Organic food is the fastest growing segment in the food industry in America as well as worldwide, and no wonder! With the increasing amount of synthetic pesticides, herbicides and bioengineered products out there, many people are concerned about the safety and nutrition of their food. Today, Wal-Mart, Albertson’s, Randall’s, HEB and a host of major retailers offer a large selection or organic products, including their own private label lines such as “O” Organics and Central Market Organics. As an organic consumer, I have been very excited about the growth of the organic market and actually helped push organic sales at Kroger as a Store Manager for seven years, growing that market by 25-30% consistently year after year.
Yet, as more and more consumers are becoming health- and environmentally-conscious, the demand for organic foods has surpassed what the small farms and “mom and pop” dairies can produce, causing these farms to procure their products from increasingly distant sources, even abroad. The large agri-corporations, eager to hop on board this growing sales trend and put a stop to the bleeding of lost revenues, have joined the organic niche, thereby straining the already overwhelmed supply. In fact, the majority of those organic products available to you at the supermarket is now produced by the same companies whose practices are threatening to destroy the purity of the industry.
As companies like Kraft, General Mills and Heinz have entered into the market, they have also acquired some of these smaller organic producers. We should be reminded of the saying, “Bigger is not always better,” and consumers should be wary of these products as these huge agri-corporations are also the same companies that bring us some of the most non-nutritious bio-engineered junk on the market today.
There is a growing concern that the influence of these mega-corporations will likely result in lowered certification standards for organic foods, contamination of these foods with conventional and biotech products, and an overall destruction of the fundamentals of what it means to “buy and eat organic.” For example, in a recent correspondence with Kellogg’s corporate office regarding their Kashi line of products, I was told that Kashi “can not guarantee that any Kashi product [even their organic line!] contains no GMO’s”. This is likely because Kashi grains are grown nearby adjacent GMO fields, which is known to cause cross-contamination.
Kellogg’s continued to say that they are currently lobbying for a national GMO certification process. Sounds like a good thing at first, but these are the same companies that are lobbying in this country and abroad for more and more acres of GMO product worldwide to help alleviate the food crisis. Biotech products are not the answer to the food crisis. Local, organic, sustainable agriculture is a better start.
I also contacted corporate headquarters of ConAgra to obtain a list of products the company produces that contain GMO’s. ConAgra flatly refused my request on two separate occasions, even failing to answer my question whether a specific product (David’s Sunflower Seeds!) was a genetically modified organism. Instead, I received this response: “The formulas we are using for our products have been around for quite some time now and, as always, we use only ingredients that are fully approved by the USDA and the FDA. We thank you for contacting us and will pass your comments on to others in our organization. Sincerely, Jennifer”
Now why would they refuse such requests? And why did she not even address my question?
The simple fact that Jennifer left out is that ConAgra is one of the largest agri-corporation lobbyists that were able to successfully pressure the USDA and FDA to approve the introduction of genetically modified foods into our food supply in the early 1990’s. Since then, GMO’s have proliferated and recent studies show that over 75% of the foods available in your supermarket contain GMO’s [as of early 2005]. Interestingly enough, ADHD, allergies, asthma, and other ailments have been on the rise the past decade and a half. Is there a correlation? Have there been significant studies on the safety of these products on the human body? Have there been significant studies on the effects of these bioengineered organisms on the environment? The answers to those questions is a resounding, “No.” Shouldn’t we stop and ask ourselves, “Are we carelessly sacrificing our health and the balance of our ecosystems to make more profits for the agri-corporations?”
So what’s a consumer to do? Boycott these companies? Write Congress? I don’t have the answers, but if you are concerned about this as I am, then we consumers should get together and plan for the future. The future of our food is the future of humanity.
The illustration below shows how much of the organic industry today is controlled by the same group of biotech agri-corporations that bring you things like Cocoa Puffs cereal, Diet Coke, Snickers bars, and Pop Tarts. Think they care about the quality of food that goes into your family? Looking at this list, there are only about four or five products that we purchase from these companies and their subsidiaries. I don’t feel particularly good about feeding the beast that destroyed nutritious foods, which is why I don’t buy their crap products. Why should I give them money to destroy the organic industry with as well?! If you need any further convincing, look at who the shareholders of these companies are! For example, the principle shareholders for General Mills are Philip Morris (big tobacco), Exxon/Mobil (big oil), General Electric (defense/weapons contractor), Chevron (big oil), Nike (slave-labor exploiter), McDonald’s (fast-food), Target Stores (slave-labor exploiter), Monsanto (biotech company), Dupont (weapons & pesticides), Dow Chemical (producer of Agent Orange, breast implants, napalm), and Texas Instruments (weapons producer and one of G.W. Bush’s top contributors), among others.
At any rate, … food for thought …