As we reflect on the past year and look forward to ringing in a new one, financial uncertainty seems to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind. So as we look back on the world of food activism in 2008, it’s no surprise to see that this year has been especially unkind to the organic food movement. Grocery budgets have been shrinking, and so have the number of shoppers willing to pay for a six-dollar carrot. After all, there is no evidence that the “environmentally correct” variety is any healthier or better for the planet. But for anyone who is still willing to take organic marketers’ word for it, a report yesterday in the Sacramento Bee wrapped up the year with another major blow to the organic food fad. The lesson? If it seems too good to be true, it probably is:
For up to seven years, California Liquid Fertilizer sold what seemed to be an organic farmer’s dream, brewed from fish and chicken feathers.
The company’s fertilizer was effective, inexpensive and approved by organic regulators. By 2006, it held as much as a third of the market in California.
But a state investigation caught the Salinas-area company spiking its product with ammonium sulfate, a synthetic fertilizer banned from organic farms.
As a result, some of California’s 2006 harvest of organic fruits, nuts and vegetables – including crops from giants like Earthbound Farm – wasn’t really organic.
Not healthier. Not “greener.” And now, not even organic?
Thisis not the first instance of organic myth-busting we found in 2008. There was already concern over the lack of oversight in countries where many imported organic foods are grown. Remember when a television news team shocked so-called “locavores” by asking organic food shoppers to take a closer look at the label?
“Product of China—whoa, look at that!”
Now that we can’t even be sure American-made organic products are really organic, how much more evidence do we need before we stop “going on feelings” and start demanding more oversight?
These investigations should continue in 2009, but journalists shouldn’t be the only ones conducting them. It’s time for the federal government to step in and investigate companies that have violated the terms of the USDA Organic label. Why? Because for whatever reason, a handful of Americans are still paying top dollar for it.