View Full Version : Inorganic "organic"

Ian McColgin
08-05-2009, 11:16 AM
This piece both exposes the perversion of the “organic” label and calls for Obama to fire a Bush hold-over. And see, there are Texans like Hightower and Ann Richards whom progressives like me can admire.

Published on Wednesday, August 5, 2009 by Creators Syndicate

Non-Organic Organic Food

by Jim Hightower

When it comes to a healthy diet, I am not a purist. Too late for that because I grew up eating such culinary concoctions as toasted sandwiches constructed of Spam, white bread and that oddly orange, oddly spongy cheeselike stuff known as Velveeta.

As an adult, I even have been irresponsible enough to serve as a taster, judge and promoter of Spam creations that were served at a now-defunct annual event held in my town of Austin, Texas. Called "Spamarama," the festival featured unspeakable and (often unswallowable) dishes made from the gelatinous, pink potted meat, including — get ready to gag — Spam ice cream.

So I am not quick to criticize every little diversion from 100 percent wholesomeness. For example, even though I've been an early and ardent advocate of organic production, I recognize that there are certain times when processors of organic foods (from beer to cheese) are unable to get essential ingredients that are produced organically. Thus, non-organic hops sometimes are allowed in organic beer. Indeed, the original law creating the U.S. Department of Agriculture's "certified organic" program recognizes such realities, allowing up to 5 percent of a certified product to consist of non-organic ingredients.

This exemption, however, was not intended to be a free-for-all loophole for dilution of the USDA's organic standard. Two strong caveats were attached to that 5 percent allowance. First, any non-organic substance has to be approved by the National Organic Standards Board. Second, the explicit intent of the law was for producers and processors to be in active pursuit of all organic ingredients, moving away from synthetic and non-organic substances as quickly as the real things could be found.

Enter from stage right: corporate agribusiness and Barbara Robinson. With the phenomenal growth in consumer demand for organic products, such giants as Kraft and Dean Foods have rushed to capture this multibillion-dollar market, except they don't want to play by the rules. Big Food found its enabler in Robinson, who was chosen to administer the organic program during the George W. Bush years.

Consulting regularly with the corporate powers, Robinson has brought synthetic after synthetic under the organic label. At the start of the certification program, 77 non-organic ingredients were on the allowable list, which was supposed to shrink as time passed. Today 245 ingredients are listed.

Likewise, the program was supposed to set uniform standards for how organic foods are produced. Yet 65 of the standards recommended by the board since 2002 simply have been ignored by the administrator. For example, the board proposed specific rules to ensure that organic dairy farmers provide "access to pasture" for their cows, but Robinson's team has refused to implement the proposal. Thus, a giant milk purveyor such as Dean Foods (Horizon dairy products) is allowed to sell "organic" milk from cows that are confined in factory conditions rather than allowed to graze in open pastures. By failing to set rules that apply to everyone, the USDA is permitting private, for-profit organic certification firms to create their own standards, which means corporate interests can shop around for the most lenient certifiers.

You might think that the USDA would see the organic labeling program as a way to earn consumer trust in the integrity of these products. But, no. Robinson told The Washington Post that the label's main purpose is to "grow the industry." A consultant to Kraft Foods eagerly added his amen to her loosey-goosey regulatory ethic. "We don't want to eliminate anyone who wants to be a part of the organic community," he explained.

What a neat idea! We can expand organic production simply by eliminating that bothersome "organic" adjective. Who knows; Spam might qualify for the label now.

Here's a better idea: Let's eliminate Robinson and all of the corporate pretenders. To tell new Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do both, call his office: 202-720-3631.


National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow [1], Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Phillip Allen
08-05-2009, 11:26 AM

John Smith
08-05-2009, 11:27 AM
According to Penn & Teller, the non organic stuff may be better for you than the organic stuff.

They did an interesting half hour on "organic foods" in their "Bull ****" series.

Probably still bouncing around on cable.

Ian McColgin
08-05-2009, 11:34 AM
What's to sigh.

If a person does not approve of "organic" food, should not that person have the right to correct labeling?

Under the current system, an anti-organic minded person might avoid things labeled "organic" that actually have a satisfying quotient of non-organic by-products, substitutes, additives, residual pestacides, hormones, antibiotics and whatnot.

The purpose of false labeling is to subvert the free market. Real conservatives would rather have correct "organic" labeling and allow the market to determine how well that does. Phoney conservatives fall for this agri-industry lie.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
08-05-2009, 12:05 PM
Define "organic".

Ian McColgin
08-05-2009, 12:28 PM
As used for agricultural standards, “organic” is mostly defined by what it’s not.

In general organic farmers emphasize renewable resources, soil and water conservation enhanced environmental quality for future generations, especially by reducing all forms of petrochemical inputs. Animals raised for organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products have no added antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without most conventional pesticides, without chemical fertilizers from synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, without genetic engineering, etc.

The devil is in the details which is why the exact list or what’s allowable as “organic” on the label, including the allowances for a certain amount of agreed non-organic components, is an important public policy issue.

In the business, family farmers found what started as a niche market if they farmed in ways contrary to USDA and corporate norms. They worked hard to develop this market and they command top dollar as a result. USDA corporate agri-industry is simply seeking to take advantage of other’s hard work with a series of lies. It’s exactly like selling a new mass produced glass boat as a new individually built wooden boat for that high wooden boat price. Buyers are free to choose whichever they fancy. Partisans may debate true quality, poetics, honor, how the fish feel, long term durability, or whatever. All that’s fine.

What’s not fine is the industry’s undermining the free market by lies to consumers and the government’s complicity in those lies.

Phillip Allen
08-05-2009, 01:41 PM
[QUOTE=Ian McColgin;2279047]What's to sigh.

If a person does not approve of "organic" food, should not that person have the right to correct labeling?


I have no complaint about the whole process of "organic"

What I sighed about is the continuing marketing lie(s) we are all exposed to...battered with! It makes no difference whether it is about organic sdales or political sales (both parties)

for members of either party to ASSUME that theirs is some kind of exception is damn stupid...

we are lied to constantly...the organic example is just one MORE example...(sigh)

David G
08-05-2009, 03:01 PM
Define "organic".

The technical definition of "organic" as it pertains to foodstuffs, farming practices, etc. varies by organization and/or jurisdiction.

One of the most respected long-time certification groups, Oregon Tilth, offers the following summary:


As Ian notes, a good bit of the distinction comes from what is not done or added: artificial fertilizers; pesticides; herbicides; antibiotics; growth hormones; genetic modification; etc.


Just finished a turkey sandwich made from rye bread with organic whole grain flours, naturally raised turkey, organic tomato, and mustard & catsup with a high proportion of certified organically grown ingredients. Mmmmmm... Good!

08-05-2009, 04:27 PM
As Ian notes, a good bit of the distinction comes from what is not done or added: artificial fertilizers; pesticides; herbicides; antibiotics; growth hormones; genetic modification; etc.

What is an "artificial" fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, antibiotic, growth hormone or genetic modification?

One that doesn't work?

What criteria does one use to distinguish "artificial" from "genuine"?
We need to outlaw matter. It's got too damn many chemicals in it.

Tom Galyen
08-05-2009, 05:31 PM
In a recent article on Michelle Obama's organic garden at the White House, it turns out that the vegetables from it may not be eaten because the soil in the garden is tainted. Why is the soil tainted? Because of the Fertilizer used on it. Who used the fertilizer, those evil Bushes? No, it was the Clinton's, the fertilizer used was OK'd then but by today's standards is tainted.

Would I eat stuff from that garden? Most likely, I doubt it would actually hurt anyone. I also like Spam, haven't had any in years, but this thread has awakened an old taste. Spam and eggs, yes!

08-05-2009, 05:36 PM
Rather than asking someone to do your research for you , try a little Google .

Glen Longino
08-05-2009, 08:30 PM
What is an "artificial" fertilizer, pesticide, herbicide, antibiotic, growth hormone or genetic modification?

One that doesn't work?

What criteria does one use to distinguish "artificial" from "genuine"?
We need to outlaw matter. It's got too damn many chemicals in it.

Google "Monsanto"

Ian McColgin
08-06-2009, 09:15 AM
Krunch does not really want an answer, just an argument. He or she is among those untroubled by the incredible rise in such ailments as diabetes and asthma.

David G
08-06-2009, 10:39 AM

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
08-06-2009, 11:16 AM
In the UK "Organic" is largely a religious issue among the buyers and a sales tool with the sellers - including the certification body.

There is no way to tell "organic" from "non organic" simply by examining the food.

There is a significant body who think that "Organic" sets some useful animal husbandry standards - they are carefully not disillusioned.

Ian McColgin
08-06-2009, 11:27 AM
In the US "organic" as originally developed (not sure how modified in last 8 years) included some husbandry issues, mainly feeding, GM, anti-biotics and such.

But as one who has raised some beef ("harvested" and deep fried prairie oysters) and chickens and did my own slaughtering and butchering, I agree that most consumers really don't deserve to be at the top of the food chain.

In the US, as in the UK, there are plenty in the organic movement who are religious about it in exactly the slur sense, but more who are religious in the sense that farming is a deeply felt vocation that involves the land, the society, and all parts of life. Even the more "secular" organic farmers are like all farmers, deeply attached to the land. One of the evils of corporate farming has been the way it divorces people from the meaning of farming. Another evil is the way it has destroyed rural towns and depopulated rural areas. The third is the damage that highly processed food does, addicting people to live of freetos and coke.

Anyway, I'd rather a religious organic farmer than the satanists of Monsanto. Their religion is only money.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
08-06-2009, 11:35 AM
Ah - it's not about the food - its an objection to the ownership of the means of production - fascinating...

Here, the thing which divorced the people from the "meaning of farming" was the industrial revolution - once they knew that lettuce came from a greengrocer they way was clear for the understanding that Cod was the fish with fingers, and that combine harvesters dropped bales on neatly mown fields.

Ian McColgin
08-06-2009, 12:04 PM
I think, P.I., you misunderstand both my meaning and the organic movement, which has been around for a good while. Most of what we now call organic was simply good practice up to the post WWII era.

I really do think that a society in which people own and work their farms is likely have lots of other social benefits that a society dependent on corporate agriculture looses out on. But ownership is not really the heart of the organic movement except that industrial agriculture usually won't make the human investment it takes.

Another part of the heart is whether farming is an extractive industry, diminishing earth's resourses the way industrial agriculture damages land (almost like King Cotton did two centuries ago) or an enterprise that is a productive part of the biosphere.

P.I. Stazzer-Newt
08-06-2009, 12:18 PM
I really do think that a society in which people own and work their farms is likely have lots of other social benefits that a society dependent on corporate agriculture looses out on. ....

Ah - forwards into the past.....

My wife's father still farms the same patch of land that his father farmed from 1919 to 1980.

Prior to the second world war it took over a dozen men, full time, to farm with many many more part timers for harvests. Then, the farm was the centre of something meaningful in a social context - now it's not full time work for two - with perhaps another three contractors at harvest.

What broke the social context was not corporate ownership, but mechanisation - and doing without the Haber process will not bring it back.

Ian McColgin
08-06-2009, 12:45 PM
No one is against progress or for a return to what amounted to rural slavery. Organic farming is actually quite sophisticated, scientifically acute, and while smart labor intensive, need not be the horror of serfdom. It’s also not for everyone. I, for example, am entirely too indolent and in love with reading to ever make it as a farmer. I’ve done just enough to appreciate it and to know it’s not for me. I have cousins on both sides who show that organic farming can be a great life for those so minded.

What people in the organic movement object to is the combination of modern rural wage slavery coupled with incredibly destructive social, environmental and nutritional agricultural methods.

One example of properly hard-headed organic farming and community development, building coops and all that, is the many projects of the Rural Advancement Fund. Check out: http://www.rafiusa.org/

Check it out. One could come to see a bit more clearly.