Last post we technically concluded a mini-series of three posts about Organic food – what it is, what it’s not, and how to use the Organic certification as a tool rather than being a victim of the (often ugly) marketing and myths surrounding it.
Today, I want to wrap up our look at the topic by giving you a quick overview of why the Organic certification means what it does (rather than what we all expected it to or wish that it did). Why? So that next time one side of the debate or the other launches a fresh round of heavily biased, guilt-laden advertising, you can stay above the fray and see it for what it is.
Don’t worry, though – I’m keeping it short, sweet, and to the point. Just the bits you really need to know. Ready?
-> WWII radically altered the American food landscape. New processing techniques, chemicals, and technologies found their way into every corner of the farming, food production, and food processing industries.
-> Unhappy with these changes, some producers began focusing on clean, sustainable, and holistic methods they believed were better for themselves, the earth, and society as a whole.
-> Consumers latched on to the idea, but both producers and consumers quickly became frustrated by the challenges of seeking out, marketing, and identifying these foods.
-> In 1990, Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act, which laid down national standards designed to clarify and universalize product and advertising standards for the market.
-> Eager to capitalize on the higher prices consumers were willing to pay for Organic foods, large-scale corporations got involved. This led to a proliferation of expensive, highly processed products that met the letter of the law but abandoned the spirit of it.
-> Formalizing certification also resulted in a complicated, expensive and time-consuming certification process that many smaller producers cannot afford, thus cutting otherwise qualifying producers out of the market.
-> Technically, the national Organic certification program is regulated and administered by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), a regulatory body that genuinely makes an effort to give all stakeholders a seat at the table – regulators, producers (large and small), and consumers.
-> However, the USDA and other government agencies and regulations consistently undermine the NOSB and its authority. For example:
In 2013, the government gave the USDA permission to add products to the program’s “approved” list without NOSB consent or public notice.
Later, the USDA corrupted the “sunset” provision, that the NOSB traditionally used to promote the development of clean alternatives to essential conventional ingredients, turning it into a “free pass” for unscrupulous producers to keep adding cheaper, “dirtier” non-compliant ingredients to their certified Organic products.
Finally, our broken research, journalism, and marketing systems regularly exacerbate all the existing problems with the field at the national level by publishing dirty and misleading marketing pieces disguised as “news” to sway public opinion in favor of whoever is willing to pay them to do so.
There you go! Seventy years of history in nine bullet points and you’re all caught up. *wink*