’ve tasted the “terroir” of my own being..

  7. Anyone would have to be blind to have not seen this happening over the last decade. Ever since ‘frankenfoods’ became the mark of Cain and marketing numbers clearly showed that people trusted the word ‘organic’ more than ‘genetically modified’…the move has been on to buy fake legitimacy by redefining the legal meaning of organic (to make nearly anything produced qualify) and by purchasing brand names that have already built market share with consumers of organic foods. The same simple rules apply…if you can’t verify anything about a foodstuff…don’t eat it. Buy local…look around…be conscious of the who and the how in what went into your produce. Its more legwork…but its your life and your food.

  8. yeah..that’s what they would do… little by little we have to stop relying on others for our food and just grow our own organic food.. we’re to dependent on others, we should be dependent on ourselves..

    I recently created a webpage describing my perspective on organic food, which currently is the fastest growing food sector in the US.


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