Insatiable appetite for profit driven organics
Over the last decade, the natural and organic food industry has become very lucrative for big business. A form of greenwashing, corporations such as Hain Celestial buy up small organic companies, then hide behind bucolic-sounding labels like Health Valley and Walnut Acres. Or worse, conglomerates like Dean Foods snapping up the Silk brand in 2002 and immediately reducing sustainable ingredients. This behemoth also bought Horizon Organic in 2004 and soon after began purchasing dairy from suppliers operating factory farms. The demand for organics has apparently compromised the entire industry by attracting profit hungry corporations. See the infographic here for a list of all the organic and 'natural' companies that have been swallowed up by conglomerates.
To make matters more appalling, the National Organic Standards Board is controlled by members from big business who do not necessarily hold the consumers best interests at heart. Keep in mind this is the board that wields considerable power over the organic industry -- choosing whether an ingredient can be included in certified organic products or not. The board is supposed to represent the "diversity of the American public and of organic agriculture," according to the National Organic Program. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. The standards board is filled with members who strive to represent their specific interest groups and vote with bias. Consider Katrina Heinze, an executive at General Mills who was selected to serve as consumer representative in 2005. General Mills is famous for promoting nanotechnology and genetic engineering -- not exactly a stunning organic model. Or take Ms. Beck, who is the national organic program manager at Driscoll's and has a board seat as a 'farmer.' The problem is, Beck is not a farmer. But she does have special interests. Evidently, this is all that is needed to gain board influence.
The last holdouts
Sadly, only a few truly independent organic companies remain. Examples include: Eden, Nature's Path, Cedarlane and Organic Valley. For a full list, click here.
With the failure of Prop. 37, American consumers cannot rely on the government for food transparency or safety. It is up to us. By purchasing produce from local organic farms, supporting independent organic companies and boycotting 'Big Organic,' we can make a difference by casting votes with our dollars and our forks.
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