Is Certified-Organic Label a Fraud?

October 11, 2012

Michael Potter, founder of Eden Foods considers the Certified-Organic Label a fraud and refuses to put it on Eden Products.  Potter was interviewed in a recent New York Times article that brings into question whether consumers can trust or rely upon the “Certified-Organics” brand.  Eden Foods is one of the last remaining independent organic companies of any size, with most sizeable organic companies  having already been bought by “Big Food.”

Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Health Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.

Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry. Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore.

Recent votes by the National Organics Standards Board are raising concerns that the Board is increasingly under the influence of Big Food. The most recent example is the approval by a vote of 10-5 to add carrageenan on the approved list of ingredients for use in organic foods. Research exists showing that carrageenan leads to colon cancer in laboratory animals, and at the least intestinal inflammation. As a result, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has degraded carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen” and organizations such as the Cornucopia Institute had called for it to be withdrawn from inclusion among acceptable ingredients in organic foods by the USDA. Potter’s presentation on the issue fell on deaf ears at the board meeting.

In December, the Board voted not to add ammonium nonanoate, an herbicide to the accepted organic list. While the measure was defeated, General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, Organic Valley, Whole Foods Market and Earthbound Farms cast votes in favor of adding the herbicide to the approved list included of ingredients allowable in organic foods.

The Organic Foods Act calls for a board consisting of four farmers, three conservationists, three consumer representatives, a scientist, a retailer, a certification agent and two “handlers,” or representatives of companies that process organic food. Recently Ms. Beck, a company employee of Driscoll’s in charge of organics was appointed to one of the farmer’s seats, clearly not the organic farmers that were intended.

Is it time for a non-political certification mark to truly maintain the integrity of organic foods?

This opinion article is in response to the full-length New York Times article.