Whatever else organic food is, it’s big business. Grocery stores, distributors, seed companies, compliance officers, manure providers, and a host of other enterprises large and small (not to mention the farmers themselves) are all part of the growing economy that is the organic food industry. Stronger than ever before, some in the organic lobby are now piggybacking on activist-driven legislation that seemingly has no relationship with organic food — all in an effort to increase its market share.
Maine’s Anti-biotech Legislation
On Monday Maine’s House of Representatives held hearings on a
bill that would impose a three-year moratorium on genetically enhanced crops and require the state to run an extensive campaign to market Maine’s biotech-free status. That means taxpayer money would be spent promoting the idea that biotech crops are somehow harmful, notwithstanding every single reputable scientific institution in the world. And the organic lobby, the primary sponsors of this legislation, would laugh all the way to the bank.
Testifying at the hearing, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) clearly stated why they want to stop non-organic farmers from buying the seeds of their choice: “GMO growth will be at the expense of the organic sector.”
Biotechnology is one of the biggest reasons not to grow organic food. Take that away, and the ranks of organic farmers will swell. The beneficiaries of the trend toward organic farming include the organic buying clubs and the organic seed distributors that support MOFGA.
MOFGA recently completed a $3.1 million fundraising campaign and is poised to expand its organic certification business. If the biotech ban goes through, MOFGA’s for-profit certification enterprise will be rolling in cash.
Childhood Anti-obesity Legislation
An organization chaired by Ralph Nader called Commercial Alert is promoting a “childhood obesity agenda” to legislators across America. Their campaign recycles the usual demands like removing soda machines from schools and is endorsed by the usual suspects like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Marion Nestle and, Ellen Ruppel Shell.
Three of Commercial Alert’s agenda items are particularly draconian. First, the group advocates eliminating from schools foods with hydrogenated vegetable shortening, including graham crackers, peanut butter, margarine, cheese, and salad dressing. Second, it would prohibit the sale of “junk food” on school property, meaning no more bake sales. And third, it would “prohibit the distribution of junk food as a reward or prize for good behavior or exemplary performance.” That time-honored, pedagogically sound activity should have no place in schools, say the food nannies.
One element of Commercial Alert’s childhood obesity agenda has absolutely nothing to do with obesity: The group demands that schools serve more “local and organic products.” No explanation for such an odd demand is provided, but one suspects that two of the endorsing organizations — the Organic Consumers Association and Stonyfield Farm, a massive organic-only company — had something to do with it.
Commercial Alert talks about putting parents back in control of their children’s diets, but the effect of their recommendations would be to hand over control to groups like the Organic Consumers Association. The organic lobby knows well that campaigns to change schoolchildren’s diets are just the first salvo in a wider war to remake the American diet through regulation, litigation, and taxation. And when Michael Jacobson becomes food czar, organic interests want a piece of the pie.