Art Direction: The Magazine of Yoga
Really Healthy Real Life
An unnatural spin on organic food and farming
BY MAGAZINE CORRESPONDENT DIANE HERBERT
On the surface it seems pretty obvious to most of us how to “make healthy eating choices” – put down the french fries, soda and big mac, ease way up on sweets and refined sugars, keep saturated fats to a minimum and make sure you eat plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables.
And of course drink plenty of water, always from a BPA-free container.
So you would think that once you made the commitment to treat your body to healthy food choices, the hard part was over and now you’ll be rewarded with plenty of safe, accessible, and affordable products.
After all, the green movement is here. Right?
3 Reasons healthy (safe) organic food isn’t
as easy as you think
- Big food all done up in trendy organic, redefining what it means
- Border crossing Guess what? No international organic standards
- Bending the definition You won’t believe how misleading information on organic food processing and distribution can be
Ok, so big companies are going organic. At first I was thrilled to start seeing organic products in traditional super markets. This is a good thing right? Why should organics be limited to those who are fortunate enough to live near specialty stores, or better yet close to local organic producers?
With excitement, I initially thought wonderful, the tide is changing. I decided I’m going to do my part to help the growth of organic products not only by consuming them, but also by investing in the companies that are appearing in supermarkets.
My research quickly revealed unsettling information – names like Pepsi, Coca-Cola, General Mills and Danon have acquired many of the quaint organic brands such as Stonyfield, Horizon, and Honest Tea.
Visit this Michigan State University website to see a full chart www.msu.edu/~howardp/organicindustry.html
Hey farmer farmer, put away that DDT now
As I started my research into big organic my hope became edged with skepticism – I was, after all, finding it hard to put “carbonated beverage manufacturer” and “healthy choices” in the same sentence.
Striving for an open mind, I thought, well they’re nothing if not driven by economics. If they see a shift in market preferences it makes sense that they want to be a part of it.
I wanted to believe this could be a GREAT thing for consumers – having big players join the organic movement could mean greater availability, support for the local producers, lower prices and a much bigger, even a positive impact on the environment.
How do you spell organic? With air quotes.
Digging a little deeper, unhappily my initial skepticism was confirmed.
Now that big food companies are heavily invested in the organic market, their path to profit lies in their lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.
In an effort to improve their economics, big agribusiness has successfully changed and continues to push for further modifications to the standards for organic classifications.
With names like ConAgra and Cargill on the list of organic food company owners, conflict of interest becomes inevitable.
Paved paradise to put up a parking lot
One such example is the change in what is required to qualify milk as organic.
The major manufacturers successfully lobbied to allow a baby calf born on an organic farm to be shipped to a conventional- that’s right, non organic – farm for the first year of life, then later returned to an organic farm to produce “organic” milk.
Well as any of you with children know, the first year of life is when the calf is the most susceptible to disease and therefore given the most antibiotics!
So how does this cow go on to produce organic, antibiotic free milk?
Under the original organics law in 2002, 5% of a USDA-certified organic product could be non-organic provided it was approved by the National Organic Standards Board.
The original list had 77 substances and has since grown to 245.
Fortunately, there is also an effective lobby effort underway pushing to keep standards high.
Unfortunately, the result is that it’s now the consumer’s responsibility to keep up with who is winning the organic lobby battle. And there are currently over 100 private organic standards worldwide.
We’re going to have to work hard and stay committed to understand what the new, resulting organic designations truly mean.
Tomorrow join Diane for Big Organic Part 2 – organics without borders and the big truthiness in big organic food processing: two more reasons it isn’t as easy as you think to eat what you think you’re eating.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.