J500 Media and the Environment

Big Org? by marybethw
February 4, 2009, 6:21 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Food + Health | Tags: , ,

Once upon a time, the label “organic” seemed to apply only to small farms (or to products bought by “tree huggers”); but note the “once upon a time,” for today’s organic has grown much bigger than the family veg plot. Many big corporations are getting in on the act. But, how does this boom in orgs affect the organic movement?

As big agribusiness gained sway in Washington, a shift towards rules and regs favoring big ag also began. We’ve seen this in the leverage the meat and dairy industries have (even when possibly detrimental to human health) and it is not illogical to fear that the same could happen with big org (http://organicconsumers.org/sos.cfm). We also already have seen the consolidation of smaller organic businesses under umbrella corporations, which begs the question, “what does that mean for the small organic farm?” Like the post-WWII factory farm (or concentrated animal feeding operations, CAFOs) boon that has forced many farmers to sell and get out, the same is happening in the org world. In a recent issue of Vegetarian Voice, there was an article about how “organic” farms are using manure from CAFO animals — meaning that any of the drugs those animals receive and that passes through them is in contact with produce sold as chem-free. And, in the same vein, what about meat from an animal that, although not having the same drug count as other CAFO creatures, is still “farmed” in in-humane, environmentally unsound ways?

“But,” you might be saying, “what about the fact that more organics in the supermarket means more people having the organic choice?” Yes, it is hard to argue that this is a bad thing — the fewer chemicals with unknown effects is better. But, it also means that we need to rethink why we’re eating organic to begin with. The distances many organics now travel and these other issues all work to further complicate what would seem to be a simple idea: organic food.

~Mary Beth

(photo from: http://www.bendib.com/newones/2004/november/small/11-21-Corporate-organic.jpg)


2 Comments so far
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After visiting the KCCUA today, how do you see that fitting into the picture of organic farming? Does that change any of your thoughts on your comments in your post?

Comment by susang09

Oh, I think KCCUA is doing more what organic farming “was started” (or, at least the movement in the 60s and 70s) to do — work with nature in a viable way, rather than trying to conquer it. And I do think that smaller groups, such as KCCUA, do need support (and, maybe overly unrealistic, maybe if that kind of operation, which isn’t trying to sell food across the country, gets more support it will push mega-organics in a more positive direction), and that without that support such groups won’t make it. While farmer’s markets, urban gardening, etc are on the rise, I still fear what such as the Target brand organics will do to the standards and the like.

Comment by marybethw

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