A recent opinion article published in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) raised the provocative notion that the organic industry may be lying to us all. Henry Millers’ article, “The Organic Industry Is Lying to You,” claims that organic is “…manipulating consumer ignorance, confusion and even fear to sell a product.” Yet, he couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Let’s take a moment to unravel some of his claims which appear to be based on his zeal advocating for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO’s).
He claims that “Organic farmers rely on synthetic and natural pesticides to grow their crops; just as conventional farmers do.”
Yes, that’s what farming is all about. Organic farming doesn’t mean you stand by and do nothing. You still have to fight the beetle and the pigweed. When it rains, leaves curl and mildew marches forth.
If Organic farmers stood by and did nothing, we wouldn’t see our grocery shelves and refrigerators brimming with organic food.
Organic farmers use pesticides and herbicides—it’s true—but they are applied when holistic farming practices and preventative measures fail. These methods include crop rotations, integrated pest management and building healthy soils that ward off disease and pestilence by balancing the natural environment.
The National Organic Program (NOP) allows 25 synthetic materials in organic production that have been proven to pose little risk to human health or the environment.
Conventional farmers use about 900.
He goes on with his litany that: “Pesticides are by definition toxic, and many organic pesticides pose significant environmental and human health risks.”
Yes, pesticides are meant to be toxic to pests, weeds and disease. Once again, that IS agriculture.
Our dear friend, Merriam-Webster, defines agriculture as “The science, art, or practice of cultivating the soil, producing crops, and raising livestock and in varying degrees the preparation.”
Organic farming is a science and an art whose practices tread lightly on the planet.
The science of Organic includes using approved materials that undergo intense scrutiny. Every four years these materials are submitted to a complete review by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
Over the course of 2 biannual meetings, they are examined for effects to humans and the environment, if organic alternatives exist and if farmers still need them.
Every Organic producer is inspected to assure that they comply with USDA regulations when using any material or process.
The bulk of his piece appears to be focused on Non-GMO claims and sways vigorously away from the Organic lies headline that first grabbed us.
He posits that “The “Non-GMO Project” butterfly label emblazons more than 55,000 organic and nonorganic products on supermarket shelves today—many of which have no GMO counterpart or couldn’t possibly contain GMOs.”
One may question until the cows come home the value of labeling salt a Non-GMO product when no GMO salt exists on the planet. But what does that have to do with Organic lying to the consumer?
In terms of USDA Organic, GMO’s are strictly prohibited in any form. Anything that is produced under the USDA guidelines can claim Non-GMO as a production method.
Who is this Henry Miller anyway?
No, he didn’t write the “Tropic of Capricorn.”
According to WSJ, “Dr. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology.”
You must know that he has been embroiled in controversies of having Monsanto write his pieces. The NYT’s reported that “Documents show that Henry I. Miller, an academic and a vocal proponent of genetically modified crops, asked Monsanto to draft an article for him that largely mirrored one that appeared under his name on Forbes’s website in 2015.”
He was quickly dropped by Forbes for this Monsanto ghostwriting but remains a vocal defender of GMO’s and pesticides with a history of attacking Organic.
Whatever his motivation and intentions are, he is just plain wrong.
The Organic Industry should instead be bragging.
The Organic industry and its farmers work hard to produce food and fiber with as little harm to people and the planet while fostering biodiversity.
Organic farming produces cleaner rivers, lakes and gulfs with fewer nitrates that produce dead zones.
Humans have less exposure to toxic pesticides. Farmworkers, children and their mothers all benefit from a less toxic environment.
Rich Organic soils can help combat our changing climate. It’s been proven by Northeastern University and The Organic Center that organic agriculture keeps more carbon in soil and out of the atmosphere, reducing the effects of climate change.
Don’t believe every headline you read. Because sometimes it’s just click bait, to lure us into a false state of panic.
There are no lies when it comes to Organic. It’s the most transparent agricultural system on the planet.