In 2006, lobbyists from the Organic Trade Association – a group representing big businesses Kraft, Dole, and Dean Foods – persuaded the United States Department of Agriculture to relax strict organic standards, paving the way for the following practices:
- Synthetic food substances can be included in the preparation, processing, and packaging of organic food. This processed organic food bears a USDA-certified organic label.
- Up to five percent of a USDA-certified organic food product is allowed to consist of non-organic substances. The substances must be accepted by the National Organic Standards Board.
- The National Organic Standards Board created a list of seventy-seven acceptable non-organic substances in 2002. By 2009, the list grew to 245 substances.
- There is absolutely no annual pesticide testing required or performed in USDA-certified organic products. 2
That’s right – “organic” products can and may contain one or more of 245 “acceptable” synthetic substances. And, there could be a presence of pesticides.
Defending a system
In a rebuttal, the Organic Trade Association issued a press release that claims The Washington Post’s article included inaccuracies. The group states organic products “remain the most strictly regulated, as well as the fastest growing, food system in the United States today.” 3
Since U.S. regulations are not very strict to begin with, having “strictly regulated” organic food is a matter of interpretation. The fact that the food system is growing the fastest is easy to explain: since manufacturers charge up to twice as much for organic food than non-organic varieties, it only makes good business sense to switch to organic.
Incorporating organic products into business is exactly what many companies have done. Kraft Foods owns Boca Foods, Kellogg owns Morningstar Farms, and General Mills owns Small Planet Foods – including the organic brands Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen.
Did you know that popular organic brands have been incorporated by big businesses? Are you willing to pay more for organic products – even if they have relaxed standards?
A final note
Even with questionable standards, organic products are healthier than non-organic products. Check back on Wednesday to learn about some of the benefits of buying organic.
1. and 2. “Purity of Federal ‘Organic’ Label is Questioned.” Kimberly Kindy and Lyndsey Layton. July 3, 2009. The Washington Post.
3. “Organic Label Remains Trustworthy and Relevant.” Organic Trade Association. July 4, 2009.
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