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
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
corn field
CropLife 100The Andersons’ Humic DG Now Available In Canada
February 13, 2015
The Andersons, Inc. Turf & Specialty Group has announced its Humic DG product is now available to customers in the Canadian turf, agriculture and horticulture markets. Read More
Farmer on tablet
CropLife 100Southern States Co-op: An Inside Look At Our Aerial Imagery Program
February 8, 2015
Now is as good a time as any to explore the basics of what a retail aerial imagery program looks like today. Read More
CropLife 100Wilbur-Ellis Inks Satellite Imagery Agreement
February 3, 2015
Wilbur-Ellis Company has reached an agreement with Planet Labs to bring satellite imagery to the AgVerdict software platform. Read More
Latest News
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location I…
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Management2,4-D Celebrates 70 Years; GROWMARK Uses Super Bowl Ad …
February 27, 2015
Jim Gray, executive director of the 2,4-D Research Task Force, lays out planned activities to mark the chemistry’s 70th anniversary. Read More
HerbicidesUniversity Of Arkansas Flag The Technology Program Adds…
February 27, 2015
Started in 2010, the Flag the Technology program provides a visual reference for applicators to distinguish between fields planted with different herbicide-tolerant trait technologies. Read More
Luckey Farmers, Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center
Industry NewsLuckey Farmers’ Berkey Branch Certified In 4R Nut…
February 26, 2015
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program has announced Luckey Farmers Inc.’s Berkey Farm Center in northwest Ohio has been added to its growing list of nutrient service providers to achieve certified status. Read More
Crop InputsWinField Unveiling NutriVision Technology, Ascend Dry F…
February 24, 2015
New for 2015 are NutriVision Technology, a unique tool for monitoring in-season plant nutrient availability, and Ascend WSG plant growth regulator, a new dry formulation of Ascend plant growth regulator. Read More
FertilizerNew Formulation Of NutriSphere-N Protects High Volume U…
February 24, 2015
Verdesian Life Sciences is launching NutriSphere-N HVTM, a new polymer formulation of the proven NutriSphere-N Nitrogen Fertilizer Manager that protects high-volume applications of UAN. Read More
EquipmentIowa Ag Secretary Northey Names Hagie Water Quality Lea…
February 24, 2015
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has named Hagie Mfg. as a recipient of the Secretary’s Water Quality Initiative (WQI) Leader Award. Read More
FungicidesEvito Fungicide Gives Canadian Wheat Growers New Diseas…
February 24, 2015
EVITO fungicide from Arysta LifeScience North America gives Canadian wheat and barley growers a new option for disease control. Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Commodity Classic Turns 20
February 23, 2015
Two decades in, this annual gathering of all things agriculture has become a must-see event. Read More
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
ManagementCropLife Retail Week: On The Road Edition
February 20, 2015
Editors Paul Schrimpf and Eric Sfiligoj discuss their recent trips to the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville and the Read More
Crop InputsLand O’Lakes Acquires FLM+ Assets
February 19, 2015
FLM+ will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O'Lakes, Inc., and the company will retain its employee base after closing of the deal, which is scheduled for the second quarter of the year. Read More
Seed/BiotechUnited Suppliers, Stine Seed Form Marketing Alliance
February 19, 2015
The new alliance will greatly expand sales opportunities for Stine Seed with the United Supplier Seed Link Owners. Read More
Crop InputsVilsack To Deliver Commodity Classic Keynote Address
February 19, 2015
The secretary will deliver a keynote address to several thousand farmers and ag allies during the event's General Session, to be held Friday, February 27, in Phoenix, AZ. Read More
Crop InputsSoybean Storage Tips
February 19, 2015
On-farm storage of soybeans requires some special considerations compared to corn. Read More
Monsanto Sign
Crop InputsBioAg Alliance Delivers Promising Field Trial Results
February 19, 2015
In its first full year of field trials, the BioAg Alliance reported that the top 10 microbial strains tested in corn and soybeans showed very promising results. Read More
National Farm Machinery Show overview
EquipmentNational Farm Machinery Show Attendance Up By 16K
February 18, 2015
The 2015 event saw the second highest attendance total of all time as 310,589 attendees that included exhibitors and agribusiness professionals traveled to the Kentucky Exposition Center to participate in the nation’s largest indoor ag trade show. Read More