Organics Industry: Led Astray

Editor’s Note: Mischa Popoff is an advanced organic inspector based in Canada, and has been outraged over the hijacking of the organic industry by big corporations. In his new book, Is It Organic?, Popoff provides insight into how the organics movement became an industry that lost its focus and is in danger of losing its identity.

Fifteen percent.

That’s a generous estimate of the sum total of the organic industry that could be considered “legitimate.”

No, I’m not someone with an interest in the chemical or biotech industries. I’m someone with a vested interest in the organic industry. Fifteen percent is the paltry market share left over for American and Canadian organic farmers after cheap imports fill the shelves.

Did you think, like so many Americans, that the organic industry supported local family farms? Silly … that’s what’s referred to as propaganda, or rather, public relations.

Way back when this industry was still a movement, almost all organic food was domestic. But then something interesting happened on the way to Washington. Ambitious corner health-food store owners realized they could make more money if they imported “organic” food from China, Mexico and Indonesia. Is that stuff really organic? Well, the paperwork says it is. But what do the field tests say? Ahh … now you’re asking the right question.

Failing The Test

Asking if organic farms and processing facilities are tested should be akin to asking if Olympic athletes are tested. “Well of course they are!” Or so you’d assume. Well, it turns out they’re not.

Back in 1998, President Bill Clinton listened to the American Consumers Union and required that organic farms and processing facilities be tested at least once a year. Honest organic farmers rejoiced, firm in the belief that the main role of government is to keep things fair for everyone. But the corner health-food store owners lobbied to eliminate field testing from USDA organic standards. Can you say free-for-all?

Activists love to blame this on Bush, but it all happened under Clinton. Anything can now be sold as organic as long as the paperwork is completed and exorbitant fees are paid to private certifying companies that only make money when they give their approval. Conveniently, these certifiers all have branch offices over in China. Corner health-food stores quickly grew into huge box stores and ceased doing business domestically 85% of the time.

Without testing for the very things the organic industry claimed to exclude from food, the industry leaders realized they desperately needed some credibility. They weren’t quite sure where to turn until they made the collective decision in 1999 to ‘go hard’ against a new enemy, an enemy which Clinton had thought might actually be an ally: biotechnology.

This is why you never see the words chemical-free or synthetic-fertilizer-free on organic foods. Sure, organic crops aren’t supposed to be grown with the aid of chemicals or synthetic fertilizer. But it turns out the best you can do is hope there are no residues in your organic food. There’s no guarantee; not even the suggestion that chemical residues are reduced to some sort of an acceptable level.

But you do see bold statements like “100% GMO free” proudly displayed on organic labels because genetic engineering has replaced crop protection chemicals and synthetic fertilizer as the arch-nemesis of organics.

All About Biotech

Now when you read in the news that the CEO’s of “organic” corporations like Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm are “fuming” over the Obama administration’s decision to approve the use of genetically engineered alfalfa, you’ll know it has absolutely nothing to do with bringing purer, more nutritious food to market. It’s all just PR.

These CEOs claim to be concerned about the environment, but they’re really just worried because of their own self-imposed, zero tolerance for biotechnology. They made the “100% GMO free” labeling claim their sole raison d’être, and now have to stick with it no matter what.

There’s no proof that biotechnology leads to more chemical use on farms (quite the opposite actually) or that it will “threaten the rights of farmers and consumers,” or “damage the environment.” But from a marketing perspective, the prospect of minute quantities of biotech alfalfa cross-pollinating with organic alfalfa undermines the bold claim — the only bold claim — that premium-priced organic foods are always “100% GMO free.”

The only way organic farmers will suffer is if an organic certifier makes their lives hell when their organic alfalfa fields are within a five-mile radius of a crop of biotech alfalfa. This is why hardly anyone grows organic canola anymore in North America: the for-profit organic certifiers forced organic farmers to stop growing canola so the leaders of the organic industry could then launch legal action against the makers of Roundup Ready, biotech canola; legal action that, ironically enough, organic farmers were then forced to fund through their exorbitant certification fees. Feeling all warm and fuzzy yet?

In the meantime, if an organic farmer’s crop becomes contaminated by a sprayed chemical, whether through negligence or fraud, or if an “organic” crop over in the People’s Republic of China is fraudulently treated every step of the way with synthetic fertilizer, prohibited herbicides, pesticides and fungicides, well … everything’s just fine as long as the paperwork’s all in order, the fees are paid, and no one blows the whistle. But for gosh-sake, don’t let genes from a genetically engineered crop get anywhere near an organic crop! It’d wreak havoc with the industry’s image.

The organic industry claims to provide purer, more nutritious food — for a price — but it doesn’t do anything to ensure that’s what consumers get. Nothing that is, except for a stupid, self-imposed zero-tolerance on GMO.

Painted In A Corner

I worked the land with my family back when the organic industry was still just a movement. I then had the honor of working across the U.S. and Canada as an Advanced Organic Farm and Process Inspector and met with hundreds of honest organic farmers who want nothing to do with any of the political activism we’re seeing. Never once did I ever see proof that organic food was harmed in any way by biotechnology. On the contrary I met many people who believe, as Bill Clinton did, that organic farming could very well benefit from biotechnology.

But millionaire organic activists have painted themselves into a tight corner and have no choice but to continue scaring the crap out of the public when it comes to biotechnology. Now that they’re firmly committed to cheap overseas supply, being anti-GMO is all they’ve got left to hang their hats on.

Leave a Reply

Seed/Biotech Stories
Seed/BiotechSyngenta Delivers Two New Winter Wheat Varieties To Eastern Corn Belt
August 6, 2014
Adding to its portfolio of AgriPro brand wheat varieties, Syngenta introduces SY 007 and SY 474 soft red winter wheat varieties. Read More
Seed/BiotechWater Optimized Seed Flowing Freely
April 1, 2014
As the demand for ag to diminish its water use while maintaining high yields and crop quality increases, three companies are leading the movement to grow more with less water. Read More
Seed/BiotechBayer Applies For Seed Treatment That Protects Against Sudden Death Syndrome
February 26, 2014
If approved, ILeVO seed treatment would be the first product to provide breakthrough protection for soybean seedlings from the soil borne pathogen Fusarium virguliforme, the fungus that causes SDS. Read More
Seed/BiotechSeed Still Central
November 1, 2013
Advancing genetics continue to make seed the crop variable that calls the shots for the season. Read More
Top 100 Articles
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Match Made In Deviation
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More
Winter Wheat
CropLife 100South Dakota Co-op Member Owners Vote No On Unification
June 26, 2015
The Boards of Directors for North Central Farmers Elevator (NCFE) and Wheat Growers (WG) have announced that member-owners have voted Read More
CropLife 100The Andersons Acquires South Dakota Plant Nutrient Manufacturer Kay-Flo
May 20, 2015
The Andersons, Inc., ranked No. 22 on the CropLife 100, has purchased Kay Flo Industries of North Sioux City, SD. “This Read More
CropLife 100AgGateway’s Barcoding Initiative Progressing Nicely
May 8, 2015
According to legend (or Wikipedia), the first step towards modern bar codes came back in 1948, when Bernard Silver, a Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Agriculture Acquires Minnesota Retailer
April 14, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings, LLC, ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100,  has successfully acquired Liebl Ag, LLC in Ada, MN.  Read More
CropLife 100CHS, Aurora Cooperative Complete Fertilizer Storage, Grain Shuttle Loading Facility
April 13, 2015
CHS Inc., the nation’s leading cooperative and ranked No. 5 on the CropLife 100, and Aurora Cooperative (ranked No. 21) Read More
Latest News
ManagementUnited Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes Merger & Crop Update
July 2, 2015
CropLife’s Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj talk about the reasons behind the United Suppliers/Land ‘O Lakes merger and USDA’s recent Read More
Industry NewsBioSafe Adds To Sales Force
July 2, 2015
BioSafe Systems has announced the hire of two new members for its service team. David Britt recently joined the team Read More
Chesapeake Bay
ManagementChesapeake Bay Clean-Up Gets Renewed Attention
July 2, 2015
The Chesapeake Bay has been called one of the most biologically productive ecosystems in the world. It’s also one of Read More
Measuring Bulk Tanks
ManagementBulk Pesticide Compliance: Top 10 Areas Of Improvement …
July 1, 2015
  In honor of the 33-year run of David Letterman’s Late Show, the American Agronomic Stewardship Alliance (AASA) is happy Read More
Industry NewsArysta North America Hires Midwest Sales Manager
July 1, 2015
Arysta LifeScience North America recently announced the hiring of Brian Battles as the Senior Technical Sales Manager for the Midwest Read More
Farmer on tablet
Eric SfiligojThe Never-Ending Battle Against Modern Agriculture
July 1, 2015
In the world of comic books, the character of Superman often refers to the fight to save the world as Read More
Retail FacilitiesBuilding Up Ag Retail
July 1, 2015
In the oftentimes unpredictable world we live in, it’s nice to know some things can be reliably countered on to Read More
Retail FacilitiesMaple River Grain And Agronomy Phases In Site Developme…
July 1, 2015
Marcus Construction helped Maple River Grain and Agronomy in Casselton, ND, with the design-build of its dry fertilizer, liquid chemical/seed Read More
Retail FacilitiesA&B Welding Builds A New Liquid Terminal Hub For Br…
July 1, 2015
To build its new hub facility, Briggs Crop Nutrients enlisted the help of A&B Welding. The result, an efficient facility Read More
Edon Farmers Co-op
Retail FacilitiesNew Marcus Facility At Edon Farmers Co-op Provides More…
July 1, 2015
Edon Farmers Co-Op in Edon, OH, needed a new facility to consolidate outdated locations. Marcus Construction was able to design Read More
Retail FacilitiesKinder Morgan Expands Its Storage With A New Dome Barre…
July 1, 2015
Kinder Morgan wanted additional covered storage at its Dakota Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River in St. Paul, MN. With Read More
Retail FacilitiesHeartland Tank Protects Fertilizer From Extreme Cold At…
July 1, 2015
The Arthur Companies in Harvey, ND, enlisted the help of Heartland Tank Companies to develop a new liquid fertilizer facility Read More
The McGregor Co. fertilizer loadout
Retail FacilitiesThe McGregor Co. Partners With Kahler Automation To Cre…
June 30, 2015
Kahler Automation helped The McGregor Co. expand its Clarkston, WA, operation with unstaffed loadout technology that enables customers to pick Read More
Dry and Liquid Plant
Retail FacilitiesKahler Automation Helps CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative Build…
June 30, 2015
CHS Dakota Ag Cooperative in Mooreton, ND, wanted a liquid/dry blender system that could meet the needs of its customers Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes, United Suppliers To Merge Crop Inpu…
June 29, 2015
Land O’Lakes, Inc. and United Suppliers, Inc. of Ames, IA, today announced their intent to merge their crop inputs businesses. Read More
FungicidesHelena To Distribute Unique Summit Agro Fungicide
June 29, 2015
RANMAN 400 SC fungicide, the only fungicide with a FRAC group 21 designation, is now part of the innovative Summit Read More
Eric SfiligojIARC Targets 2,4-D In Latest Report
June 29, 2015
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has struck again. Earlier this year in March, this agency of the Read More
Milan Kucerak, president/CEO, West Central
CropLife 100West Central Cooperative And Its New President Are A Ma…
June 29, 2015
To appreciate just how unique West Central Cooperative is in the world of ag retail, an observer need only consider Read More