Agriculture / Organic Farming, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Internet Raises 'Organic'?
By Staff News & Analysis - February 10, 2015

Organic food sales have gone through the roof. It's no wonder. It's widely believed that organic foods are more nutritious and safer than non-organic — they're even said to fight cancer — even though the evidence is far from clear …The premium prices may not be buying everything that's promised. – Bloomberg

Dominant Social Theme: Who needs natural food?

Free-Market Analysis: This is partially one of those "backlash" editorials, designed to take a countervailing position in order to stimulate our sense of inquiry. That's what we read editorials for, editors like to believe.

In a sense, it harkens back to 20th century memes having to do with food and efficiency. At the time, the "green" revolution was an accepted approach to agriculture. Unfortunately, this food revolution emphasized pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

The result? Today, investigators are finding soil imbalances including dirt that has been stripped to a remarkable degree of various bacteria that normally inhabit healthy soils.

This growing sense of something amiss with the world acreage, especially where green farming has been popular, is complicated by increased popular dissatisfaction and suspicion with food production under the green regime.

Popular taste has increasingly demanded what is known as "organic" or "natural" food that is grown without pesticides and synthetic additives. This is disturbing business-as-usual and proving of concern to the world's largest food franchises and agricultural corporations. More:

About three-quarters of grocers in the U.S. sell organic food, including specialty markets, like Sprouts, and mass-market retailers, like Wal-Mart and Target. While that's only 4 percent of total food sales, demand in the U.S. and Europe is growing … Mainstream grocery chains started their own lines of organic food, while large foodmakers began snapping up smaller organic startups. Coca-Cola bought juice and bar maker Odwalla in 2001; Stonyfield Farm, an organic dairy producer, became a subsidiary of Danone in 2004; and Kellogg purchased Bear Naked in 2007.

… The commercial appeal is clear, so non-organics often try to piggyback on the organic reputation by using labels like "all-natural" or "local," though these can contain pesticides and chemicals. Just because food is organic doesn't mean that it won't make people sick, and fertilizing crops with improperly composted manure can result in E. coli contamination. Some say eating organic food doesn't improve health. In fact, plenty of foods labeled organic aren't inherently healthy. (Organic gummy bears?) Nutrition aside, one thing organic foods have going for them is popular opinion — 41 percent of Americans say organic tastes better than non-organic.

We can see from this reportorial survey of organic farming and food that quiet skepticism remains – certainly industry skepticism – regarding "organic." Organic may not improve health and can still make people sick.

We've pointed out issues in regard to "organic" labeling in particular, given that for a food to wear an organic label, the producers may have to involve themselves in such issues as carbon reduction. What organic food has to do with the considerably controversial global warming promotion is unclear to us.

However, the larger issue is very clear. In this day and age – in the 21st century – many people have come a long way from taking government advice about a "food pyramid" at face value. Government warnings concerning cholesterol and other supposedly unhealthy foods – eggs come to mind – have planted considerable suspicions in the public mind.

This suspicion is what is driving the "organic" trend – and it is driving the anti-vaccine phenomenon (much in the news) as well. People are increasingly skittish when it comes to believing the assurances of authorities.

Of course, given the many difficulties with government advice on a variety of subjects related to health, perhaps this is not a bad thing.

After Thoughts

Blame it on the Internet.

Posted in Agriculture / Organic Farming, STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
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