If you’re even remotely interested in food, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen the article that ran in Sunday’s New York Times called “Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?” We summarized it here, and it has been all over the web for the last few days.
Author Stephanie Strom profiled Michael Potter, the owner of Eden Foods, and one of a shrinking list of people who own large, independent companies producing organic food. She also spent a great deal of time detailing the consolidation of the organic industry (a fact many consumers were introduced to by these popular mind map-like charts from Michigan State University). Strom writes:
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, Healthy Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.
Strom names representatives from companies such as General Mills, Driscoll, Earthbound Farm, and Whole Foods who are currently (or recently) on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). And while she acknowledges that only four of the current 15 seats are occupied by people representing corporations, she also points out that all four voted to approve several controversial additives in processed organic foods. (One additive is a synthetic form of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA made from algae oil, which the Cornucopia Institute, an advocacy organization, says is the subject of something they call “Organic Watergate”[PDF].)
It's chilling stuff, for sure. But is it enough to convince us that -- as Strom writes -- the organic industry is “mostly pure fantasy”?