Food Matters: The Response to that Post Article about the National Organic Program

July 12th, 2009


Nearly two years ago I started OrganicMania because I was going crazy trying to figure out when it made sense to go green and organic.

Once I finally understood the food labeling systems (USDA Organic, Made with Organic Ingredients, Green, Natural, etc), I felt a bit more sane.

But as I blogged here last week, the news that Organic Standards may not be all that they seem has turned my world upside down again. Two years later, and I’m still being driven crazy trying to sort out green and organic claims!

The  Washington Post ‘s coverage of the controversy surrounding the National Organic Program touched off interesting reactions from organics advocates and observers. I was barely digesting that story and the reaction to it when Whole Foods announced they’ve joined the non-GMO project, and Dean Foods announced  a move toward “natural” milk – two developments that will throw yet another wrinkle into the food shopping game.  I don’t typically do news summaries here at OrganicMania, but I think these developments are so significant that they merit a recap.

So this is News? Samuel Fromartz, author of “Organic, Inc,” blogged that “The tension discussed in the [Post] article, between those who have always sought to expand the industry and those who seek a more purist vision…. wasn’t particularly news…As for synthetics in processed food, there will always be two camps on this — and both present risks. If synthetics are taken out processed foods would fade off the shelves. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but the organic industry would be a lot smaller. If, on the other hand, too many synthetics are let in, and we start getting more organic junk food with a long list of unpronounceable ingredients, that will spell the end of organics too.”

It’s So Unfair! The Organic Trade Association issued this press release taking issue with the criticisms aired by The Washington Post reporters. I wish I had seen more reaction from organics advocates, but this was the best response I could find after much online searching, so I’ve included the key points below.

o “The federal organic standards have not been ’relaxed.’ Rigorously enforced standards can and do go hand-in-hand with growth… Organic agriculture and products remain the most strictly regulated, as well as the fastest growing, food system in the United States today.”

“Organic agriculture protects the health of people and the environment by reducing the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and that are associated with health consequences from asthma to cancer. Extensive pesticide residue testing by the U.S.D.A. has found that conventionally produced fruits and vegetables are, on average, three to more than four times more likely to contain residues than organic produce, eight to eleven times more likely to contain multiple pesticide residues, and contain residues at levels three to ten times higher than corresponding residues in organic samples.”

o “..There is a very specific process that materials must go through before they are permitted for inclusion in organic products. In regards to fatty acids, the USDA regulators followed the recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)… Because the position of the reporters’ sources did not ‘carry the day’ in this public review by no means makes the process illegal, and to characterize it as such is a great disservice to the public.”

Also last week, Whole Foods announced it will begin certifying certain of its  private label 365 brand foods through the Non-GMO Project. I believe this will be the first major non-GMO labeling effort of its kind  – something we should all support. But I predict that Whole Foods’ move will drive more consumers away from organics and toward the new non-GMO label,  since many people buy organics primarily to avoid GMOs.

Perhaps USDA Organic is not the “be all and end all” that its most ardent supporters claim. But it’s one of the best indicators we have of quality food, particularly in the supermarket.  As consumers, we need to continue to push for strong organics standards, meaning no relaxation of the current  USDA Organic standard.  Check out this campaign promoted by Terressentials Organics to solicit consumer support for upholding organic standards.  You  have until August 31st to have your voice heard by the National Organics Program.

My bet is that the continued expansion of organics, the growth in the natural foods and green categories  and the new non-GMO label will continue to make food shopping a challenge – meaning I’ll still be going crazy! (At least it will give me plenty to blog about here at OrganicMania!)

Check out the other wonderful posts in this month’s  Green Moms Carnival, hosted by Alline at A Passion for Green Business.

What do you think? Are you still going crazy trying to sort this all out? Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright OrganicMania 2009

Organic Savings: Get Thee to Target Today

October 18th, 2008

Big Boy asks to go to Target so often that now 23-month-old Baby Boo is saying, “Wanna go Target!” I’m a goner. In addition to all this pressure on the home front, I was working hard this week on the launch of my client Mom Made Food’s kid’s organic line at SuperTargets nationwide.

So of course we ended up there yesterday, and I’ve got some great savings to share from Target’s in-house organic brand, Archer Farms. Target is running a nationwide sale through today (Saturday) on all Archer Farms products – 15% off a line that is already value priced.

I’ve posted here before about how the half gallons of Archer Farms organic milk are the Holy Grail for cheap organic milk by the half gallon. Can you believe they’re on sale for $2.92 per half gallon? And if you drink soymilk, you’re really in luck. You can nab a half gallon of Archer Farms organic soymilk for just $2.28. I usually refuse Big Boy’s pleas for chocolate milk, but at that price, I got him some as a special treat.

Now some folks dispute the notion that you need to buy organic for packaged or processed foods. Sure, we should all eat lots of fresh, whole foods, but sometimes it just makes sense to take advantage of the convenience of processed or packaged foods. And in those situations, whenever I can, I opt for products with the USDA organic seal, because it means that my children will be eating foods with no transfats, no artificial colors, no artifical preservatives, and no Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Many parents don’t realize that nearly all of today’s conventional packaged foods contain GMOs, and that GMOs have been banned in places like Europe and Japan. What’s more, in the United States, companies are not required to disclose the existence of GMOs in their products.

That’s why I stocked up on Archer Farms organic flaxseed and homestyle waffles– on sale for $1.86 per package and Archer Farms organic crackers (seasalt, multigrain, rye and flax, multiseed, and Italian herb) on sale for $2.11 per package.

I tend to stay away from over sugared items – in my book, organic cane juice is just sugar, thank you very much. But for those of you with kids whose teeth can withstand “fruit leather” or roll-ups, you might want to check out the Archer Farms organic fruit strips at $2.99 per 10 count box of organic raspberry, organic strawberry, organic apricot, organic pomengranate, organic wildberry, and organic tropical fruit.

And before you go? Print out these coupons for $1 off Archer Farms juice and cookies. The coupons don’t specify if they apply to the organic varieties, but it’s worth trying.  And if you arrive and the shelves are bare? Remember you can get rain checks on all advertised sale items.

Happy Shopping! Did you find these tips helpful? Do you have any shopping tips to share? Please leave a comment!


Copyright OrganicMania 2008