Too many cooks spoil the broth, the old adage goes. Are too many corporations crowding into the natural foods kitchen spoiling the organic label?
That debate is being argued with increasing passion, anxiety and volume, as some industry pioneers wonder if organic is about to become a victim of its own incredible success.
With greater numbers of large companies establishing their own organic lines, or swallowing existing brands, their influence has grown within the rule-setting National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). At the same time, the NOSB has been allowing more nonorganic substances into organic foods — from 77 approved nonorganic compounds in 2002 to more than 250 today. Critics say this is no coincidence.
The New York Times examined the issue of organic integrity earlier this month: “The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic. Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Health Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.”
The Times described the inner workings of the NOSB: “The board has 15 members, and a two-thirds majority is required to add a substance to the list. More and more, votes on adding substances break down along corporate-independent lines, with one swing vote. Six board members, for instance, voted in favor of adding ammonium nonanoate, a herbicide, to the accepted organic list in December . . . Big Organic lost that round. Had it prevailed, it would have been the first time a herbicide was put on the list.”
For purists, the idea that an Organic Politburo is making such important decisions is unsettling, and provides yet another reason to look for alternatives. Fortunately, independent organic companies still exist.
One Degree long ago realized that an organic certification is just not what it once was, nor what it should be. While the NOSB debates adding synthetic compounds to your meal, we’ve moved beyond organic, setting a new high standard of safe veganic cultivation and complete ingredient transparency.
Political influence has never gotten an ingredient added to our label, and never will.