November 28, 2006
Cornucopia Institute Charges Wal-Mart with Organic Product Misrepresentation
The Cornucopia Institute, an aggressive organic farming watchdog, has filed a formal legal complaint with the USDA asking them to investigate allegations of illegal “organic” food distribution by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Cornucopia has documented cases of nonorganic food products being sold as organic in Wal-Mart’s grocery departments. More
The mismarketed food was Stonyfield fFarms nonfat plain yogurt and nonfat vanilla yogurt. It's an easy mistake to make: the lowfat plain yogurt is organic, but the nonfat plain yogurt is not organic. Nevertheless, Wal-Mart should have straightened itself out once they were advised of the error.
The entry of Big Business into the organic food world is problematic. On the one hand, a huge company like Wal-Mart has tremendous market clout. If Wal-Mart wants organic food, organic production will have to increase. This seems like a good thing. The more organic food, the more it becames the norm not to use harmful chemicals in food production.
But organic farming is not just about avoiding chemicals; it is about a way of life. Organic farmers, generally, are family farmers. Small scale, sustainable farming and close-knit communities are part of the organic ideal. Huge corporations, presumably, only have profit at heart. Cornucopia Institute has also been very critical of some organic dairy companies that qualify as "organic" based on the inputs they use (or don't use in the case of antibiotics), but nevertheless do not treat their animals well. If huge corporations take over organic farming, small, sustainable farmers will be squeezed out. Large companies may get to set the standards for production as they did with potatoes and poultry in the last century.
So while Cornucopia Institute seems rigidly unforgiving of Wal-Mart and its yogurt, the issue is really much bigger -- WalMart and organic do not go together very well. --DMB
November 28, 2006 | Permalink
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