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Clara T Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:19 PM
Original message
What We Need to Know About Corporate Takeover of the "Organic" Food Market
What We Need to Know About the Corporate Takeover of the "Organic" Food Market

Carole Resnick

" corporate globalization is really about an aggressive privatization of the water, biodiversity, and food systems of the Earth" Vandana Shiva, in an interview with YES Magazine (Winter '03 issue).

Organic food has been the refuge of many consumers who have become aware of the dangers of pesticides and other chemicals in the growing and processing practices of the commercial food industry. Many of us have come to trust the word "organic" as the indicator of safety and healthfulness in the foods we choose. We tend to make an implicit assumption that organic food producers are still small farmers who combine ecologically sound farming practices with a political agenda to promote and develop food systems which are local, sustainable, and able to survive independent of corporate agribusiness. More often than we realize, all that remains of this image is an illusion of advertising and marketing. Far too many of the local small farmers who brought the value of organic farming practices to public attention have been unable to survive the onslaught of corporate competition, as organic food has been "developed" in the corporate food arena.

What we call "organic" plant or animal food is, in fact, just plain food that has not been adulterated by chemicals in the process of doing what it does naturally _ growing. Organic does not necessarily mean humane treatment for animals (as in the case of dairy products or meat), nor does it mean regionally grown or fresh. The Northeast Organic Farming Association, the regional organization representing organic growers in the northeast, urges us to choose locally grown food which is not certified organic over organic food which is corporately marketed and travels long distances. Why? The environmental impact of long distance trucking, energy for refrigeration, etc., is extremely damaging. Food which travels far arrives as old food, trading in nutritional value for organic status. For example, the New York Times Sunday Magazine (5/13/01) reports that a strawberry traveling across the continent potentially provides 5 calories of food energy and takes 435 calories of fossilfuel energy to deliver.


A familiar brand name to organic shoppers is Hain. This company now owns many other organic brands, which continue to appear to be independent. Some examples include: Bearitos (chips), Bread Shop (granola), Celestial Seasonings (tea), Garden of Eatin', Health Valley, Imagine Foods (Rice Dream), Terra Chips, and Westbrae (canned vegetables, soy drinks, pastas, and more). And who owns Hain? The prime investors in the Hain Food Group are mutual funds and holding companies. Their principal stockholders are Phillip Morris (tobacco), Monsanto (genetically modified food), Citigroup (responsible for rainforest destruction), Exxon/Mobil, Wal-Mart, Entergy Nuclear, and Lockheed Martin (weapons manufacturer). In 9/99 the H.J. Heinz Co. acquired ownership of nearly 20% of Hain. And, no surprises here, Heinz is principally owned by the same mutual funds and principal stockholders as is Hain.

Cascadian Farms (the brand offering much of the organic frozen food on the market) and Muir Glen (tomato products) are owned by Small Planet Foods, which is the organic marketing "niche"owned by General Mills, the third biggest food conglomerate in North America. Agribusiness is guilty enough for negative impacts on the global environment, local economies, and the nutritional quality of the food most of us have little choice but to consume. But look who "owns" General Mills. Their principal investors are Philip Morris, Exxon/Mobil, General Electric, Chevron, Nike, McDonald's, Target Stores, Starbucks, Monsanto, Dupont (weapons & pesticides), Dow Chemical (Agent Orange, breast implants, napalm), Pepsico, Alcoa Aluminium, Disney, and Texas Instruments (weapons producer and one of G.W. Bush's top contributors).
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Geek_Girl Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:28 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thanks for posting this
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Clara T Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:40 PM
Response to Reply #1
4. A few other bits
from my research on this. one also finds this incredible labyrinth of mutual funds in the midst of the "Organic Movement". So you buy some pre-packaged organic chips and you're supporting diamond mining/prostitution in Liberia. How crazy is that?

Buy local when and if you can is my response.

M&M/Mars has acquired Seeds of Change, an organic seed company that also sells ready-made products like organic pasta sauces and salsas as well as grain-based side dishes. M&M/Mars produces candy and chocolate bars, such as Starburst, Skittles, Snickers, Milky Way and M&Ms.

Walnut Acres organic soups, salsas and tomato sauces (which also owns Mountain Sun juices and Millinas Finest pasta sauces), is owned by Acirca, Inc., a privately held company owned by employees and investors.

Worthington Foods, Morningstar Farms, Natural Touch and Loma Linda, all of whom make meat substitutes and other vegetarian products,are owned by the Kellogg Company. Kelloggs produces a variety of popular supermarket items, from cereals like Rice Krispies and Crispix to Eggo Waffles and Pop -Tarts.
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DBoon Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:50 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. Buy local and make it yourself
making your own snack food is a lot of fun!
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Lorien Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:58 PM
Response to Reply #4
8. Ug. They really are on their way to owning EVERYTHING we consume
I guess I'll be making my way to the farmer's markets from now on. I sure wish I had the land for my own garden and eggs.
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Clara T Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 11:25 PM
Response to Reply #8
11. Any community gardens nearby?
I haven't ANY space for gardening but a fortunate to have garden space in community gardens.

Container gardens are also an option. Sprouting is really awesome! And if you have your own house you can do window boxes. Build out from the window a bit and make mini-greenhouses. Fresh free lettuce all year round this way.
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Rainscents Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:31 PM
Response to Original message
2. Thanks for this info!
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Nikki Stone 1 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:40 PM
Response to Original message
3. Didn't realize Hain and Cascadian Farms were large corporate types
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ClayZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:48 PM
Response to Original message
5.  Farmers Markets here!

The freshest, healthiest, most flavorful organic food is what's grown closest to you. Use our website to find farmers' markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies. Just click on the map below to zoom in, or use our search form for quick results. If you are a farmer, market manager, or run a business related to locally-grown food, you can add your listing to our directory - free.
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dmr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 11:10 PM
Response to Reply #5
10. Great link, thank you! n/t
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Scout1071 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 10:52 PM
Response to Original message
7. Damn. I've been buying the Muir Glen stewed tomatoes.
Going to have to re-evaluate that....thanks for posting.
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ClayZ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 01:09 AM
Response to Reply #7
16. Seed Savers! Grow your own!
Edited on Thu Jan-19-06 01:12 AM by ClayZ
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NashVegas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 10:08 PM
Response to Reply #7
22. Yeah, That One Breaks My Heart
Because I love cooking with Muir Glen. Until another indie comes along, or I learn how to can, I don't see my use of that brand changing.

Horizon Organic (dairy) I never cared for as much as Organic Valley. When Harris Teeter dropped OV from its cases two years ago in favor of HO, I wrote an email complaining. I wasn't the only one. They re-added OV within a month or two.

It's never a bad idea to take the time to write to your grocer. Especially if your grocer was "ahead of the curve" when it comes to organic produce and products. The point I made to them was along the lines of, 'I've been buying this brand at your store for years, I'm not hopping on a trend, and am upset that you're dropping something that kept me coming back to your store in favor of trend-hoppers."
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MadHound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-18-06 11:01 PM
Response to Original message
9. In the face of GM crops, one thing we should all look for
Is the Heirloom crops. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are plants that have been with us for hundreds of years. In some cases, like Osage Garlic, their linage has nearly died out, only to have been saved by pure chance. In others, like Virginia Winesap apples, the plants have been diligently handed down through the generations. These plants are becoming a growing movement, in direct response to the rise of Frankenfoods, a sustained effort to let nature's own fruit live, thrive and survive.

Yes, some of this produce looks little or nothing like what you're used too. But next time you're at the farmers market, take a chance on those small, red tinged heads of lettuce, or those large orange tomatoes. What you'll find out is that this produce is much better than hybrids, fruits and vegetables tasting like they originally were, delicious and good for you.
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Clara T Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 12:44 AM
Response to Reply #9
13. Open pollinated heirloom seeds
is the way to go.

High Mowing Seeds is a place in Vermont that specializes in these seeds. There are several others around.
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preciousdove Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 12:37 AM
Response to Original message
12. Question for fans of organic
How far did the story of federal raid of a Minneapolis bakery a week or so ago for not labeling bread as wheat that had different but similar grains? Bakery had it labeled as the correct name and as listed as "wheat alternative".

There was no warning prior to the raid. They shut them down, confiscated their inventory that day, their files and posted the place.

Just what are they up to?
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Yollam Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 12:53 AM
Response to Original message
14. Thanks for a very informative post.
It's mind-boggling all the thinks we're supposed to stay wary of, though, isn't it?
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upi402 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 12:59 AM
Response to Original message
15. I used to buy organic first, and local farms as a second choice.
I may rethink that. Good info I didn't know.
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mia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 01:13 AM
Response to Original message
17. Seed Savers Exchange
I met some "seed savers" in the late 80's at a conference featuring Vendana Shiva. She spoke on the subject of seeds and biodiversity.

This website sounds a lot like some of the folks I met after the speech. It's probably a good place to buy organic seeds.

Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit organization that saves and shares the heirloom seeds of our garden heritage, forming a living legacy that can be passed down through generations. When people grow and save seeds, they join an ancient tradition as stewards, nurturing our diverse, fragile, genetic and cultural heritage.

Our organization is saving the worlds diverse, but endangered, garden heritage for future generations by building a network of people committed to collecting, conserving and sharing heirloom seeds and plants, while educating people about the value of genetic and cultural diversity. Few gardeners comprehend the true scope of their garden heritage or how much is in immediate danger of being lost forever.

Heritage Farm, SSEs scenic 890-acre headquarters near Decorah, Iowa, is a living museum of historic varieties. Amish carpenters have constructed an inspirational meeting area in the barns cathedral-like loft, and also a complex of offices and seed storage facilities that feature a magnificent oak post-and-beam frame. This unique educational center is designed to maintain and display collections of endangered food crops. Each summer an estimated 5,000 visitors tour Heritage Farms organic Preservation Gardens, Historic Orchard, and Ancient White Park cattle.
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Trish1168 Donating Member (371 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 11:45 AM
Response to Original message
18. NAIS, national animal identity system
This is yet another way to take over small farms. This bill is being pushed by Monsanto and RFID business (readio frequency ID tags). The bill requires all farmers to chip their animals....ALL ANIMALS, even chickens which are only alive for 6 weeks. A private company (not sure who) will enter your information into a database. Industry and private individuals (not government) will be responsible for the cost of the program (expect heavy fees).

Horse owners, this will apply to you too. If your horse is used for pleasure (and not food), you will not be able to even go on a trail ride, unless its in the data base (some form of ID is mandatory, but may not have to be chip). Every goat, bird, pig, llama....everything....will be in this database, along with all your information.

As always, fear is being used to push this program through. They are basing their rationale on fear of mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalitis or BSE). They are doing this to 'protect us', when I think their real intent is to force small farmers out of business and to discourage individuals from growing their own food. Other countries are testing all their cows in order to prevent the spread of BSE. No not us. We're going to have a database instead, with non food animals in there. Clearly, this is not about protecting us.

In my opinion they are moving to control all we consume. If they control all our essentials, they control us.

Please, raise awareness on NAIS. They want it in place by 2008. Right now, several states have pilot programs. These will be used to prove NAIS a success (even if its not).
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Clara T Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 08:56 PM
Response to Reply #18
20. "ultrapasteurized" using a highheat process that "kills the milk,"
"Writing for the New York Times Sunday Magazine (5/13/01), Michael Pollan reported that Organic Cow, previously represented to consumers as an organic dairy based in the Northeast and consisting of a network of small farms, was bought out by Horizon. Another source of organic dairy products, Horizon is a $127 million public corporation that has become the Microsoft of organic milk, controlling 70 percent of the retail market. The milk is now "ultrapasteurized" using a highheat process that "kills the milk," destroying its enzymes and many of its vitamins so it can be sold over long distances. Arguably, ultrapasteurized organic milk is actually less nutritious than conventionally pasteurized non-organic milk. Horizon's "factory farms" in the West are described as a clear example of the certifiability of inhumane practices through the emerging corporate organics system. Pollan writes: "On Horizon's dairy farms in the west, thousands of cows that never encounter a blade of grass spend their days confined to a fenced dry lot, eating (certified organic) grain and tethered to milking machines three times a day."
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HippieCowgirl Donating Member (242 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 01:26 PM
Response to Original message
19. "Organic" can sometimes be misleading
Yesterday I was at the grocery store and picked up a bunch of organic banannas. I looked at the sticker (Dole) and saw that the banannas were grown in Paraguay. The first thing through my mind is, "Well, what passes for organic in Paraguay?"

What passes for organic, here? With the oligarchs taking over all of the regulatory agencies, does FDA certified organic means it has NO pesticides, or does it mean it was produced with only a few pesticides or fertilizers that were certified as "harmeless" by the FDA? Even the food sold at the bigger "organic" markets can be suspect.

I would buy my food from the "farmer's market" down the road, but I have noticed that even there the fuits and veggies on the stand are brand-name, or they are from South of the Border (Mexico, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay) where god knows what was sprayed on them.

Learn how to grow your own food in small spaces (my garden is 4 ft x 4 ft x ??tall) and makes plenty of greens, beans and tomatoes, and squash), support city gardens, look for local growers' co-ops...there's a lot you can do to get better food.
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Gormy Cuss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-19-06 09:21 PM
Response to Original message
21. Corporatizing organic isn't necessarily a bad thing.
The more product sold, the less nonorganic foodstuffs we have in the food supply. That said, we need to be vigilant in protesting efforts to dilute the meaning of "organic" when applied to foodstuffs, because that's where the bean counters can destroy all the advances in organic and sustainable farming in this country.

And buy locally grown food and grow your own when you can. Buy organic, open-pollinated varieties and learn to save seed.
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