Organic Pesticides and Labels: Good for the goose and all that…

This caught my eye this morning:

Food Chain RadioAmerican Council on Science and Health President Hank Campbell was on the airwaves Saturday with host Mike Olson and an organic trade rep to talk about labeling GMOs. Most fun was when the organic trade rep sputtered at the notion that there should be complete transparency on food labels – like pesticides used.

The trade rep protested that, saying their certification already covered it. Yes, the group getting paid by companies to ‘certify’ their status is using that certification to exempt its clients from transparency about its process. But insisted their competitors need to have a giant warning label about that part of the growing process.

You can listen to the archived version of the program here.

Rather odd that the organic folks who call for transparency of the use of biotechnology (which is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration to be safe and having no significant difference in the food) should balk at providing another piece of information that is of concern to consumers, namely pesticides.

An article at Foodnavigator-usa.com indicates consumers are quite concerned:

According to a survey released recently by Stonyfield Farms, a majority of Americans are concerned about pesticides in the food supply. The survey of 1,000 Americans conducted by Lindberg International on behalf of Stonyfield, the leader in the organic yogurt category, found that 71% of Americans are worried about pesticides in their food and almost three out of four respondents (74%) would like to eat food produced with fewer pesticides.

Organic public relations types obviously like the current public perception (or, at least the misperception) that pesticides aren’t used in organic food.
An ABC News poll said that in their survey “Organic foods were described as raised ‘without the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers or feed additives.'” From their sentence it’s hard to know if they said this in the survey question or if it came from the answers. Either way, it shows the wide public misunderstanding of how USDA Certified Organic crops are grown.

References

Campbell, Hank. 2016. “Real Truth In Labeling: Why Organic Groups Object – American Council on Science and Health.” Accessed January 18. http://acsh.org/2016/01/real-truth-in-labeling-why-organic-groups-object/.

Schulz, Hank. 2016. “Survey Reveals Consumers Want to Avoid Pesticides, but Are Unsure How Label Certifications Help Them Do That.” Accessed January 18. http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/Regulation/Survey-reveals-consumers-want-to-avoid-pesticides-but-are-unsure-how-label-certifications-help-them-do-that.

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No One Expects the Organics Inquisition

No expects the Organics Inquisition.

Here is this month’s Green Chain column for the Lake County Record-Bee:

In 312, Roman Emperor Constantine was told in a dream to paint a cross on his army’s shields. Based on that dream, he commanded his generals to have crosses put on pretty much everything. If it went into battle, it had a cross on it. And lo, when his guys faced an army twice the size of his, his army smote them real bad and got pre-medieval on their butts; and Constantine did declare, “Hot Damascus, it worked!” (Obviously, I am paraphrasing; I don’t speak Latin.)

So, Constantine became a Christian, sort of.

In 325, he, being the ruler of the Roman Empire and all, thought he should nail down what it was he believed. So he rounded up a passel of leaders of the early Christian movement and sat them down in the city of Nicaea. The Council of Nicaea, as it came to be known, palavered about a month, wrote down a statement of what they all agreed on (the Nicene Creed), approved some texts for use and disallowed others. All of this pleased some and displeased others. But at the end they all shook hands, said, “Well, that’s that,” and called it “good.”

This consensus resulted in “winners” and “losers” throughout the known world. Schisms, splinters and fractures appeared before the ink had dried on the papyrus. Subsequent Councils worked on those, and patched some, broke others, and created more. Today the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and other Christian denominations still do not agree on many articles and practices of their faith, each one claiming to hold to the true faith.

The point is (lest you think Green Chain should have been placed in the Religion section of the paper) that just as the government tried to get everyone to agree on beliefs in the fourth century, today the green faith roils with dissension regarding its Organic doctrine’s beliefs and practices.

The New York Times published an article titled, “Organic Food Purists Worry About Big Companies’ Influence” on July 7 profiling the founder of Eden Foods, Michael J. Potter, and his quixotic battle against people who do not believe in Organic as he does. According to Potter, heretics have infiltrated the Ecumenical Council—strike that, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

A little history is in order. In 1990, George H. W. Bush signed the Organic Foods Production Act creating the National Organic Program (NOP). This act placed the Department of Agriculture in charge of administrating the program and naming the 15 members of the NOSB, who were to “assist in the development of standards for substances to be used in organic production” and advise the Secretary of Agriculture on implementing the program.

Harry Potter

No, sorry, not Harry Potter, Michael Potter.

As a result, the NOSB passes judgment on what is or is not kosher—I mean, what can or cannot be used to produce organic food. In fact, the NOSB has approved a number of non-organic items such as baking soda used in the baking of organic bread.

According to the NY Times’ article, the thrust of Michael Potter’s complaint is that many on the board have connections with, gasp, non-believing big companies. (Yep, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Dole, General-Mills, Kraft, M&M Mars, all make organic foods.) And, he accuses these interlopers of voting to allow blasphemous ingredients, such as carrageenan, a substance derived from seaweed used in cooking, to pass as organic. So incensed is he that he refuses to put the certified-organic label on his own company’s products, which are so much purer, more authentic, and more truly organic than the so-called certified-organic products being passed off as the real deal to an unwitting public.

(Well, I, for one, am shocked, shocked to find that big, profit-motivated companies have jumped into the market. Simply put, organic products fetch a premium price.)

This kerfuffle is not about efficacy but ideological purity. As blogger, Andrew Potter notes, “….[T]he question of whether these various ‘synthetics’ should be allowed or not is entirely political.” And not whether any of the items “are healthy, or good for the environment, or contribute to the taste of the product.”

In the world of ideological purity, nothing matters as much as remaining true to the ideal of the ethos, and only those pure of heart, such as Michael Potter, can divine such things.

It is soon time for the Organics Inquisition.

Sources:

“According to Lactantius, Constantine was visited by a dream the night before the battle, wherein he was advised ‘to mark the heavenly sign of God on the shields of his soldiers…by means of a slanted letter X with the top of its head bent round, he marked Christ on their shields.’” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constantine_I#Constantine.27s_army_adopts_the_Christian_cross (accessed July 14, 2012)

“In 325 CE Constantine called the Council of Nicaea, the first so-called Ecumenical Council of the church, that is the first council at which bishops from around the world were brought together in order to establish a consensus on major points of faith and practice.” – Ehrman, Bart. “Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and Faiths We Never Knew.” Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 2003.

Strom, Stephanie. “Organic Food Purists Worry About Big Companies’ Influence.” New York Times. July 7, 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/business/organic-food-purists-worry-about-big-companies-influence.html (accessed July 14, 2012)

“What is interesting about the debate as it plays out in this article is that the question of whether these various ‘synthetics’ should be allowed or not is entirely political. That is, Strom goes the entire article without ever confronting what should be the central issue, which is whether any of the controversial ingredients or inputs are healthy, or good for the environment, or contribute to the taste of the product.” Potter, Andrew. “The church of organic.” The Authenticity Hoax – Blog. July 9, 2012. http://authenticityhoax.squarespace.com/blog/2012/7/9/the-church-of-organic.html (accessed July 12, 2012)

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