Organic Link Love – Banana Problems, GMO-Corn Banned, College Students Pushing for Organic, and LOTS More

Written by Max Goldberg on October 22, 2013. Follow Max on Twitter: @livingmaxwell.

organic-bananas

There has been a ton going on in the organic food world lately, so let me get you caught up.

The other day I wrote about the trick that major food companies were employing in Washington State’s GMO-labeling campaign. They funneled their money through the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) in order to avoid disclosing their opposition to GMO-labeling. Why did they do this?

In last year’s Proposition 37, California’s ballot initiative to label GMOs, these companies faced HUGE backlash and didn’t want to receive that negative publicity all over again.

Well, the Attorney General in Washington believed that this maneuver violated state laws and filed a lawsuit to force disclosure of who donated money to defeat his state’s GMO-labeling initiative. The GMA quickly folded and made the donor names public. Not surprisingly, it was many of the same players who were against Proposition 37 in California.

In other GMO news, Oregon passed a bill to limit GMO oversight, a real step backwards, but a Mexican judge banned GMO-corn in that country.

We got some positive news from Hawaii where legislators on the island of Kauai in Hawaii have approved a bill that would restrict the use of pesticides by companies developing genetically-engineered crops. (By the way, if you haven’t watched this video “Stop Monsanto From Poisoning Hawaii: Genetic Engineering Chemical Warfare”, please do so. You will be shocked at what is going on there.) 

The new food safety rules are going to be very costly for small organic farmers and will force many of them to abandon organic production. To help fight against these new rules, please help these farmers and sign Cornucopia’s proxy-letter by clicking HERE.

In Wisconsin, important organic subsidies have been lost and this may lead to a decrease in the number of organic farmers.

Organic distributor UNFI has acquired Trudeau Foods in Minnesota, and farm-to-table grocery start-up GoodEggs landed an $8.5M investment from Sequoia Capital, arguably the top venture capital firm in the world.

In terms of innovation, New Hope launched its NEXT Accelerator at Expo East last month. This virtual product is going to be a serious game-changer in the organic industry and will greatly help facilitate commerce, growth, and connections. When Diana Mercer from New Hope showed me a demo of it in Baltimore, I was blown away. It’s brilliant. (To learn more, click HERE.)

Not to be outdone, AHPA and QAI have launched an Organic Toolbox for the organic supplement market.

University of Wisconsin students get serious about having organic food served on campus, and a student starts an organic food co-op at her British university.

Fortunately, there is an organic oasis in the South L.A. food desert, and Delaware welcomes its first organic-only dairy.

Whole Foods Market is rumored to be considering a brand new retail concept in NYC and will be opening a new store in Mayor Cory Booker’s city in Newark, NJ.

Lots of interesting organic news around the globe. 

An eco-friendly school will open in Dubai that has a huge organic farm, and there is a super-cool program called Farm Up Jamaica to spur growth of organic food on the island. I was really touched by the story about the Thai organic farmer who the World Food Day Award.

Sales of organic products in England are finally starting to recover. The organic food industry in India is expected to grow approximately 20% per year for the next 5 years, and more farmers in the Philippines are going organic .

And there has been a lot of positive news out of Pakistan. The government has been urged to ban highly hazardous pesticides, and citizens there are slowly embracing an organic lifestyle.

Organic production in the Dominican Republic is growing at 30%, with bananas leading the way.  Yet, it isn’t all positive banana news. Banana Freckle eradication in Australia has hit organic farmers very hard, and organic banana production is expected to fall by 20% in Peru because of red spot and scale plagues.

Meanwhile, quotas are holding back organic egg farmers in Canada, and banks in Denmark are pressuring organic farmers to give up and switch to conventional.

Lastly, there have been serious changes in regards to the process of how prohibited substances (such as synthetics) are allowed to remain in organic standards.

In a joint statement released by Consumers Union, The Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and Beyond Pesticides, these groups said that the USDA has “gutted” the National Organic Law and that the public process regarding this rule change has been circumvented.

While she doesn’t refer to these groups directly, Melody Meyer, the new president of the board of directors at the Organic Trade Association (OTA), has said that these accusations are “lies” and went on to defend this new move in her blog post.

In response to Melody Meyer’s defending this rule new change, former National Organic Standards Board president James Riddle resigned from the OTA and wrote a scathing piece on Cornucopia’s blog where he said that Melody Meyer “displayed an alarming lack of understanding of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) Final Rule, as well as disrespect for public interest groups who have been part of the organic movement from the beginning.”

I am still in the fact-finding stage to give my opinion on the entire matter, but I can tell you this.

Consumers Union, The Center for Food Safety, and Food & Water Watch are some of the most trusted watch-dog organizations that we have in the organic industry. I know the people who run these non-profits, and the work that they do is absolutely impeccable.

So, if they are all joining forces and calling out the USDA on this move, it raises a very serious eyebrow that the OTA is defending the USDA’s action, especially in light of OTA’s checkered past.

At the end of the day, we must defend the organic seal, and what it stands for, at all costs. The integrity of organic can never be compromised.

Stay tuned, as there will be more to come on this incredibly important subject.

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8 Comments

  1. This is impressive! I have about 20 tabs open now to check out:) I must ask how do you find all of this stuff lol? Organic love and GMO info from all over! Thanks for sharing Max!

    Written by Sarah on October 22, 2013 @ 9:41 pm
  2. Max-

    Thanks for the 150% effort-very important info that I almost missed– Thanks.

    Written by Bob Cooney on October 22, 2013 @ 10:21 pm
  3. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks so much! It takes a lot of time and a lot of reading!!!! But I want to give you all some important and useful information, so it is worth it.

    All the best,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 23, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
  4. My pleasure, Bob!!! All the best, Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 23, 2013 @ 3:57 pm
  5. Hi Max,

    Toward the end of your post, you said something that caught my attention:

    At the end of the day, we must defend the organic seal, and what it stands for, at all costs. The integrity of organic can never be compromised.

    After reading Stop the lies and get behind your National Organic Program (including the entire comment thread that followed)–and while thinking about what you said–I suddenly realized something: the “organic community” is divided into two groups of people: those who are driven by moral objectives, and those who are driven by monetary objectives. In a perfect world, these objectives could coexist peacefully. That is, the production of safe, natural food would be profitable enough to satisfy all stakeholders. Unfortunately, in the business world, there’s no such thing as profitable enough, and there will always be stakeholders willing to sacrifice safe and natural in order to increase profits. (After all, isn’t that the trade-off that ruined conventional food in the first place?)

    There was a time when organic wasn’t considered a lucrative market, so organic farmers/producers were presumed to have the same basic principles as organic consumers. As organic has grown into a multi-billion-dollar market, it has attracted individuals and organizations who are financially motivated and morally indifferent–and therefore, that presumption is no longer accurate.

    What your comment made me realize is that many people–myself included–have been clinging to the idea that what’s good for organic farmers is good for the organic movement. Not only is this assumption invalid, but it has the potential to harm the organic movement by convincing true organic advocates to support policies that actually work against their moral objectives. May all the “real” organic advocates remember: our goal is to promote healthy food and a healthy planet–the organic industry is merely a means to that end.

    Written by Toad Bro on October 23, 2013 @ 4:50 pm
  6. Thanks for the awesome update Max. I’d love to figure out a way to showcase them on my website. Can we discuss?

    Written by Andrea Donsky on October 25, 2013 @ 8:01 pm
  7. Hi Toad,

    Organic has become big business, no doubt about it. And there are factions that want to weaken organic rules. Therefore, it is essential that we all get involved and do what we can to protect the system and its integrity. Opting out of organic, simply because it has become a big business, is not an effective way to change or protect the system.

    Live well,
    Max

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 28, 2013 @ 1:22 pm
  8. Thanks Andrea and absolutely!

    Written by Max Goldberg on October 28, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

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