business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post this morning writes about how “record organic sales in the United States totaled nearly $50 billion in 2017,” “meteoric” growth though it still represents less than six percent of total food sales.

The story says, “This has resulted in organic growers and food companies that, although technically adhering to the definition of organic — no chemically formulated fertilizers, growth stimulants, antibiotics or pesticides — are a far cry from the idealism and high standards with which the movement began.

“Now the Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group best known as an organic industry watchdog, is trying to promote higher standards among the accredited certifying agents hired by organic farmers, processors and handlers to ensure that their practices comply with regulations established when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. Organic farmers’ original intent was to create a level playing field in the market and to provide consumers assurance about a minimum uniform standard for organic production.”

The problem is that even “certified organic” may not mean everything consumers may think it does.

According to the story, “the Cornucopia Institute ranked all 45 domestic certifiers on their adherence to the spirit and letter of the organic law. The institute found significant variation in how certifiers interpret regulations, variation that frequently benefits huge corporate farms and competitively disadvantages those comporting themselves ethically.

“Certifiers are paid by the farms and food businesses they certify, which can make for cozy and in many cases unscrupulous relationships. But more important, the scorecard found, the kinds of businesses being greenlighted are at odds with consumers’ understanding of organics.”
KC's View:
I’m a big believer in standards and in having certification processes that engender trust as opposed to erode it. There’s nothing worse than when companies cut corners and take advantage of consumers’ willingness to believe.