When is Organic No Longer Organic?

An article in the New York Times in July 2012 brought attention to the increasing assimilation of organic farming into the domain of giant agri-foods companies. Companies like Kellogg, PepsiCo, General Mills and Kraft own such organic brands as Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi and Naked Juice.

While it is a tribute to organic farming’s success that large corporations have seen the investment potential, some believe their financial motivation will corrupt the organic food business. Indeed only a handful of independent organic companies able to compete with the big corporations remain.

While organic farming has never included in its certification criteria the requirement that food be produced from ‘pure, locally grown ingredients from small family farms’, its branding says otherwise. Big business argues that whether organic food is produced on a small or large scale it is still complying with the same standards.

Many original organic advocates and pioneers, however, disagree with the ‘buy out’ of the organic sector, now worth $30 billion a year, not because of the issue of image but because as major corporations become bigger players they are more able to set the standards for organic farming. As the NYT article noted ‘as corporate membership on the board has increased, so too, has the number of nonorganic materials approved for organic foods’: from 77 in 2002 to over 250 today. So as the organic food industry is claimed by food giants the certified organic label loses its integrity.

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