I am supportive of those who choose to grow organic food and those who choose to buy it. However, I do not accept the organic industry’s attack on new tech agriculture. It is entirely without justification.
If the roles were reversed and conventional agriculture engaged in similar “black marketing” against organics, the regulatory authorities and consumer groups would come down like a ton of bricks.
One wonders why, then, this multibillion-dollar industry gets a free ride to propagate negative and false advertising denigrating the livelihood of the vast majority of America’s farmers.
It’s time for it to stop.
JOHN R. BLOCK was U.S. secretary of agriculture from 1981 to 1986. On the Academic Review report John begins with this
As someone who has dedicated his career to agriculture, I’ve often wondered what drives the now double-digit growth in the $35 billion U.S. organic products industry. Why are so many people willing to pay premiums up to 100 percent or more for items that carry an organic label, and do they really understand what that label means and — even more important — what it doesn’t mean?
Many of these questions have now been answered in a blockbuster report by the scientific-integrity watchdog Academics Review. The report examines the last 25 years of academic and organic industry market research, public statements and often questionable marketing practices.
What they have found should be raising red flags for all of us.
The organic industry likes to project a friendly image of small farmers and contented cows. But as this report extensively documents, the behavior of this multibillion-dollar industry is considerably less benign.
Among the other findings is the extent to which the large organic food corporations engage in what it describes as deceptive advertising linked to scientifically baseless scares about conventional food.
Worse, this “black marketing” takes place with the implied approval of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Organic Seal and the silent acquiescence of the regulatory authorities charged with ensuring that all labeling and advertising be “truthful and non-misleading.”
As a leading consultant warned the organic industry in the 1990s, “If the threats posed by cheaper, conventionally produced products are removed, then the potential to develop organic foods will be limited.” Since then we’ve witnessed a remorseless campaign based on junk science or no-science attacking food grown with modern fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs and other technologies.
Advertising and promotional material — including “educational” materials developed for schools — suggest non-organic food is linked to almost every disease under the sun, including “developmental and learning problems such as ADHD,” “high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, depression and cancer.”
Tens of millions of organic marketing dollars flow annually to activist organizations such as the Environmental Working Group which spread misinformation and fear. Unsupported, provably counter factual claims are so habitual to the industry that they are even included in official statements: “Not only is organic safer, healthier and more nutritious,” claims the Organic Consumer Association in testimony to USDA, but buying organic will “reduce food-borne illness and diet-related diseases.”
The Organic Seal does not and cannot signify any health or safety criteria whatsoever. It merely certifies that products were produced using less modern inputs.