H.R. 875... The Corporate Takeover and Control of 'Organic' Food Markets... What Everyone Needs to Know

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 03/22/2009 - 4:11pm.

Do the American people care about the food they buy?  Do they have any idea what they are eating?  Shopping for food is no longer what it used to be.  If HR 875 passes... we're in a world of trouble!  This 'Food Safety' bill is the biggest lie and assault against our small organic farmers and people who chose to eat organic food! ~ SadInAmerica 

Since when do we need Big Brother to tell us what we can and can not eat, grow or raise for food?  It's coming unless the American people wake up right now!  We will be 'forbidden' to grow our own food unless we grow regulated Monsanto type crops and genetically altered Frankenmeat. You will only eat UNHEALTHY food.  Our days spent at farmer's markets and roadside stands are limited...

Shopping has already become a nightmare... we have too many options... organic, semi-organic, imported, produce sprayed with fluoridated water (for that 'fresh' look), salad in a bag that smells of some type of gas when opened, waxy looking cucumbers and peppers... so now what?

Looking up and down the produce section what healthy choices are there?  NONE.  We're forced to take 'someone's' word for it that it is healthy, organic and is untreated. 

Have you caught yourself standing in front of the produce section of your local supermarket holding a conventionally grown Granny Smith apple and in your other hand, you are holding one that's labeled organically grown? Hmmm... Both apples are firm, shiny and green. Both provide vitamins and fiber, and both are free of fat, sodium and cholesterol.  But...

The conventionally grown apple costs less and is a proven family favorite. But the organic apple has a label that says "USDA Organic." Does that mean it's better? Safer? More nutritious? Several differences between organic and nonorganic foods exist. Become a better informed consumer for your next trip to the supermarket.

Conventional vs. Organic Farming

The word "organic" refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce and meat don't use conventional methods to fertilize, control weeds or prevent livestock disease. For example, rather than using chemical weedkillers, organic farmers may conduct sophisticated crop rotations and spread mulch or manure to keep weeds at bay.

Here are other differences between conventional farming and organic farming:

Conventional farmersOrganic farmers
Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth. Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.
Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease. Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.
Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds. Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.
Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones and medications to prevent disease and spur growth. Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventive measures — such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing — to help minimize disease.

Organic food has been the refuge of many consumers who have become aware of the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals in the growing and processing practices of the commercial food industry. Many of us have come to trust the word "organic" as the indicator of safety and healthfulness in the foods we choose. We tend to make an implicit assumption that organic food producers are still small farmers who combine ecologically sound farming practices with a political agenda to promote and develop food systems which are local, sustainable, and able to survive independent of corporate agribusiness. More often than we realize, all that remains of this image is an illusion of advertising and marketing. Far too many of the local small farmers who brought the value of organic farming practices to public attention have been unable to survive the onslaught of corporate competition, as organic food has been "developed" in the corporate food arena.

What we call "organic" plant or animal food is, in fact, just plain food that has not been adulterated by chemicals in the process of doing what it does naturally growing. Organic does not necessarily mean humane treatment for animals (as in the case of dairy products or meat), nor does it mean regionally grown or fresh. The Northeast Organic Farming Association, the regional organization representing organic growers in the northeast, urges us to choose locally grown food which is not certified organic over organic food which is corporately marketed and travels long distances. Why? The environmental impact of long distance trucking, energy for refrigeration, etc., is extremely damaging. Food which travels far arrives as old food, trading in nutritional value for organic status. For example, the New York Times Sunday Magazine (5/13/01) reports that a strawberry traveling across the continent potentially provides 5 calories of food energy and takes 435 calories of fossilfuel energy to deliver.

The same New York Times article also reports that five giant farms control fully onehalf of the $400 million organic produce market in California. It should come as no surprise that capitalism has extended it's efforts into this piece of the economy. Corporately owned organic brands now take up the majority of space in the organic section of your favorite grocery store. Organic food is seen for its profit making potential and treated as a "market niche," resulting in corporate farms setting aside "organic" fields right alongside fields using conventional practices, including genetically modified seed. As part of its policies in support of large business interests, the US government has established federal standards for organic certification which favor corporations, and are too expensive for the average small farmer to meet.

Growth for capitalist economies demands ever increasing profit, based on expansion. Family owned and "small" businesses give way to larger and larger enterprises, until Walmart finally replaces the local variety stores, and Wegmans replaces the neighborhood food markets. The same principal has affected farming, and as a consequence we are in danger of losing our local farmers. Already, due to the global industrialization of corporate agribusiness, "farmer" no longer appears on the US census as a job category. This means that less that 2% of the population in our country farms for a living.

The January-February '03 issue of the Cooperative Grocer describes a similar pattern that has occurred among the wholesale food distributors serving the consumer owned coops which sell organic foods. In 1982 there were 28 such wholesale distributors in the US. In 1987 that number had declined to 14, in 2002 there were 6 distributors surviving, and in 2003 there are only 3 wholesale distributors of this kind remaining in the US. This process touched us locally this year, when Northeast Cooperative, the wholesale distributor serving the Syracuse Real Food Coop, declared bankruptcy and was bought out by United Foods, Inc.

The Food Trap

It takes more time and effort to bring organically grown food to market. It is prey to the natural forces of variation in season and weather, and it does not easily garner a large profit margin. That is, not until agribusiness figured out how to industrialize "organic" growing.

When the research is done to uncover the chain of corporate connections related to ownership of organic food brands, the results are similar to what is revealed in any other area of economic production touched by the "global economy." Corporate connections are invisible to the shopper, and the marketing image of safe and healthy "organics" is used to maintain consumer trust. Some cases in point are what follows.*

A familiar brand name to organic shoppers is Hain. This company now owns many other organic brands, which continue to appear to be independent. Some examples include: Bearitos (chips), Bread Shop (granola), Celestial Seasonings (tea), Garden of Eatin', Health Valley, Imagine Foods (Rice Dream), Terra Chips, and Westbrae (canned vegetables, soy drinks, pastas, and more). And who owns Hain? The prime investors in the Hain Food Group are mutual funds and holding companies. Their principal stockholders are Phillip Morris (tobacco), Monsanto (genetically modified food), Citigroup (responsible for rainforest destruction), Exxon/Mobil, Wal-Mart, Entergy Nuclear, and Lockheed Martin (weapons manufacturer). In 9/99 the H.J. Heinz Co. acquired ownership of nearly 20% of Hain. And, no surprises here, Heinz is principally owned by the same mutual funds and principal stockholders as is Hain.

Cascadian Farms (the brand offering much of the organic frozen food on the market) and Muir Glen (tomato products) are owned by Small Planet Foods, which is the organic marketing "niche" owned by General Mills, the third biggest food conglomerate in North America. Agribusiness is guilty enough for negative impacts on the global environment, local economies, and the nutritional quality of the food most of us have little choice but to consume. But look who "owns" General Mills. Their principal investors are Philip Morris, Exxon/Mobil, General Electric, Chevron, Nike, McDonald's, Target Stores, Starbucks, Monsanto, Dupont (weapons & pesticides), Dow Chemical (Agent Orange, breast implants, napalm), Pepsico, Alcoa Aluminium, Disney, and Texas Instruments (weapons producer and one of G.W. Bush's top contributors).

Fresh Samantha, a popular organic juice brand regionally produced in Maine, merged with Odwalla in 5/00. Little do health conscious consumers suspect that Odwalla Juice is owned by CocaCola, as part of their Minute Maid unit. Boca Burgers is owned by Kraft Foods, which is owned by Philip Morris. Stoned Wheat Thins is made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and is owned by Nabisco, which was acquired by Philip Morris in December, 2000. Arrowhead Water and Poland Spring Water are owned by Nestle (which is being boycotted because its "breast milk substitute" causes the deaths of millions of babies). Silk Soy Drink is owned by White Wave, which is owned by Dean Foods, whose main shareholders are Microsoft, General Electric, Philip Morris, Citigroup, Pfizer, Exxon/Mobil, Coca Cola, WalMart, PepsiCo, and Home Depot.

Writing for the New York Times Sunday Magazine (5.13.01), Michael Pollan reported that Organic Cow, previously represented to consumers as an organic dairy based in the Northeast and consisting of a network of small farms, was bought out by Horizon. Another source of organic dairy products, Horizon is a $127 million public corporation that has become the Microsoft of organic milk, controlling 70 percent of the retail market. The milk is now "ultrapasteurized" using a highheat process that "kills the milk," destroying its enzymes and many of its vitamins so it can be sold over long distances. Arguably, ultrapasteurized organic milk is actually less nutritious than conventionally pasteurized non-organic milk. Horizon's "factory farms" in the West are described as a clear example of the certifiability of inhumane practices through the emerging corporate organics system. Pollan writes: "On Horizon's dairy farms in the west, thousands of cows that never encounter a blade of grass spend their days confined to a fenced dry lot, eating (certified organic) grain and tethered to milking machines three times a day."

So Now We Know

Like the greed to control oil resources that is driving the US war making agenda, the greed to control food and water betrays the ultimate capitalist goal of controlling the very basic resources needed for life. There is much analysis available suggesting that water wars will be next. Corporate intrusion into the very nature of nature through genetic engineering, patenting and "free trade" policies makes it imperative that we politicize our view of organic food production. Organic food is just plain food. It is what our bodies are made to receive, and what human beings need to survive within the ecology of our planet. It is corporate marketing that creates organic products as "boutique" food for the privileged. In fact, clean food is as much our right as clean air and water.

* Appreciation goes to Paul Glover for research on corporate connections in the organic industry as a member of the Ithaca Greenstar Food Coop Education Committee. Details at www.ithacanews.org/greenstarstock.html  

Consider the Alternatives

Buy food at a consumer-owned store (locally, the Syracuse Real Food Coop), or a locally owned supermarket (Peters, rather than Wegmans or Price Chopper).

Select regionally grown produce and non-corporate owned brands. Tell store management your preference.

Support local organic farmers by buying a share in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Grindstone Farm (315-298-4139; gsforganic@aol.com), Frosty Morning Farm (607-842-6799; frostym@swns.net), and Wake Robin Farm (315-689-0034; megschader@wakerobinfarm.org) are local growers who provide weekly shares of vegetables through the harvest season. Cobblestone Farm (607-749-4032; cvfarm@twcny.rr.com) provides seasonal shares of poultry and occasional beef as well as u-pick strawberries.

Use the "Local Organic Source" published by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, to locate farms in your area that do not provide CSA's but who have good food available, (519-734-5495; www.nofany.org).

Support local farmers at the Regional Market in season. Some are not certified "organic" producers, but make conscious choices in their practices.

Grow what you can in your own garden.

Take advantage of reasonable prices and bountiful quantities available in season, and put up foods by cold storage, drying, freezing and canning.

If you have not put food away, you need to.  Grow what you can, support your local organic farmers.  Stop buying imported Frankenmeat, buy it from local farmers.  If you continue to buy 'cheap and unknown' food at WalMart and other major food chains... our farmers will soon be gone... where will you be able to get good 'government controlled food'?  

Don't worry, the government has made sure there is a 'buy everything here' WalMart near by where you can get 'controlled food' and more imported junk than you can shake a stick at!  WalMart and MAYBE a grocery store chain or two will be the ONLY places left to shop... all buy design... BIG Corpora, BIG Agra, Big Pharma and our HUGE Government will see to it!

SadInAmerica - March 22, 2009 - source (various)KnowTheLies

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 03/22/2009 - 4:11pm.