In most supermarkets we are able to find organic food; fresh produce,
milk, eggs, cereal, frozen food, and even junk food. I prefer organic
food, assuming it to be safer, more nutritious.
But, notice that the label on Organic Cow has changed – now it is
“ultrapasterized,” – this ensures that the milk will stay fresh,
allowing it to be shipped all over the country.
An organic TV dinner in the frozen foods section
advertises its chicken to be raised without chemicals
and allowed “to roam freely in an outdoor yard”, the rice and vegetables
grown without synthetic chemicals. The list of ingredients is extensive;
natural chicken flavor, high-oleic safflower oil, guar and xanthan gum,
soy lecithin, carrageenan and natural grill flavor – and with the
assurance that most of these additives are organic, and no doubt are.
The organic food industry has become a $7.7 billion business, the fastest
growing category in the supermarket, and has attracted the attention of
agribusiness corporation, which the organic food movement always
presented as an alternative. The biggest organic farms are owned and
operated by conventional mega-farms.
Agribusiness has sought to re-define the romantic word
‘organic’ to make it as broad as possible; to make it easier for the big
companies to get into the organic food business by allowing food additives,
ascorbic acid to xanthan gum, and synthetic chemicals to be used in
‘organic’ food; a cow to feed on pasture; a factory farm to be labeled
organic. These modifications will take effect next year.
The real farm food grown on the real family farm is not always the same food
contained in our frozen TV dinners. Now that agribusiness owns the organic
food companies, is ‘organic’ on the road to becoming meaningless? The whole
meaning of ‘organic’ is changing.
The word ‘organic’ doesn’t make any health claims. It is not a health,
nutrition, or food-safety claim. It is a production standard – and we make
our own health claims to this word. We bring our own personal beliefs to
the word ‘organic’. The truly organic small family-farmer is going to have
to replace the word ‘organic’.
“I don’t care if the Wheaties are organic—I wouldn’t use them for compost.
Processed organic food is as bad as any other processed food.” says Eliot
Coleman, a Maine farmer and writer whose organic techniques have influence
two generations of farmers.
Is “industrial organic” a contradiction in terms?