The future of organic in 2014: what’s at stake?

The worldIn mid-December organic took a giant leap forward when a major study published in the journal PLOS established evidence of nutritional advantages in organic milk. The study gave evidence that organic production enhances milk nutritional quality by shifting fatty acid composition.  Simply put, organic whole milk contains more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than traditional milk, one reason is because the cows making organic milk spend time grazing on pasture.

One of the authors is the esteemed scientist Chuck Benbrook with the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. He is the lead scientist with Measure to Manage (M2M) – Farm and Food Diagnostics for Sustainability and Health. M2M has compiled an extensive dataset on pesticide residues in food. This data displays the relative pesticide dietary risks in different foods, in domestically produced food in contrast to imports and in conventional versus organic food.

Despite the success of these studies and the resounding press associated with the milk study, M2M lacks sufficient resources to continue robust research projects.  If a Farm Bill becomes law in early 2014 and OREI (USDA’s organic competitive grant program) is fully funded, grant money still won’t flow until October 2014. In the meantime, organic food funders must step up and support this important work. If the government won’t support organic research, then we indeed must do so as a community. How else will we explain the benefits of organic production?

The latest data from the Hartman Group, contained in “Organic goes mainstream, loses some cachet”, gives us reason to be nervous.  The Harman Group article explains, “One reason organic food is no longer closely tied to good health in consumers’ minds is that they see so many processed organic foods with sugar, corn syrup and unidentified ingredients. People also distrust the purity of organic food now that it is widely available. Although 64 percent of consumers still believe organic means no pesticides, they voice growing uncertainty about whether mainstream companies can do organic correctly.” The Organic label is also becoming diluted in the eyes of consumers because of the claims of “natural” product makers.

Another source of confusion in the marketplace and with the organic label are Non- GMO labels and claims. The Non GMO project verification has done more than any other brand to draw attention to genetically modified ingredients in our food supply. It is the number one driver at ridding GMOs from the food chain. Kudos and thanks be to the Non-GMO project!

Why it is that organic cannot achieve this feat even though organic regulations prohibit the use of GE ingredients and seeds?

Will the FDA help?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  is set to release final guidance for the industry in early 2014 on voluntarily claims indicating whether foods have been produced with or without the use of bioengineering. The draft guidance, released in January 2001, indicated that consumers do not understand the acronyms “GMO” and “GM,” and prefer label statements referring to bioengineering. Perhaps it is time for the FDA and USDA to allow the organic label to make non-GMO claims? Read more on this idea from Dan Glickman, a former congressman and Kathleen Merrigan in an op-ed in the LA Times.

The Organic Trade Association, continuing to promote and protect organic, will be convening a task force to develop messaging that organic equals Non-GMO. The OTA will be developing comments for the FDA on the common terminology used on existing organic products.  They want to ensure that organic certification and corresponding organic labels remain the gold standard for non-GMO verification. Interested members can contact Gwendolyn Wyard for information on the eligibility criteria for participation in the task force.

It is time we took the future of our organic community into our hands. We need to fight for full funding on organic priorities in the Farm Bill. We must step up and fund organic research in the meantime. Let’s all communicate and celebrate the meaning and importance of organic. Stay focused on the positive.  Be active with your trade association and your local farming organizations.  The future is ours to create in 2014!

15 thoughts on “The future of organic in 2014: what’s at stake?

  1. I urge you to switch your use of the word “traditional” and rather use “conventional” when speaking about non-organic foods. “Traditional” elevates non-organic foods to a status they do not enjoy; traditionally, all of our foods are organic as pesticides and such have only been developed relatively recently in human history. Also thank you for your work; it is no small feat to produce so many articles and keep so well informed!

    • Erica,
      That is an important distinction and one I will remember to utilize in the future. Traditional should be reserved for pre-industrialized agriculture. Thank you for the advice and for following my blog.
      It is readers like you that motivate me. Melody

      Melody L Meyer
      VP Policy and Industry Relations UNFI
      phone 401.528.8634 ext 62225
      Fax 831/462-5718
      SKYPE melody.meyer
      Visit my Blog at http://www.organicmattersblog.com

    • My Good Food Friends –

      FIRST of all, a GOOD 2014 to YOU ALL, and here we go 2014!! May Organic Good Food be brought to the fore with lots of FUN and its FULL integrity!

      I just thought you might enjoy the following little riff I wrote several years ago, ‘Conventional’? Since then, our Good Food Friend, Trudy Bialic, PCC Natural Markets, uses non-organic, or chemical farming, to describe that stuff and doesn’t allow the term ‘conventional’ to be used in the PCC “Sound Consumer.” She has, in fact, written several Editors of other Co-op newspapers when she saw their use of the term ‘conventional’ and asked them to change to non-organic, chemical or unnatural as the description.

      ‘Conventional’?

      I think you’ll get a kick out of our new drive to right a wrong! Here’s our take on it. And let’s have some FUN along the way:

      It drives me nuts when I hear ‘chemical farming’ referred to as ‘conventional farming’ when compared with Organic.

      What IS ‘conventional’ about chemicals? … NOTHING!

      THE LIE is the chemical companies’ euphemism … “conventional” … for “chemical” farming. The euphemism, ‘conventional’, was created by the chemical companies to daze and confuse the consumer. The chemical companies’ ruse softens the rather scary thought of non-organic ‘food’ being sprayed, washed, soaked and steeped in chemicals, synthetics and warm, moist sewer sludge!

      The chemical companies’ cheap trick has positioned Organic Good Food as an ‘alternative’ to ‘conventional food’. There’s no future in Organic Good Food remaining an ‘alternative’ to ‘conventional food’. How does that sell… an ‘alternative’ to CONVENTIONAL food … think about it in the mind of the typical consumer, why would anyone choose an ‘alternative’ to CONVENTIONAL food. What’s the need? Why wouldn’t you want CONVENTIONAL food?

      What IS ‘conventional’ about chemical herbicides, pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, fumigants, fertilizers, additives, preservatives, synthetics, irradiation, growth hormones, tranquilizers, veterinarian pharmaceuticals, antibiotics, GMOs and warm, moist sewer sludge? DON’T BUY THE LIE!

      THE LIE is pervasive and on all levels: On ALL levels … from the Pope’s representatives comparing organic to conventional during a Vatican Council for Justice and Peace to a ‘Wine Reviewer’ comparing, once again, organic to conventional … he’s an instructor at the Culinary Academy here in Seattle … and thousands in between, they all buy the lie! And pervasive … Doug Gurian-Sherman, Ph.D., Center for Science in the Public Interest, refers to potent chemical insecticides as “conventional” insecticides! WHAT???

      Even our own kind BUYS THE LIE and has allowed themselves to be kicked to the curb by the chemical companies. They buy the chemical companies’ euphemism … ‘conventional’ … for ‘chemical’ farming. Call their stuff non-organic, unconventional, risky, chemicalized, synthetic laboratory-concocted or a dozen other terms, but DON’T CALL it CONVENTIONAL!

      I would hope that our side begins to watch its language in front of its Good Food Friends!

      What, are we cowed by chemicals and DuPont is the tradition?

      Our Organic industry gave up the high ground without a fight.

      WELL, WE’RE WHOLESOME AS HELL AND WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE!

      We’re going to upset their chemical apple cart!

      If you know any offenders … when you see ‘The Lie’…send the offender an e-mail or the original article with a little love note from you! This is something we can do together. The more the merrier. It takes very little time. Instead of getting angry in silence, take out your highlighter and call them for what they are. Caution them to watch their language in front of our Good Food Friends!

      Let’s take back the high ground and take a powerful ‘word tool’, their ‘marketing scheme’ away from the chemical boys and girls!

      Try our new phrase on for size … “Organic Good Food is TRULY THE CONVENTION! Pure and simple.”

      “What IS ‘conventional’ about chemicals?” … “NOTHING!” … as we said in our 2005 column in PCC Natural Markets’ widely distributed “SOUND CONSUMER” newspaper:

      “Organic Good Food is not an alternative food, it’s the only TRUE FOOD. Organic Good Food IS conventional.

      It’s the other stuff that’s UNCONVENTIONAL: non-organic poor food ‘products’, a man-made, synthesized, chemicalized, laboratory-concocted alternative to real food.

      So the next time someone calls the other stuff conventional, tell them they’ve got it backwards.

      Organic Good Food is the traditional food, the only kind known for millennia until the boys in the labs with their white coats and rubber gloves started playing around with it. What’s ‘conventional’ about chemicals? Nothing!”

      To Your Health!
      Dennis L. Weaver, MBA, GFG
      Founder
      Change Your Food – Change Your Life!™
      425.774.8971
      http://www.ChangeYourFood.com
      http://www.OrganicJazz.net
      – & –
      National Columnist/Opinion Piece Writer
      On the HOME Front Page
      http://www.Specialty-Retailing.com

  2. Thank you

    Gracias ,Thank you. Jose Antonio Benavente Pacific Organic Produce Purity.Organic Mobil 56992377108 Mobil 56990489810 Nextel56*129*634 MobilPE519946598606 Viber+56992377108 Offic 56222014396 Office 1 415 6735555 P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

    El 26-12-2013, a las 13:49, “Organic Matters” <comment-reply@wordpress.com> escribi:

    Melody Meyer posted: “In mid-December organic took a giant leap forward when a major study published in the journal PLOS established evidence of nutritional advantages in organic milk. The study gave evidence that organic production enhances milk nutritional quality by shiftin”

  3. Pingback: A Gardener Who Cares A Lot. | THE ONENESS of HUMANITY.

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