Food Literacy

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Title: Food Literacy All Organic Food Is (Not) Created Equal
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Shulman, Lauren
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2009
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: Organic Food
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theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The language of certified organic food lacks clarity. As the organic industry has blossomed, so has the myriad of available organic products, yet the term "organic" has remained the label to describe all of these items. Since these items are certified "organic" in accordance with regulated standards, it is assumed that all organic industry participants mean the same thing when using the term "organic." By examining the founding organic ideals and comparing these ideals to the manifestations of certified "organic" practices, this analysis suggests that not all organic foods are produced, processed and distributed equally. The term "organic" has environmental, social and political connotations, but industrial organic agribusiness has infiltrated the industry and drastically changed the food label�s meaning. The term "organic" does not suggest a sustainable, alternative type of agriculture anymore; now, it denotes a process. It is important that the public is aware of this definitional disparity in order to make educated food decisions and purchases.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lauren Shulman
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2009
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Clark, Maribeth

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Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2009 S57
System ID: NCFE004174:00001

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Material Information

Title: Food Literacy All Organic Food Is (Not) Created Equal
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Shulman, Lauren
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2009
Publication Date: 2009


Subjects / Keywords: Organic Food
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: The language of certified organic food lacks clarity. As the organic industry has blossomed, so has the myriad of available organic products, yet the term "organic" has remained the label to describe all of these items. Since these items are certified "organic" in accordance with regulated standards, it is assumed that all organic industry participants mean the same thing when using the term "organic." By examining the founding organic ideals and comparing these ideals to the manifestations of certified "organic" practices, this analysis suggests that not all organic foods are produced, processed and distributed equally. The term "organic" has environmental, social and political connotations, but industrial organic agribusiness has infiltrated the industry and drastically changed the food label�s meaning. The term "organic" does not suggest a sustainable, alternative type of agriculture anymore; now, it denotes a process. It is important that the public is aware of this definitional disparity in order to make educated food decisions and purchases.
Statement of Responsibility: by Lauren Shulman
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2009
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Clark, Maribeth

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2009 S57
System ID: NCFE004174:00001

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FOOD LITERACY: ALL ORGANIC FOOD IS (NOT) CREATED EQUAL BY LAUREN SHULMAN A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Humanities New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the Sponsorship of Maribeth Clark Sarasota, Florida April, 2009


Table of Contents List of Figures iii Preface iv Acknowledgments vi Glossary vii Introduction 1 Chapter One: The Term Organic Sprouts 7 Chapter Two: The Term Organic Breaks Down 37 Chapter Three: The Term Organic Ferments 62 Conclusion 71 Appendix A: Biodynamic Agriculture 72 Appendix: Other Food Labels 74 Bibliography 76 ii


Figures 1. Different Organic Labels...34 2. A Map of Organic Corporate Relationships ....44 3. Erewhons Crispy Rice Cereal Label.........56 4. Earths Best Baby Food Label...............56 5. Organic Valley Milk Carton Label....56 iii


Preface This project has spawned from two ma jor events in my life. The first experience took place in a canyon in Montic ello, New Mexico. During 2007 I spent a total of six months at Jardin del Alma, a small organic family farm that I contacted through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). Originally, I did not know why I went there, just that I n eeded a break from my studies. As I spent each day weeding the beds, planting, work ing the greenhouse, feeding the chickens, and hanging out with the tw o little boys, I changed. The regularity of my schedule allowed me to peer into the beauty of a sustainable food operation. Combined with the warmth of the Cravenocks who welcomed me into their family like an old friend, I have never looked at food the same way since. As I returned to the world I left be hind, New College of Florida, the second event that shaped my thesis occurred: I went to Whole Foods Market to buy some groceries. I was so taken aback by the disconnection between the food sources and corporate presence of the store that I did not know what to purchase. I began to rack my brain for answers. What is right with this picture? How can a TV dinner be certified organic? Why do people need to eat blueberries in December? My investigation had begun as a pers onal quest to understand what I was eating. This thesis is just the beginni ng of my personal journey to understand the mechanisms that govern food production a nd consumption. I attempted to involve Whole Foods Market in my research direc tly, but that dialogue did not develop. They would not support a conversation because of corporate policy, specifically the examination of imagery of organic processed food. iv


It is my sincerest hope that this sheds light for all eaters that are confused by the organic frozen TV dinner. I also hope th at this thesis opens the door for a dialogue between scholars about the paradoxical nature of the organic food industry. May it be an enjoyable read! v


Acknowledgments A myriad of people influenced the succe ssful completion of this project and I am grateful for all of the people who have helped me up to this point. My life has forever been changed from my experiences on Jardin del Alma in New Mexico, and for the novel perspectives I gained from that land, I thank Joshua, Lalynn, Ashe, and Mokena Cravenock as well Bre tt Traynor and Katie Alessi. I am indebted to the faculty whose encouragement and persistence got me through this project. If Carl Shaw had not played a pers istent and encouraging role within my studies, I would not have attempted to write this project in the first place. Furthermore, without Maribeth Clarks pati ence and guidance, it would not be in the hands of readers today. Also I thank Karsten Henckell for his participation in this project, as well as his academic support for my voyage to New Mexi co in years past. My family has kept me up during this period of my life, and I truly cherish that. They have done nothing but helped me see what I can be capable of, once again. I love you all; this is for you. Lastly, I am so pleased to have endure d this process in the company of my best friends. I am blessed with quality companions who have never doubted me for a moment, specifically the McGwarthys in Chap el Hill. And lastly, I am grateful for Wandering Tree. Without that companions hipwell lets not th ink about that. vi


Glossary Communication: Communication is an activity involving two or more parties that uses a medium to successfully transmit information from a sender to receiver. Food literacy: An eater is food literate when she/he understands the connotations and the denotations of a food item, speci fically its corresponding certification labels. For example, in order to full y understand a book, a reader examines the context of the story, the time period it was written in and the authors personal history. This extra information frames the book and its intended meaning. In the same way, eaters need to critically think about food and examine labels in order to become food literate. Organicist: One who adheres to the traditional or ganic philosophy is identified as an organicist. The traditional organic phi losophy emphasizes the organic ideal a sustainable and natural agricultur al food operation that preserves the interdependent cycles of nature while producing healthy food. Processed foods: Foodstuffs that have been co nverted from raw materials into higher-value products through processi ng techniques are identified as processed foods. Common food proce ssing methods include canning, freezedrying, dehydration, fermentation, baking, cooking, etc. The majority of food found in grocery stores is processed food and theref ore it has a longer shelf life and often appears more convenient to consumers. vii


viii ALL ORGANIC FOOD IS NOT CREATED EQUAL Lauren Shulman New College of Florida, 2009 ABSTRACT The language of certified organic food lacks clarity. As the organic industry has blossomed, so has the myriad of av ailable organic products, yet the term organic has remained the label to describe all of these items. Since these items are certified organic in accordance with regu lated standards, it is assumed that all organic industry partic ipants mean the same thing when using the term "organic." By examining the founding organic ideals and comparing these ideals to the manifestations of certified o rganic practices, this anal ysis suggests that not all organic foods are produced, processed and distributed equally. The term organic has environmental, social and political connotations, but industrial organic agribusiness has infiltrated the industry and drastically cha nged the food labels meaning. The term organic does not suggest a sustainable, a lternative type of agriculture anymore; now, it de notes a process. It is important that the public is aware of this definitional disparity in order to make educated food decisions and purchases. Maribeth Clark Humanities


Introduction In order to clarify what the term o rganic conveys on grocery labels, food must be examined as a system of co mmunication. Food implies meaning concerning traditions, values, practices, beliefs, stigmas, and social norms while using culture to connect people to their food sources through the process of agricu lture. It relies on signifiers, institutions and syntax to ar ticulate such ideas. The multidimensional nature of food and its relationship to eaters is es sential to the message it communicates. Most intellectual tools for understandi ng foods suggest that it communicates cultural meaning which is supplied by consensual community usage. Food anthropologist Claude Fischl er suggests that food supplies a sense of cultural identity. Since cultures employ different food traditio ns and relationships, one comes to better understand his or her individual identity through food cultivation, preparation and consumption. He says that the way any given human group eats he lps it assert its diversity, hierarchy and organization, and at the same time, both its oneness and the otherness of whoever eats differently.1 This sense of identity proffered by food is culture specific. Mary Douglas approaches th e analysis of m eaning within food events, such as a family dinner, business lunch or feast, by codifying the elements that contribute to the event in her article Deciphering a Meal Such codes decipher between types of meals, food components that create an enti re meal and the meaning of binary pairs 1 Claude Fischler, Food, Self, and Identity, Social Science Information, 1988 27: 275-292, available from (accessed March 2009). 1


generated in food consumption, such as sweet and salty. Each element within a food event contributes to the broader meaning. As she claims, the rules of the menu are not in themselves more or less trivial than the rules of verse to which a poet submits.2 While her detailed analysis progresse s towards an understanding of what food may communicate, all meaning is not de rived from meal elements that can be codified. Other elements of communi cation, such as individual emotional connotations, need emphasis in order to holistically understa nd the communicative force of a meal. There is a difference be tween deciphering a meal and understanding it. Addressing the deeper meanings related to food in the article Towards a Pyschosociology of Food Consumption, Roland Barthes discusses food as a cultural system of communication with a develope d grammar. He argues that once people begin to view food as a signifier, food is no longer just a simple function serving our most primal need to satisfy hunger; food lends itself to deeper levels of communication. 3 Besides the institutions that produce, process and transport foodstuffs, foods signify attitudes. These opi nions are embedded within ones cultural and personal experience and are manifested through observable behaviors. Since food often communicates subjective attitudes, it is easier to quantify meaning within smaller cultures because members of food micro-communities often share cultural and personal experiences. 2 Mary Douglas, Deciphering a Meal, Daedalus 101, no. 1 (Winter 1972): 61-81. 3 Roland Barthes, Towards a Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption, in Food and Culture: A Reader (Second Edition), edited by Carole Counihan and Penny van Esterick, 28-35, (New York: Routledge, 2008). 2


Organic food is such a subculture. The term organic functions more often as a noun and adjective; it describes tradi tional agricultural pract ices that aim to manifest an ideal, sustainable and vi able food operation, and the food products associated with that operation. An appropriately labeled organic food item is produced according to an ideal natural, holistic farming pr actice that uses sustainable methods of cultivation in or der to ensure the quality of the farms produce and the health of its land of origin. The term org anic originated from a small community of language users who had similar personal e xperiences and backgr ounds in agriculture. But recently, organics have globa lly transcended cultures, making it difficult to assess exactly what the term means. As the market has grown to encompass the planet, the presence of the organic ideal within the international industry is becoming less easy to detect, and more often presented to consumers as a faade. The governing forces of agribusiness have shaped the certified organic label to differentiate a food item produced without chemicals. The term organic does not necessarily indicate a sustainable, natura l agricultural production method anymore and unfortunately, more and more organic pa rticipants rely solely on the certified label to ensure organic integrity without re alizing its inadequaci es. The language of organic food has shifted to oversimplify and understate the widening diversity of organically produced food through nati onal regulations and standards. Now, there are different degrees of the term organic. This huge discrepancy within the organic industry illuminates the largest inconsistency of the organic label: both the small farmer and the transnational co rporation use the same term to describe different products; these goods are dissimila r because they are the results of unlike 3


agricultural production models On one side of the spectrum, organic denotes sustainable farming practices that enhance community food security and land stewardship. On the other end, transna tional food corporati ons produce certified organic food on large, envir onmentally destructive farms w ith little attention towards the ecological consequences of this sort of agricultural production. All organic food is not created equal. As author and food activist Cindy Burke notes, many consumers are beginning to understand that some foods are more organic than others.4 As the term organic grows to encompass the global food community and the many varied practices within that community, it is nearly impossible to ensure organic integrity thr ough the absence or presence of the organic label. Until manifestations of the term organic are compared with the ideal it supposedly represents, it will not be clear ex actly what this term indicates. The fact that most consumers assume this label is effective suggests the existence of a global linguistic problem. The term organic attempts to communi cate an abstract id eal and attitude about a type of food and its production; however the pr oducts expressing the term organic sometimes greatly differ from th is ideal and the ramifications of this cultural linguistic phenomenon are vast and complicated, as I will show. In this work, I address the growing disparity between the meaning of the term organic and 4 Cindy Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic: What You Need to Know to Choose the Healthiest, Safest, Most Earth-Friendly Food, (New York: Marlowe and Company, 2007), 66. 4


the many inconsistent manifestations of this term with food cultivation and production. The gap between the use of the te rm organic and the meaning it implies shows that it has not effectively functioned as a term to designate an alternative food system. In the first chapter, I discuss the roots and subtleties of the sustainable organic ideal established during the Industrial Re volution by organic pi oneers including Sir Albert Howard, and Rudolf Steiner. Orga nic farms were envisioned to create a sustainable, waste-free method of food cult ivation while providing local community stimulation and stability. Th e organic ideal emphasizes a holistic paradigm through which to consider the farm, and all of the or ganisms within it. It has an implied set of sustainable social, economic, environmenta l and national health attitudes. Organic farming methods include crop rotation, companion planting, soil fertility maintenance through composting, and the prohibition of synthetic inputs within cultivation. An organic farmer knows his or her land well. By examining the myriad of factors that form the organic ideal, it is clear that each example is rooted in individual strengths: no two organic farms cultivate and harvest in exactly the same manner. In the second chapter, I examine the organic industry and how it manifested the standardized certifiabl e organic practices. The cons ervative nature of these standards consequently faci litated the convers ion of organic agriculture into mainstream food production, to which it was originally opposed. Eventually industrial organic agriculture floode d the market, and incorporated global production and transportation methods, monocu ltural large farm units, natio nal food store chains, and the marginalization of the small farmer. Organic integrity decreased as global 5


involvement in the organic food industry increased. Ironically, the mainstream production of organic goods was integral to the spread of the organic philosophy and organic movement. In the last chapter, the move ments beyond-organic are examined, specifically focusing on alternative food philosophies that attempt to compensate for the inadequacies of th e term organic. The food label Fairtrade and the locavore movement are examined. Fairtrade addresse s labor issues and fair farmer wages in third world countries. Yet it is standardized and ineffec tively addresses the viability of a global food market. The term locavor e represents a phil osophy concerned with eating local and region al food; it flexibly maintains its abstract roots and does not accept standardization. The m ovement clearly addresses is sues within the global food industry, such as transportation, and outsour cing. These concepts both have the ability to enhance the urban shoppers abil ity to make smart food choices. 6


Chapter One The Term Organic Sprouts Organic is a term used by politicia ns, scientists, consumers, farmers, businesspeople, activists, foodie idealists and others to desc ribe a type of alternative agriculture; however, these organic constituents do not share a common understanding of the term. Each participan ts definition varies, depending on his or her motivation for defining the word, and how they have been indoctrinated into organic practices. With many voices competi ng to offer a classification, settling on a universal designation of the term organic is complicated, maybe even impossible. Examining the global organic industry illu strates the difficulties of classifying the term organic since there are countless different products that are manifestations of organic methods and philosophies. As the organic industry has grown exponentially, almost any type of product found in a grocery store can be labeled organic as long as it follows the corresponding certification standard s. Other than the usual produce and vegetables, organic produc ts include dog food, clothing, cosmetics and other body care items, frozen dinners, and bamboo cutting boards. Due to such rapid growth, larger companies, which typi cally may not have emphasized health or sustainability in their respective businesse s, are infiltrating the profitable organic industry. A case in point is growing fast food involvement in the market, such as McDonalds 2005 test run of organic, fair-trade coffee, which has expanded to 600 7


stores across the Northeast United States.5 Organics have been full of surprises, constantly expanding the potential of the term in order to fulfill the industrys global demand. It is regularly taken for granted that all organic food is cultivated under the exact same principles with similar u nderstandings. Organic farms have long emphasized natural ideals of biodiversity a nd realize these principles on small scale agricultural operations; howev er the industrys expansion has tainted established organic methods of production and distributi on, as the sizes, distribution networks, and yields of organic farms increase. Trad itional farmers believe that these larger operations present a conflict of interest supposedly protected within organic agriculture: the balance betw een humans and nature. Large food operations dominate the majority of the organic industry now, such as Cal-Organic and Earthbound Farms, and they abide by bare minimum national st andards that do not address agricultural issues related to fossil fuel dependence, ge nerated wastes of packaging and long term sustainability. Many degrees of organic agri culture function underneath the one term, and examining the organic farms suggests that it is near impossible to ensure uniform quality because there are so many different types. As participants quarrel over competing definitions, the establishment of uniform organic standards has proved diffi cult within the federal government. The clash between contending definitions is exemplified by the conflict between an organic farmer, Arthur Harvey, and the Unite d States Department of Agriculture. The 5 Melanie Warner, What Is Organic? Powerful Players Want a Say, New York Times, Pub. November 1, 2005, available from (accessed Feb. 2009); McDonalds to Keep Organic coffee Line in 600 Stores, Published January 2, 2009 available from (accessed February 2009). 8


National Organic Program (NOP) produced a list of national regulations that contradicted the 1990 Organic Food Production Acts previous standards by allowing the presence of synthetic i ngredients in organic products. Because of the inconsistent language between these two government docum ents, Harvey, a blueberry farmer from Maine, sued the Department of Agriculture in 2003.6 In 2005, the Court of Appeals ruled in Harveys favor and forced the Na tional Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to re-evaluate all synthetic ingredients with in organic products, pushing for stricter organic integrity. Often it is assumed that all organic fo od is created equal given that industry participants all use the same term to descri be the different types of food they produce. Yet, the term organic is often taken adva ntage of, as Samuel Fromartz notes in his book Organic Inc.: Opportunists will always abuse rules and exploit loopholes.7 Accordingly, just because a farm is certified organic does not necessa rily imply that it is sustainable or environmentally-friendl y. An organic farm can over-cultivate land until the soil is completely void of its fer tility, then abandon that land for another plot. Organic food can be shipped around the globe or be too expensive for its cultivators to afford. Issues vary from farm to farm, depending on the size of the farm, location, number and type of crop(s), demand, and the farmers philosophy. There are environmental, nutritional, ethi cal, and social discrepancies within this umbrella term which result from the many divergent types of organic farms, production methods and 6 Harvey mainly focused on the presence of unre gulated synthetic ingredients being allowed within organic products. However, smaller contentions were raised by him also, such as regulating the feed of livestock transitioning to organic to be all organic feed for three years. 7 Samuel Fromartz, Organic Inc: Natural Foods and How They Grew (Orlando, Florida: Harvest Book Harcourt, 2006), 40. 9


goals of the producer. As I have begun to demonstrate, the term organic envelopes overarching themes and issues related to the articulation, manifestation and representation of an ideal food culture. To fully understand the subt leties and to establis h a solid definition of the term, I will examine the term organi c as separate categories: an alternative agricultural philosophy and process of cultiv ation, a government standardized label applied to certified and inspected food production methods, and a movement closely linked with environmenta lism and national health.8 By examining organic as three classes, I will show how the differing opinions as to what organic means generate stark variances between seemi ngly similar organic products. Organic: An Agricultural Philosophy History of Organic Agriculture Organic agriculture began as an agricultural philosophy emphasizing alternative methods of food production, consumption and distribution to a public concerned about the negative cons equences of industrial methods.9 As renowned agricultural journalist Micheal Pollan notes in his work, The Omnivores Dilemma, 8 It is important to remember that other organicists may disagree with my definition of the term. But for the purpose of this project, it is necessary to formulate a working definition. 9 Literally, organic agriculture has existed almost since the beginning of farming because cultivation aimed at sustainability and sustenance. However, I shall limit the discussion of organic agriculture to the past century when it was denoted as an alternative method of farming and eventually standardized. 10


Acting on the ecological premise that ev erything's connected to everything else, the early organic movement sought to establish not just an alternative mode of production (the ch emical-free farms), but an alternative system of distribution (the anticapital ist food co-ops), and even an alternative mode of consumption (the countercuisine).10 Utilizing traditional wisdom combined w ith a new paradigm of understanding, farmers aimed to mimic natural biologi cal cycles with a minimal amount of interference with nature. A natural, holisti c system for cultivating foodstuffs was and still is possible; this is the ideal of organic agriculture. A sustainable, self-contained biodiverse and all natural food production method takes resources from the Earth and returns just as much to the soil. Although organic farmers began to demand public attention in the 1960s onward, the threads of this alternative agri culture are rooted in the 1920s.11 Ideas and ideals were initially discussed by advocat es in Europe, soon after spreading to America. Sir Albert Howard was one of those pioneers, as he established the importance of recycling organic waste back into an agricultural operation. A scientist by trade and a farmer from childhood, he disc ussed the link between soil fertility and national health, and the shor t-sightedness of modern agri cultural research. Strongly emphasizing holistic studies, he aimed to employ practical experience in conjunction with his scientific findings.12 10 Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, (New York: Penguin Books, 2007), 143. 11 Phillip Conford, The Origins of the Organic Movement (Great Britain: Flor is Books, 2001). 12 Sir Albert Howard, An Agricultural Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1943). 11


Howards pragmatic approach to agricultural success incorporated peasant wisdom with the scientific process which ev entually led to the creation of the Indore method. This technique, which is called by other names, but almost always incorporated into an organic farm, is a st rategy for farms and pl antations to utilize their vegetable, animal and other wastes to produce humus from compost piles in order to nourish their crops. Howard's me thod involves timely turning of calculated compost piles to yield healthy and bacteria -rich humus which is then scattered in fields. Howards experiments with this method document increased crop yields, increased pest and disease resistance and a higher quality (i.e. taste) of the crops.13 While most of his experiments resulted in similar increases in yield, quality and disease resistance, not all of the co mposting methods were similar because the available ingredients and environmental cond itions varied. Howard was sensitive to a farms particular environment and he wo rked with the plant and animal matter available at each farm. As a result, each cr op he experimented with (coffee, maize, tea, sugar cane, vegetables, rice, cotton, sisal and vines) used an adapted humus composition. Howards locale-specific at tention of a farm and its governing influences is vitally important when dea ling with agricultural operations, especially the organic type. Howards work with soil fertility led to the discovery of the mycorrhizal association. Mycorrhizae ai d in the absorption of phos phorus, nitrogen, potassium, calcium, zinc, iron, copper, magnesium and sulfur and the connection between the 13 Howard, An Agricultural Testament. 12


mycorrhizae and plant roots flourishe s with the application of humus.14 This soilplant link suggested the biological necessity of an agricu ltural system that mimics natural cycles of decomposition and growth. Focusing on this c onnection facilitated the beneficial aspects of compost that were visible to the crop: increased disease resistance, yields and quality. Another fundamental contributor to the discussion and creation of the organic ideal alongside Howard was the architect of biological dynamics, or biodynamic agriculture: Rudolf Steiner. St einer brought attention to ethe real and spiritual forces that played a role in agricultural alchem y through a series of lectures given in Koberwitz, Poland in 1924. He introduced the concept of biodynamic farming, which incorporates an esoteric scie ntific technique that greatly differs from modern farming today. Preparations and planting accordi ng to lunar, astrological and zodiacal calendars are the strongest deviations from traditional methods. Steiner saw this approach as a great tool; it utilized supersensible knowledge in order to further the evolution of farming and the betterment of mankind.15 The science of this process was efficient and produced healthy crops with good yields.16 Howard and Steiner played key roles in dispersing the agricultural philosophy which later was known by the term organi c, but the movement was a combined effort of countless other pioneers who were concerned with sustainability and food security. J.I. Rodale, Lady Eve Balfour, Lo rd Northborne, Alice Waters, and Wendell Berry as well as many others were other advocates who discussed ideas under the 14 Chantal Hamel and Christian Pl enchette, Mycorrhizae in Crop Pr oduction, (New York: Harworth Press, 2007), 51. 15 Rudolf Steiner, An Agriculture Course: The Birth of the Biodynamic Method trans. George Adams, (Great Britain: Rudolf Steiner Press, 2004). 16 For a more detailed discussion of biodynamic agriculture, consult Appendix A. 13


umbrella term organic.17 Through their multifaceted laye rs of discussion, writings, personal interactions and pub lications, organic agriculture continued to develop. The term organic, at this point, repr esented a malleable yet abstract idea rooted in the individuality of each farm, region and farmer. It was not a uniform process, but subject to ch ange. The free-spirited qual ity of organic agriculture contrasted the nature of indus trial agriculture, to which it presented an alternative. In order to better understand the existence of the term organic, the negative environmental implications of industr ial agriculture must be examined. The Industrial Agri cultural Revolution The ideals of industrial agriculture ar e fueled by a materialistic paradigm encouraged by a process developed to supply the precise nutrients that plants needed to grow. The oversimplified ideology that a plant only needed specific, identifiable nutrients from the soil became prevalent within food production and was supported by the work of Justus von Liebig, a Germ an chemist. In 1840, Liebig argued that fertilizers could successfully replac e manure, since it was the chemicals within the manure that ultimately nourished a crop.18 This mentality implied that neither legumes nor animal wastes were needed to fix nitrogen for plants or maintain soil fertility. In 1920, Fritz Haber discovered how to fix nitrogen in accordance with 17 As Phillip Confords The Origins of the Organic Movement illustrates, an entire book can be devoted to the myriad of organic pioneers. For a more indepth exploration of these voices, consult Confords work as well as the following: J.I.Rodale, Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Compost .(New York: The Devin-Adair Company, 1946) and Michael Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals (New York, New York: Penguin Books, 2007). 18 Conford, The Origins of the Organic Movement 39. 14


Liebigs paradigm of materialistic thinki ng in order to improve the standards of agriculture and the well-being of mankind.19 Through a series of technological advancements and available resources for production, nitrogen-fixate d fertilizers were eventually marketed to farmers as a more efficient way to grow food than using cow manure. By being able to fix nitrogen and simply add it to a crop, the intricacies of nature seemed to be overruled. The encouragement of nitr ogen application in this way facilitated mainstream industrial fa rming and its accompanying unsustainable methods of production, without consid ering the negative environmental repercussions.20 The methods of industrial agriculture are highly dependent upon fossil fuels and this influenced the global food co mmunity. Industrial practices such as mechanization, specialization and the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides depend heavily on cheap natural gas and not on solar energy, which is free and does not disappear. This genera tes great imbalance because every calorie of energy harvested from crops in agriculture requi res six to ten times that amount of nonrenewable fossil fuel energy to produce it.21 In 2004, approximately 400 gallons of fossil fuel a year were required to feed one person in the United States based on the current agricultural system. (This figur e probably has increased since then.)22 Imported fertility is necessary for annual crops, since the industrial methods do nothing to replenish the soil. Inorganic fert ilizer accounts for 31% of all agricultural 19 Pollan, The Omnivore's Dilemma 43. 20 Conford, The Origins of the Organic Movement 41. 21 David Suzuki, The Sacred Balance: Redisco vering Our Place in Nature, (Vancouver, British Columbia: Greystone Books, 2007), 153. 22 Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels, The Wilderness Publications, 2004, available from accessed March 2009. 15


fossil fuel use. Nineteen percent of agri cultural fossil fuel consumption fuels the operation of heavy machinery, and 16% is used for transportation purposes. As geologist Dale Allen Pfeiffer notes, w e are literally eating fossil fuels.23 The plant and animal community has been distorted due to industrial farming operations. Biodiversity, an indicator of stability within ecosystems, has steadily diminished on industrial farms as mono-crops constitute the majority of American mainstream agriculture.24 Farmers are planting larger fields of single crops, which are vulnerable to diseases and pests, a nd negatively impact the balance of soil nutrients. Emitting detrimental consequences, industr ial agriculture is the paradigm of production against which the term organic became positioned. Nature does not abide by industrial laws, and it is eviden t in the increasing issues encountered on industrial, monocultural farm s, such as widespread crop failure, super-pests and infertile soil. As a counterpoi nt to the development of industrialization, people began to use the term organic to denote an alternative to these environmentally destructive agricultural methods. Themes of Organic Agricultural Philosophy The characteristics of an organi c agricultural ph ilosophy -holism, biodiversity, self-sufficiency, minimal di sruption of natural ph ases, and the selfactualization of plants -depend upon a flexible yet stable series of relationships that 23 Dale Allen Pfeiffer, Eating Fossil Fuels. 24 An example of this is the role corn plays within the American food industry It is a largely cultivated mono-crop in North America, which produces a gigantic food surplus. 16


constitute beneficial cycles for all living organisms invol ved. The manifestation of the organic ideal relies on the success of an individual farm to materialize this model with their given resources, all the while being governed by natural laws of vague yet binding interdependent relationships; it does not necessarily depend on the exact methods used to expres s these relationships. Holism Organic agriculture requires a holistic paradigm of th inking. Just as the term organic has developed through the accumu lation of a myriad of sources, the application of organic practices need to consider the variety and complexity of changing forces that govern a biological ope ration. To take a well-rounded look at nature means to regard it, considering the multitude of complex relationships that are constantly interacting and to arrange one's actions so that they do not interfere with these interdependent cycles, and eventually facilitate the successful goals of such sequences. Nature is an interdependent and complex web of relationships that interact and adapt. It functions best with a variety of participants and accordingly all natural variables must be considered in order to understand the factors that shape and change agriculture. As the farmer can learn to incorporate unde rstandings of many cycles and participants, he/she becomes more fa miliar with the fabric of the organic agricultural philosophy. To view a farm holistically is to examine it through a combination of understandings. Organic farmers generally understand the scientific and chemical 17


reactions on his or her fields as well as th e role nature plays. They sometimes must also view the farm as an economic ventur e with which they must be financially successful. However they can understand harmonious food cultivation in another fashion. Many organically-inclined individua ls speak of farming with an air of ancient intuitive wisdom that goes hand in hand with corr ect agricultural practices. Agrarian essayist Wendell Berry writ es, kindly use depends upon intimate knowledge, the most sensitive responsiveness and responsibility.25 Everyone has a different way to specify this knowledge, but it comes with a close and consistent relationship with na tural processes. Biodiversity Organic agriculture focuses on pres erving and enhancing biodiversity contained in an ecosystem in order to help multiple species survive and prosper in a stable environment. Maintaining a variety of plant, animal, bacterial, and fungal life serves many sustaining purposes, such as recycling of nutrients, the regulation of microclimate and local hydrological pro cesses, the suppression of undesirable organisms and the detoxification of noxious chemicals.26 Within a web of ecological interdependence, a healthy and biodiverse ecosystem is an indicator of strength. Preserving biodiversity is necessary to ensure the permanence of existing ecosystems and the organisms that depend on those ecosystems. As David Suzuki 25 Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1977), 31. 26 Franc Bavec and Martina Bavec, Organic Production and Use of Alternative Crops. (New York: Taylor and Francis Group, 2007), 18. 18


notes in his work The Sacred Balance, Together, all species make up one imme nse web of interconnections that bind all beings to each other and the phys ical components of the planet. The disappearance of a species tears the web a little, but that web is highly elastic. When one strand is rent, the whole netw ork changes configuration, but so long as there are many remaining strands to hold it together, it retains its integrity.27 An agro-ecological food operation aims to stabilize a permanent food production system, it aims to ensure the preservation of biodiversity while cultivating food in a viable fashion. Biodiversity can become more stabilized when organic farmers incorporate practices such as crop rotation, cultivating differe nt and native varieties of crops, and arranging them on the fields in such a way that generates a beneficial habitat, and encourages advantageous in sects and bugs to make their homes nearby.28 Each species has individual capabilities to contribute to the betterment of the whole bionetwork. When an ecosystem is faced with a catastrophic obstacle, life has a greater chance of survival with a dive rsity of living and adaptable organisms. Species will adopt and adapt th e necessary traits for surv ival and evolution, which continues to strengthen different species and life itself. When one manipulates these systems through agriculture, it is importan t to note all of these relationships and 27 Suzuki, The Sacred Balance, 186-187. 28 George Kuepper and Lance Gegner, Organic Crop Production Overview: Fundamentals of Sustainable Agriculture, (National Su stainable Agriculture Information Service, 2004; 5) available at (Accessed March 2009). 19


interconnections in order to unders tand the results of one's actions. The organic agricultural ideal aims to protect and mimic connected natural cycles. Farmers do this by efficiently mana ging resources, and incorporating a myriad of species and relationships between them on their farm for a long stable period of time. The stability offered through a correctly managed organic farm can help strengthen local biodiversity and ensu re survival for generations to come.29 The Farm as a Sustainable, Contained Organism With a strong, biodiverse ecosystem that incorporates strengths such as native flora and fauna, natural habitat, and local water sources, an organic farm manages its resources effectively and gr ows closer to being a self -contained operation, another ideal of organic agriculture.30 Rudolf Steiner, founder of biodynamic agriculture, articulates this model: A farm is true to its essential nature, in the best sense of the word, if it is conceived as a kind of indi vidual entity in itself a self-contained individuality. Every farm should approximate to this condition. This ideal cannot be absolutely attained, but it should be observ ed as far as possible. Whatever you need for agricultural production, you should try to posses it within the farm itself.31 Nature provides everything necessary w ithin one locale for life to continue, and an organic farm strives to mimic this type of efficienc y, requiring no outside 29 As with all relationships between living species, there is an important exchange of wastes amongst different species and generations within a single ecosystem. 30 Kuepper and Gegner, Organic Crop Production Overview: Fundamentals of Sustainable Agriculture ; Howard, An Agricultural Testament ; Rodale, Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Composts ; Steiner, An Agriculture Course: The Birth of the Biodynamic Method. 31 Steiner, An Agriculture Course 29. 20


inputs.32 Soil fertility can be replenished with appropriate humus (decomposed plant and animal wastes), which then produces nutritive and pest/disease resistant crops. The crops and grassland are used to feed animal and human populations, who then excrete wastes and nourish the soil, completing the cycle of growth and decomposition. The energy efficiency of a self-contained farm cannot be overstated. Utilizing plant and animal wastes to restore soil fertility, organic farming methods easily increase crop yields, eliminate waste disposal issues, and repl enish soil fertility by following simple steps. Each organism fi nds and develops its own niche in an ecosystem, thus becoming a part of the interconnected diversity of life.33 The Role of the Farmer Organic agriculture re-re cognizes the importance of intuitive wisdom contained in farming that was once underst ood within traditional societies. Organic farmers command great respect because they value and intentionally cultivate knowledge and wisdom outside the realm of a reductionist point of view. As Franc and Martina Bavec describe, a farmer's traditional knowledge and awareness of ecological, as well as social, affairs were the main base for the development of 32 Sometimes outside inputs are allowed on organic farms when the inputs are necessary, unattainable locally, and restore the farm's ability to function on its own. More or less, outside inputs can be viewed as a remedy for a sick farm. 33 Ideally, the way that an organism develops a ni che within an ecosystem is the same way a farm should develop its role within a rural community. 21


organic farming34 As a result, organic farmers stri ve to find their niche, occupying an extremely important role within both rural and urban communities. In this manner, the organic philosophy en courages farmers to play the role of assistant on a farm, letting the plants and livestock, who know the land more intimately, do the majority of the work. Allo wing plants and livestock to contribute to the functioning of a contained ecosystem as much as possible reflects natural cycles and beneficial relationships which stimulate the survival of species. A farmer helps facilitate natural process by intercropping, mixed farming and cultivating a variety of local crops. Farming is not an easy occupation; it requires an employee with a holistic view of nature, experience w ith land, and the flexibility to expand, change or alter previous practices becoming more compet ent with each season. Agricultural theory alone means nothing if it is not coated in experiences.35 More than just a laborer or lover of plants and animals, an organic farmer must be a superb manager and multitasker. He or she combines indigenous knowledge with the m odern sciences of agroproduction, forest management, animal husbandry, and fisheries.36 Organic farmers aim to mimic nature as closely as po ssible with little inte rference while at the same time maintaining the farm as a viable economic enterprise. Healthy, Nutritious Food 34 Bavec and Bavec, Organic Production and Use of Alternative Crops 8-9. 35 Steiner, An Agriculture Course 20. 36 Bruce H. Moore, Farmer-Centered Development: Actions that Alleviate Poverty and Reduce Hunger. In For ALL Generations: Making World Agriculture More Sustainable, edited by J. Patrick Madde, and Scott G. World Sustainable Agriculture Association: California, 1997, pg. 61. 22


Organic agriculture emphasizes that permanent access to healthy, nutritious food is a right that every human being dese rves. Accordingly, organic farms aim to produce quality food which is nutritious by smartly managing farms that generate healthy, disease free and pest resistant cr ops. Organic food production is a balanced cycle of interdepence, as it is beneficial for eaters as well as cultivars. The consumer enjoys the food and supports the farmer, who in turn makes sure his land is taken care of and can produce the quality food that consumers desire. The nutritional composition of organic foods is enhanced by the diversity of biological soil activity, due to humus fallow fields and crop rotations. A comprehensive literature study on the potential benefits of organi cally produced food, based on more than 170 sources, confirmed that organic food is better than its conventional counterparts. Study results confir med that organic fruits and vegetables contain more vitamins (higher C-vitamin content was found in apples, cabbages and tomatoes), more minerals, more secondary metabolites, higher dry matter content, fewer nitrates, fewer heavy metals, lower amounts of pesticide remains and no ionic radiation.37 Even though eating organic quality food ma y lead to an increased quality of health, the term organic is not used legally as a health claim.38 Organic food, as an ideal type of agriculture, strives to reali ze health within small living communities as well as larger bionetworks and ecosystems. While some organicists do not go as far as to suggest that healthy food helps 37 Bavec and Bavec, Organi c Production and Use of Alternative Crops, 16. 38 This has been a topic of concern to many organicists as USDA Secretaries of Agriculture have similarly compared the nutritional quality of conventional food to organic food. 23


create well-rounded people and communitie s, the link between organic food and health has been implied by organicists. As Sir Albert Howard suggests, the prophet is always at the mercy of events; neverthe less, I venture to conc lude this book with the forecast that at least ha lf the illnesses of manki nd will disappear once our food supplies are raised from fertile soil and consumed in a fresh condition.39 Biodynamic agriculture, a philosoph y that greatly contributed to the development of organic farming, encourages a deeper examination of the link between mental health and food consumption. Nutrition dire ctly changes the mental, physical and spiritual composition of human beings, and food choi ces should be made with this in mind. Accordingly, biodynamics suggests that malnutrition results in personal ambition, illusions and petty jealousies.40 Organic: Agricultural Methods Organic agricultural practices attemp t to bring the aforementioned ideal into functioning food operations by us ing methods that radiate holism, biodiversity, sustainability and experien tial wisdom. In order to do this, an agricultural system must not only mimic th e processes that take place in nature, but also incorporate a variet y of participating organism s as well as the ecological patterns in which they operate best.41 The techniques vary between individual 39 Howard, An Agricultural Testament 224. 40 Steiner, An Agriculture Course 7. 41 E.C. Lefroy and R.J. Hobbs, Agriculture as a Mimic of Natural Ecosystems, Rural Industries Research and Development Corpora tion Australia, 2008, available from 24


farms, however there are common practices Organic farmers have a variety of crops and animals, using little to no outs ide synthetic inputs. They use preventive pest measures such as crop rotation, in tercropping, companion planting, personal organic seed stock, and ho meopathic preparations to address issues usually solved with synthetic chemicals in other methods of agriculture.42 With the widespread trend of organi c agriculture, organic methods have become more closely monitored and certified.43 The following explanation of organic methods is based around generall y accepted organic agricultural methods but do not include all methods that are required by certain standards. Waste recycling, intercropping, polyculture and preventive pest management are not specific to one body of regulations. Humus, Compost and Waste Recycling The rule of return, specifically recycli ng organic wastes back into the cycles of a farm, is a fundamental tenet of orga nic farming. When striving to imitate and infiltrate biological cycles, farmers need to efficiently utilize all energy in whatever form it arrives. In many ways, nature has permitted the human race to enter into its cycles.44 Thus, as a participating species, farmers must speedily complete the cycle of plant and animal wastes becoming nourishmen t for future generations of plants (and &lr=&q=cache:fd23olrKo (accessed March 2009). 42 If a farmer does not have their own seed, it is possible to purchase organic seed and planting stock from local vendors or online certified companies. 43 A discussion of the United States Department of Agricultures organic certification requirements is discussed later in this chapter. 44 For example, the genetic mutation of zea mays (cor n) requires human involvem ent in its process of reproduction. Without humans, the most common species of corn would rapidly become extinct. 25


eventually animals). One way to do this is to generate soil-enriching humus. Humus generation has been associated w ith the method of Sir Albert Howard, who developed the Indore method to produce a sufficient amount of humus for individual farms to replenish their soil's fertility. Using plant and animal wastes, a neutralizing base (i.e. chalk, limestone, wood ashes, etc) water and air, the Indore method is applicable to both commercial and small family farms.45 To create an effective humus pile or heap, the ingredients must be in the correct proportion to each ot her. From the ground up, the pile should be made as follows: 6 inches of decomposing vegetable waste, on top of which one places 2 inches of farmyard manure, upon which one sprinkles animal urine, wood and earth (for balancing acidity), on top of which is a spray of water. These layers are repeated until the pile or heap reaches around 5 feet tall. To facilita te aeration, properly spaced air holes are necessary.46 The pile/heap must be turned twice du ring the three month period it takes to mature. Around two or three weeks, it must be watered and turned with a pitchfork, exposing the compost to the air and re-establi shing air vents after its turned. At five weeks, the pile is turned, and watered bot h during the turning and the next morning. Air vents need to be re-established after turning. Within 90 days of first creating the pile, one will produce soil-nou rishing compost to be spread on crops soon around the pile's maturation. Piles and th eir respective ingred ients will vary from farm to farm, however Howards generic recipe has b een utilized by organic farmers globally. 45 Howard, An Agricultural Testament 46 Howard, An Agricultural Testament Chapter 4. 26


Polyculture: A Variety of Crops and Livestock Natural cycles operate optimally with a variety of tools, actors and cycles, and a polycultural farming operation supplies just that. Farming with a variety of crops and livestock, also called polycultural farming, enhances biodiversity while protecting participating organisms from diseases.47 The more diversity of crops and livestock, the healthier and more energy effi cient a farm can become since every farm organism in some way plays a role within natural cycles in a way that man often cannot. Polyculture provides a balanced diversity of plant and animal wastes that can be used to maintain a farm's soil fertility. Polyface Farm is such a bionetwork based on livestock diversity. Located in Virginia Polyface Farms strategically rotates many species of livestock and grasses to operate an incredibly efficient farm. By combining a meal of clover, timothy, foxtail, dandeli on, bluegrass, orchard grass, plantain and Queen Annes lace for the cows with rigi d management of grazed land, farmer Joel Salatin has created an efficient method whic h converts solar energy into edible meats over time. He claims to be only a grass farmer as the animals do most of the work. By the end of the season Salatins grasse s will have been transformed by his animals into some 25,000 pounds of beef, 50,000 pounds of pork, 12,000 broilers, 800 turkeys, 500 rabbits, and 30,000 dozen eggs.48 His efficiency is based on deliberate ro tation of animals that he has developed with time and experience. After the cows graze the grasses, he moves chickens onto 47 Buy Organic, Polyculture: Sustainable Farming, (January, 2007), Available from (accessed March 2009). 48 Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma, 126. 27


the same patch. The chickens will fertilize th e land with their manure, work into the already present cow patties, and munches on sm all creatures in the soil. Pigs are used to aerate and turn the compost from the cow manure. Tu rkeys are found in the grape orchards where they eat the grass, pests, and deposit manure. Polyface Farm is aptly named. Using a mixture of plants and animal s within a farming operation greatly increases the energy efficiency of a farm. Less energy needed means an organic farm requires less outside inputs, and with e nough infrastructure, an organic farm can become sustainable and self-contained. No Foreign Inputs A true organic farm aims to utilize everything from the farm, and avoid the need for outside inputs, both chemically foreign and provincially foreign. The bioregional resources availa ble for individual farms should be able to sustain a productive food operation, especially when a farmer grows more familiar with the land and its capabilities. Foreign inputs in conventional agriculture produce harsh consequences. Synthetic substances disturb soil fertility and pesticides and herbicides permitted in conventional agriculture are used heavily w ith detrimental effects. Food consultant and author Cindy Burke notes th at twenty pounds of pestic ides are used per person per year in the United States. At least fifty of these pesticides are classified as 28


carcinogenic.49 Traces of chemicals and pesticid es within conventional food are ingested by unsuspecting consumers, which are unhealthy for human consumption. By not using foreign chemical inputs, the soil fertility of organically cultivated land is less disturbed, and organic food, products of a natural pest management operation, do not contain harmful chemicals within themselves. Agriculture has proceeded this way for generations on end; the only reason that chemicals have been incorporated into agri culture in the last century was a surplus of chemical production facilities combined with policy-making and cheap fossil fuels.50 Organic pioneers suggest using ingredients from outside of the farm only in order to nurture the farm back to its potent ial healthy state. In this way, outside inputs are thought of like medicine for a sick farm and such tools are implements to lead to a healthier, more sustainable farm in the long run. Preventive Pest Management Using natural approaches to pest regu lation, an organic farmer severs any dependence on chemical alternatives. Organi c farmers turn to biological preventive alternatives for pest management in order to avoid chemical necessi ty to address such issues. As Bavec and Bavec note, a natural method of pest regulation [restores] natural control of insect pests, diseases, and nematodes, and also produces optimal nutrient recycling and soil conservation by activ ating soil biota, all factors leading to 49 Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic, 13. 50 Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic 25-36. 29


sustainable yields, energy conservation and less dependence on external inputs.51 Usually these methods require a farmer talented in managing his land through knowledge to adjust practices depend ing on the crops reactions/results. Manipulating polycultural crops thro ugh rotation of crops and strategic planting, an organic farmer can plant strate gically as a preventive pest measure. For example, Jim Cochran of Swanton Berry Farms in California discovered by chance that by planting brussel sprouts or broccoli before strawberries enhanced the strength of the berry crop. Broccoli and brussel sprout s, part of the Brassica family, helped inhibit verticillium wilt, a fungal disease wh ich particularly harms strawberry plants. Brassica family members enhance the soil's be neficial bacteria, which in turn attacks dormant varieties of verticillium.52 Different varieties of plan ts bring different pests, or beneficial soil bacteria. Different varieties of plants bring different pests, or beneficial soil bacteria. Using this know ledge, a farmer can plant accordingly and avoid unnatural pest management methods. Organic: A Certified Label The methods of organic farming depend upon the words used to describe them as the language of organic farming adapts to global standardizati on; however the term organic is defined by the bare minimum b ecause it is so concentrated with meaning, both methodical and philosophical. The term organic was first regulated through a 51 Bavec and Bavec, Organic Production and Use of Alternative Crops 27. 52 Fromartz, Organic, Inc. 30


set of standards by a California Cooperative of farmers in 1973.53 Since then, the number of governments, inst itutions and certifying bodies concerned with certified organic agriculture has grown exponentially. The International Federation of Orga nic Agriculture movements constructed a broad set of principles to define organic agriculture. Based around the following interconnected principles, IFOAM explains th at organic agriculture is composed of fairness, care, ecology and health. Organic agriculture should sustain and enhance the health of soil, plant, animal and human as one and indivisible. Organic agriculture should be ba sed on living ecological systems and cycles, work with them, emulate them and help sustain them. Organic agriculture should build on relationships that ensure fairness with regard to the common environment and life opportunities. Organic agriculture should be managed in a precautionary and responsible manner to protect the hea lth and well being of current and future generations and the environment.54 The United State Department of Agricult ure (USDA) developed a similar set of national standards; however it was a l ong and arduous process. The Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 initiated this by ensuring the necessary legislation of 53 California Certified Organic Farmers, Welcome to CCOF, California Cer tified Organic Farmers, available from (accessed January 30, 2009). 54 International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, The Principles of Organic Agriculture, available from (accessed January 30, 2009). 31


standards. In 1998, organic standards were drafted by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). These standards initially allowed irradiation, sewage sludge, and genetically-modified organisms. The public reacted strongly to the sub-pa r standards, for they did not represent their ideals of organic agri culture. For them, organic food needed to signify healthier food, and irradiated food, one of the permitte d characteristics according to the then published USDA standards, is not fit for human consumption. According to an interview with renowned author and public speaker John Robbins, Subjecting food to the equivalent of 250,000 chest x-rays in order to sterilize the food from its pathogenic organism s is vigorously advocated by the beef industry. It causes molecular changes in the food that are totally beyond our comprehension: it creates what are ca lled radiolytic by-products; it reduces vitamin levels. And of course, no tests have been done on human beings for an extended period of time. However, they have been done on animals and the results are not good. Animals who have been fed irradiated food have shown irreparable health damage.55 Due to public outcry, the original sta ndards were required to be rewritten. It took a few drafts and many more years for the NOSB to finally settle on the certification standards that are currently im plemented. According to these standards, an organic farm differentiates itself fro m a conventional food operation based on what 55 The Common Ground, Interview With John Robbins Interview by Virginia Lee, 2002, available at (accessed February 2, 2009). 32


is not incorporated into the farm: genetically modified organisms (seed), antibiotics, chemical fertilizers, synthetic pest icides, irradiation and sewage sludge.56 A list of synthetic ingredients permitted in organic foods is under the constant review by the USDA, and continues to grow. The Nati onal List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances exists on the premise that certain ingredients are safe to consume, and not available organically, however nece ssary to handle organic foods.57 The NOSB does not address issues concerning farm laborers, such as standards of fairness or a healthy working environment.58 In order for a farm to become certified, much paperwork is filed; documentation of all ingredients used in fi elds, management plans that address pest, disease, land fertility, and livestock issues is required to be submitted to a certifying agency as well as the lands history ( up to three years prio r) and a long term agricultural plan.59 The first step in the bureaucratic pr ocess of organic cer tification involves a land conversion period. During this time (usua lly three years), detailed documentation must be kept, proving that the land did not use conventional chemicals or pesticides during this time. A certifying body must insp ect the farm, checking to see it is in accordance with all the specific organic sta ndards regarding livestock, crops, water, and fertilizer policies. A farm that wants to become certified also needs to submit a detailed management plan, ensuring abidan ce of organic standards in the long run. If 56 National Organic Program, Certifi cation, April 2008, available from (accessed March 2009). 57 National Organic Program, The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances, Available from (accessed Feb. 2009). 58 National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticid es, Labor Practices and Other Considerations, Beyond Pesticides available from (accessed March 2009). 59 National Organic Program, Certification. 33


a farm makes less than $5,000 a year, it doe s not need to be certified but must maintain records of its adherence with organic standards.60 In accordance with the USDA standards, three ways to label organic food were created, based on the percentage of or ganic ingredients within the food item. As figure 1 illustrates, the pote ntial labels for food items c ontaining organic ingredients include 0% Organic, Organic, a nd Made with Organic Ingredients. Figure 1: The differe nt organic labels The USDA organic certified label appears on % Organic and Organic labels; it does not appear on food labeled M ade with Organic Ingredients. Organic is now a term which crosse s many cultures, stretching across the 60 National Organic Program, Certification. 34


international community and solely signifi es the lack of pesticides within an agricultural system of food production.61 Regulated organic standards do not effectively express the goals of organic agri culture because specifying what a type of agriculture is not does not clearly state what it is. Until organic standards address what needs to be within an organic agricu ltural system, the term organic is going to be used in confusing ways that do not indicate to language users that different definitions have preexisted and continue to endure. Many of the attributes of organic agriculture are not easily articulated, especially thr ough the language of law-making institutions. As a result, the exoskeleton of the term organic exists, however clear articulation of how the organism act ually functions is still absent. Organic: A Movement It is difficult to specify when a mo vement truly begins, but the public has witnessed a wave of consistent organic advocacy since the 1960s.62 As a social, economic, and political movement, its adhere nts strove for change in the face of industry. Specifically, the move ments with which organics were involved addressed issues related to health, natural stewar dship, fair labor agreements, community development, community food security, and relaxation. Journalists, chefs, students, authors, and scholars all cont ributed to the progress associ ated with this movement specifically spreading food awareness and empowering people to make conscious decisions. 61 Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic 5. 62 During this time period, consumers were becoming more aware of the dangers, both environmental and health related, of industrial conventional food. 35


The organic movement resulted in the public desire for establishing state and eventually national organic st andards as well as greatly in creased public awareness of industrial agriculture. These regulations played an inte gral part of the organic movement, for they secured consumer tr ust while laying the foundation for a global market to develop. With the spread of th e organic label in supermarkets and beyond, public awareness continued to increase with the amount of organic products available. This chapter has shown that a myriad of factors contributed to the establishment and understanding of the term organic. The food label does not clearly specify its traditional roots. This was not a problem at first, since most people using the term organic existed within similar experiences and cultural norms that of farming sustainably and locally. However, as more participants entered the industry more aware of the laws of capitalism than those governing nature, the principles of biology grew oversimplified in the face of industrial food-producing institutions and the accompanying profits. The factors worth considering when farming organically are many. The resulting spread of the term organic has created two extremes resulting in Big Organic and little organic. On one side of the spectrum, global organic agribusiness has overshadowed any potential of changi ng the mainstream food system. On the other hand, small farmers continue to grow quality food, but on a tiny scale. 36


Chapter Two The Term Organic Breaks Down The establishment of the te rm organic created an en tirely novel industry for food shaped by its participants. The ma rkets growth was unexpected; since 1990, organics have steadily grown 20% each year.63 Specifically in the United States, this market has found its place in the kitchens of many. As a result, the number of certifying bodies in the Unite d States has inflated, the USs increase of organically farmed land is the highest in the world a nd projections for the continuous growth of the industry are consistent.64 The infrastructure of the organic indu stry developed with speed, focusing less on creating an alternative f ood culture (production, distribution, cuisine, etc.) and more on increasing the supply of organi c products to match unprecedented high demand. Entrepreneurs manufactured products that were often organic copies of conventional food items for grocery store shelves.65 These products, via industrial methods of production and distribution, were regularly available globally. The organic industry mushroomed in to something far larger and less alternative than was origin ally envisioned. It began to duplicate the habits of conventional food including a predominant network of retail distribution centers, global transportation systems, large scale farming units and value-added processing 63 Fromartz, Organic Inc.. 64 Minou Yussefi and Hela Willer, Organic Farmi ng Worldwide 2007: Overview and Main Statistics, in The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics and Emerging Trends 9th Edition (Switzerland, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements, 2007). 65 In addition to the normal occurrence of organic produce and vegetables in grocery stores, now, frozen dinners, t-shirts, facial cosmetics, and bamboo cutting boards are pr oduced organically and readily sold at national health food stores. Processed organic food was welcomed into the industry. 37


of items.66 While this industry was able to spr ead the availability of organic goods to many more consumers, produce in the industry was often shipped from other continents. Processed food products travel ed between multiple states and even countries before arriving in the store. As the industry grew, the values of organic agriculture, specifically those ideals that em phasized small scale agricultural and rural community, were marginalized in the face of capitalism as it became more and more difficult for a small organic farm to comp ete against the industrial, and cheaper organic farms. Nowdays, the average or ganic farm mirrors the size of most conventional farms: 36 acres.67 A noticeable polarity developed between the different types of organic producers. On one side of the spectrum is Big Organics, a global network of transnational food corporations, including Kraft, Heinz and General Mills, who justify their actions based on the reality of markets and the desire of consumers. Since these large food corporations believe that small family farms cannot feed the world, they mass produce organic foodstuffs in order to satisfy demand. Big Organic is not concerned with organic integrity, nor have they created alternative business models for this industry. Large scale farm s represent the bare minimum of organic agriculture, and yet their goods are marketed as organic and receive a higher premium because it is produced through an agricultural system without chemicals. Little organic is represented by i ndependently-owned farms and local community food systems. Small farmers distrust the mainstream flavor the 66 National health food chains flourished in the United States, eventually producing Whole Foods Market, a health food chain with 270 stores. 67 Majella OSullivan, Smalll Organic Farm Myth is Smashed by New Study, December 9, 2008, available at 38


supposedly alternative food industry has acquired. They stand by the need for consistent integrity in the organic industry and take whatever actions possible to ensure the persistence of that within food culture. This cla ss of organicists roots itself in idealism, and strives to change the food industry through land stewardship, responsible and ethical business practices. It aims to have direct contact with consumers. Little organicists object agai nst the paradox of a gl obal organic industry. Despite these contentions, small or ganic farmers are becoming more and more absorbed and marginalized by Big Organic. An anecdote communicated by Michael Pollan exemplifies the marg inalized small farmers future: Not long ago at a conference on organic agriculture, a corporate organic farmer suggested to a family farmer st ruggling to survive in the competitive world of industrial organic agriculture th at he should really try to develop a niche to distinguish yourself in the ma rket. The small farmer replied: I believe I developed that niche 20 year s ago. Its called organic. And now youre sitting on it.68 The different interpretations of the term organic within the growing industry begs the question of integrity: does the term organic have the potential now to 68 Michael Pollan, Naturally, The New York Times May 31, 2001, available from (accessed February 2009). 39


create an alternative market or will it just facilitate a mirror of mainstream Big Food in order to increase the bottom line of t hose involved while using similar business models? The answer to this question is as unclear as the young and nuanced market experiences growing pains. But the organic industry has grown to encompass the entire globe, and a global industry clearly c ontradicts the original ideals of organic agriculture. The term organic did not fail comp letely, but it did not work. As the industry demonstrates, the boundaries of the terms use are unclear. The term organic does not necessarily encourage people to accept responsibility for their food choices. Organic does not always denote local food security, nor does it consistently imply natural, healthy or sustainable agriculture. Many organic practices continue to rely on a paradigm that views life systems, both plant and animal, as easily reduced. In order to understand th e term organic and the confusion it has generated, the practices and business principles of organic industrial agribusiness must be examined. By analyzing the current bu siness practices of industrial organic agriculture, I will demonstrate the degrees to which the term organic did not work. Industrial Organics Agribusiness 40


During the creation of the organic in dustry, small idealist food producers were personally managing food operati ons and working towards an alternative food culture reflecting their persona l values. Organicists wanted to preserve the foundation of this alternative agriculture, so they produced organic products on a small scale and generated community support. It was these idealists who infused organic products with a morally, politically, environmenta lly and socially correct inclination. Establishing these small operations required the hard work of dedicated individuals, but in the eyes of the idealists, the ability to offer healthy food to others was a precious goal and worth the effort. It did not take long for larger food companies to notice the success of these small, romantic food operations. Attempti ng to satisfy a novel yet increasing global market through commercial developments, some organic entrepreneurs joined forces with and were absorbed into larger oper ations that dominated the conventional food market to create organic agribusinesses. Th is was beneficial for the idealists, who would have greater capability to spread organic products through increased market access and financial stability. On the othe r hand, large food companies could enter into an amazingly profitable and growing food sector.69 These alliances blossomed throughout the industry and dr astically changed the product to which the term organic was applied. Earthbound Farms is an example of such a company that started with a backto-the-land philosophy but grew into a na tional corporate food operation. Drawing inspiration from organicists publications such as Diet for a Small Planet and Silent 69 Since mainstream foods net income grows parallel to population increase, around 1% a year, infiltrating the organic food industry was extremely profitable advance for them. 41


Spring founder of Cascadian Farms, Gene Kahn, started a small organic farm in Seattle and hoped to grow close with his land. Eventually Kahn discovered that he could make more money by processing other farmers produce into products with higher added value. Soon after a public health scare concerning Alar, Cascadian Farms ended up in corporate hands. Kahns opinions about the direction of his company reflect those of many involved in Big Organics. Small food opera tions compromised their founding ideals concerning an alternative food production sy stem in order to make organic food available for more people.70 As he explained, you have a choice of getting sad about all that or moving on. We tried hard to build a cooperative community and a local food system, but at the end of the day it wasnt successful. This is just lunch for most people. Just lunch. We can call it sacred, we can talk about communion, but its just lunch.71 70 Some of these compromises involved minimizi ng the presence of organic principles such as supplying local food, using mixed farming methods, and avoiding dependence on fossil fuels. 71 Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma 42


Figure 2: A Map of Organi c Corporate Relationships Now, most of the products found in natural grocery stores are produced by larger food conglomerates well establ ished throughout the conventional food industry. Conventional food conglomerates, su ch as Dean, General Mills, Coca-Cola, Kraft and PepsiCo, gained control of this alternative product market. As Figure 2 illustrates, it is increasingly rare to find an organic product that is produced by a local source. Most of the organic brands now available are linked to larger corporations. As 43


corporate ownership throughout the organic i ndustry continues to flourish, the local agroeconomy that organic agriculture strives to support is disappearing.72 Industrial Organic Agriculture The manipulated application of the term organic mirrored the developments of businesses and their practices that s upplied certified organic items. The largest organic food producers aim to satisfy organic consumers as well as convert new organic purchasers, supplyi ng the food they want, and doing so whenever they want it. The means necessary to accomplish this daunting global task is achieved through industrial organic agricultural methods of production. The methods used to achieve such consumer satiation simplify complex biological life processes such as naturally occurring ecol ogical diversity of crops and animal life, the importance of rural comm unity, the nutritional value of foods, and soil chemistry. Most of the large organic farm operations supplying the United States with organic goods utilize monocultural communities of plants and livestock, heavy processing and packaging of goods, global tr ansportation and distribution networks, and mechanization that requires excessive amounts of fossil fuels. To produce massive amounts of food requi res gigantic standardized farms. Industrial organic agri culture incorporates large scale farming un its that are built on a model of uniformity; environments are vi ewed as unchanging, crop varieties are 72 Good Magazine, Buying Organic, Good Magazine website, available at (accessed January 2009). 44


homogenized, pest control is standardized, and methods of cultivation rely on the crops ability to conform. These operations commonly involve the use of heavy machinery that consumes fossil fuels, destroys soil bacteria gr owth and employs a slim amount of labor for weeding purposes. These types of farms are very efficient at growing large amounts of a single crop that is then transported to a processing plant and eventually delivered to the consumer. These farms however, are inefficient at establishing an effective long term plan to feed people healthy food from permanent agricultural practices that in corporate land stewardship. Monocultural planting of crops is a common cultivation method of both organic and conventional industrial farms. Large la nd areas are planted with only one, maybe two, crops repeatedly. Growing many crops at one farm is a standard and effective preventive pest measure; monocultural farm s do not have this natural advantage and rely on short-term remedies which prolong their long-term problems. If there is less genetic diversity on land, the ability to face and overcome environmental challenges, such as disease, weather or pests, decreases.73 This system of planting depletes the soil as well as makes the crop(s) vulnerable to diseases and pests. With less biological variety, farmers ceased crop rotation and increased their use of fertilizers which, over time, become ineffective.74 Pests are able to adapt a nd become super-pests. (The same is true of superbugs, pathogens with a highly developed resist ance to antibio which appears often in th e livestock industry.) tics, Specialization, beneficial for distributi on of products with added value from processing, became another reflection of c onventional farming methods visible in 73 Suzuki, The Sacred Balance, 205. 74 Conford The Origins of the Organic Movement. 45


industrial organic cultivation. Focusing less on variety of crops and more on higher yield(s) of one or two specific crops, this method helped rural farmers compete with overseas production by establis hing a series of processing steps with producers able to handle larger amounts of raw materials. Economically, it generated greater efficiency with larger units, had lower pr oduction costs, and increased labor skills. Specialization encouraged the simplification of ecosystems and biological processes on a large scale in order to provide larger amounts of food at a cheaper price for a growing global population. Industrial agriculture, both conventional and organi c, measures efficiency in terms of yield, and does not account for th e consequences of exploitive farming methods. While there is an air of prog ress among industrial or ganic agriculture advocates, there are aspects of nature that are not fully considered. As Anna Lapp explains in her work Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen Weve developed technology faster than we have develope d the safeguards to protect our common assets -air, water, soil, and more -from technologys unintended consequences.75 Organic Industrial Environmental Consequences Many possible environmental consequences can result from industrial organic agricultural practices because there are not external evaluations on the environmental costs of farming systems. Large organi c farms may or may not employ useful practices which conserve so il health and ensure the ma intenance of long-term soil 75 Anna Lapp and Bryant Terry, Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen, (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 26. 46


fertility.76 The environmental degradation caused by the absence of important organic practices -composting, crop rotations, and fallow cultivation periods -negatively changes the composition of large-scale farm ing areas in respect to soil quality and bacteria. Soil quality is often reduced becau se of constant heavy tillage, which leads to erosion and a perpetual higher level of fertilizer application. Large-scale organic farms often drain the healthy soil bacteria, and drain impor tant soil matter from their plots under cultivation, which is usually a ll of their land. Their soil will not hold water well, is subject to erosion and lacks important creatur es, such as earthworms, to maintain soil health. As a result, these fa rms regularly import organic fertility in order to continue growing crops. While soil fertility, water, fossil fuels, labor and pesticides go into industrial agriculture, pollution and sickness, both of land and people, emerges from it.77 As noted by Anna Lapps in Grub any business can turn a profit and appear efficient if it doesnt pay its suppliers. Well, thats ex actly what industrial [agriculture] does. And who are the suppliers? They are us taxpayers, and the earth.78 Runoff from livestock wastes (feces and ur ine) directly alters the su rrounding air, water, soil and health of nearby communities. High levels of greenhouse gases are released from the operation of machinery. External environmental consequences of industrial organic agriculture are not usua lly factored into the prices of products. Contrary to the pastoral philos ophy motivating organic pioneers, the specialization of larg e organic farms restores the frag mented understanding of science 76 Keupper, Organic Farm Certification & the National Organic Program. 77 Lapp and Terry, Grub 78 Lapp and Terry, Grub 19. 47


that organic agriculture initially intended to eliminate. This generates isolation as individual experts are cut off from the re st of the highly mechanical process. As agrarian essayist Wendell Berry writes, the community disintegrates because it loses the necessary understandings, forms, and enactments of the relations of materials and processes, principles and actions, ideals a nd realities, past and present, present and future city and country, civilization a nd wilderness, growth and decay, life and death just as the individual character lose s the sense of a respons ible involvement in these relations.79 Specialized growing and processing methods do not mimic the multifaceted natural cycles of nature and plants. The absorption of organic ag riculture into industrialization defeats the point of farming organically in the first place. N one of the aforementioned industrial organic methods and governing principles mimics biological cycles, nor do these methods account for the natural spontaneity that occu rs within agriculture. Industrial organic agriculture is not sustainable, local, or fo ssil-fuel free, nor does it enhance community food security, rural communities or work ing conditions of farm laborers. Permitted Organic Ingredients The food items produced through these methods are entitled to the label organic because of one prohibition: s ynthetics. The exclusion of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers within industrial organic agri culture is its only 79 Berry, The Unsettling of America 21. 48


redeeming characteristic.80 Regulating the inputs of growing, harvesting, handling, processing and distributing, the United St ates Department of Agriculture and certification bodies strictly evaluate inputs for environm ental and health purposes. With an increasing amount of organically produced products new to the industry and increasing organic acreage conversion each year, these standards lessen the application of pesticides, bringing major environmental improvements over time. For example, less fertilizer runoff occurs a nd leads to healthier local water sources. However exclusion is a very loose term in the eyes of the USDA. The USDA drafts and continuously reviews a list of synthetics permitted within organic production and processing. The permitted list of substances is justified on the basis that an ingredient is necessary for producti on and is not available organically, and it is safe for consumer exposure. 81 The National Organic Standards Board examines petitioned substances and allows these synthetics ba sed on evidence and if the ingredient is generally recognized as safe (GRAS), it is added to the permitted list.82 The list of permitted synthetic ingredients for pesticides, herbicides, nonorganic substances used in processing organic food and livestock production is sixteen pages long. Specifically, the list details the ch emical composition and permitted amount of the synthetic. The permitted syntheti cs, besides amount applied, are highly unregulated in terms of processing and often do not undergo sufficient scientific review. The length of the permitted substances list illustrates the many exceptions 80 Julie Guthman, Regulating Meaning, an Appropriating Nature: The Codification of California Organic Agriculture, Antipode 30, no. 2 (1998): 143. 81 National Organic Program, Petitioned Substances, Available from (accessed Feburary 2009); Karen Berner, NonOrganic Ingredients Foun d in USDA Organic Foods, 19 July 2007, available from (accessed Feburary 2009). 82National Organic Program, The National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances available from (accessed Feburary 2009). 49


organic has made for the indus trial aspect of processing. Determining what synthetic ingredient can be included in an organic food item is a process that disregards the larger i ssue that the term organic is becoming a quantified prescription. There is more to or ganic foods than a bare minimum. Joan Dye Gussow, an outspoken National Organic Standards Board member and avid nutritionist, articulates this idea: When org anic is legally defined solely in relation to a set of growing and processing methods, the term no longer comes with a conscience.83 The further the term is standardized in terms of what is allowed and what is not allowed within processed or ganic foodstuffs, the further the philosophy that constitutes org anic is dishonored. Organic Processed Foods The methods of industry largely rely on processing and preservation to handle the multitude of raw material produced. Modern shelf life extension techniques include the addition of synthetics, dr ying, canning, refrigeration, dehydration, fermentation, and freezing. To supply grow ing global organic demand, organic goods undergo processing so that the pr oduct can be transported to its final destination in an edible, consumer friendly composition. 83 Joan Dye Gussow, Can an Orga nic Twinkie be Certified? in For All Generations: Making World Agriculture More Sustainable, Ed. J. Patrick Madden and Scott G. Chaplowe (California: World Sustainable Agriculture Association, 1997), 151. 50


Often, modern food processing methods na turally result in drastic reductions of nutritious content in foods.84 (Fermentation is the exception, as this process increases the microbial life within food, and makes it more nutritional.85) Cows milk serves as an example of how the nutrients decrease the more the raw material is handled. In its traditional form, unaltered and straight from the source, milk contains the following nutritients: complete proteins (for healt hy tissue and bone maintenance) vitamins (A, D, B6, B12) minerals (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and zinc) fats (aid in the digesti on of protein and calcium) carbohydrates polyunsaturated omega-3 fats lauric acid (for immunity) cholesterol good bacteria. Raw milk provides high quality nutrition. Th e enzyme lactase pr esent in raw milk allows the body to easily digest lactose by aidi ng the breakdown process.86 84 Sally Fallon, Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry, March 2002, available from accessed February 2009. 85 Sandor Elix Katz, Fermentation Workshop, New College of Florida, March 16, 2009. 86 Nina Planck, Real Food: What to Eat and Why, (New York: Holtzbrink Publishers, 2006), 58. 51


Processed industrial cow milk abides by regulations that require methods that result in a decrease of the milks nutritional value. The nutritional deficiencies of processed industrial milk include the following: Milk legally requires past eurization, a process which destroys "vitamins, useful enzymes, beneficial bacteria, texture and flavor."87 Even though all milk is now by law pasteurized to de stroy potential pathogens, "nearly all outbreaks of food poisoning from milk a nd cheese in recent decades involved pasteurized milk." Processing removes so much nutrition that fortified minerals and vitamins are required to be added by law; milk is no exception. For example, the USDA requires that all skim milk is fortified with synthetic vitamins which, in excess, are potentially toxic. The benefits of consuming unprocessed m ilk overshadow the alleged benefits of industrial processed milk.88 Another popular manufactured food product, frozen TV dinners, serves as an example of how organic goods lose the fr esh, local, and natural aspects of food associated with the term organic. It is a box of specially grown, mechanically processed, fossil fuel transported, refrigerat ed food that travels across the borders of states and countries in order to arrive in chain grocery store.89 The processes that construct organic TV dinners drain envir onmental resources and arguably diminish 87 Planck, Real Food 71. 88 Planck, Real Food 85. 89 Michael Pollan, Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex, New York Times May 13, 2001, available from (accessed February 2009). 52


the taste of the ingredients. These meals cannot authentically claim an association with fresh, local, sustainable food production, nor can it be natural to replace a real, homemade meal with one in a cardboard box that, after 3 minutes in the microwave, is ready to eat. As Michael Pollan articul ates, frozen TV dinners seem almost as jarring to my conception of organic f ood as, say, a cigarette boat on Walden Pond.90 The existence of organic frozen TV dinne rs drains the term of its true meaning. Should this type of organic product be produced in the first place? It is impossible to select organic products based on the tradi tional meaning of the term because the industry is solely profit-driven. Organic food manufacturers will pr ovide whatever the consumer dollar is purchasing, and that includes organic frozen TV dinners.91 The issue of selective production has been raised by many organicists concerned with the possibility of organic Twinkies. Spurred by the voice of Joan Gussow, the responsibility of the organic label was scrutinized. She asserted that, what would permit an organic Twinkie ar e the limitations reductionist science has put on our ability to take account of things that matter.92 Addressing this potential product raised a very important questi on amongst industry participants: Should organic supply a product mirroring conve ntional products, including the unhealthy, highly-processed Twinkie, or should the organic industry strive to maintain its integrity and encourage healthy lifestyles by refraining from the production of such products? Naturally, organic participants answer ed this question in many ways since their respective definition of organi c depended on differing motivations and 90 Michael Pollan, Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex. 91 Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic 92 Joan Dye Gussow, Can an Organic Twinkie be Certified? 148. 53


involvement. Cascadian Farms founder, Gene Kahn, encourages supplying whatever organic products the consumer wants. He says accordingly, Organic is not your mother, and stands by the contention that the organic labe l should not denote a philosophical doctrine of consumpti on rooted in selective products.93 Nowadays, despite Gussows and others protest, the or ganic industry has side d with the majority of its producers and versions of conventiona l sweets, such as cookies, gummy worms, and peanut butter cups continue to be av ailable at natural health food stores. The mass consumer choices reflec t tendencies of conventional food consumption that organic foodies do not wa nt to accept. Organic farmers, activists and some consumers strive to establis h organic integrity through choosing what products to purchase, produce and encour age excluding processed foods from the market. According to these activists, the more processed a food is, the less it can be associated with the organic ideal. Small organic farmer and author Eliot Coleman thinks in this manner: I dont care if the Wheaties are organic I wouldnt use them for compost. Processed organic food is as bad as any other processed food.94 These organicists purchase local, fresh organic foods, and are often associated with the beyond-organic movement, which will be di scussed further in chapter three. As organic industrial processing spreads, the boundaries of an organic philosophy become indistinguishable from mainstream food. The existence of novel organic products contradicts their founding tenets, and yet consumers continue to purchase them. The term organic has shif ted to signify convenient health food 93 Pollan, Naturally, New York Times May 31, 2001, available from (accessed February 2009). 94 Pollan, Naturally. 54


aligned with mass consumer demand instead of the alternative f ood model it aimed to create. In order to understand the significat ion of the term organic on grocery store shelves, I examine the imagery on organic food labels. Supermarket Pastoral Today hundreds of varieties of organic processed foods line supermarket shelves across the nation, and on these pr oducts are creative images that suggest ideals of the term organic. Michael Pollan dubbed the prelapsarian essence of these labels Supermarket Pastoral; he explai ns the genre as a literary device through which consumers supply the logic of their purchase while the la bel itself makes no definitive health, social or environmental claims of superiority.95 In a passive way, the images common on organic product labels suggest vague justifications for the higher price and consumers, who purchase em otionally, tend to be subject to such imagery. The following images demonstrate this grocery store phenomenon. 95 Pollan, Behind the Organic-Industrial Complex. 55


Figure 3: Erewhons Crispy Rice Cereal label Figure 4: Earths Best Food Label Figure 5: Organic Valley Milk Carton Label As figures 3-5 illustrate, the images depict the ideal farm: rolling fields, more 56


than enough pasture for animals, and an ove rall fresh, clean environment of water and air. Erewhons Organic Crispy Rice Ce real (No Salt Added), in figure 3 illustrates the stereotypical organic food label utilizing bright colors and sunshine to depict a paradise-like location of an agricultural operation. The na tural and pastoral imagery of this label implies different ideas to consumers, but does not portray much verifiable information. Erewhons Crispy Rice is produced by U.S. Mills Inc., which was recently absorbed into Sunset Brands Inc. According to the U.S. Mills Inc. website, it is impossible to find out wher e the ingredients from these products originate, thus it is not possible to verify whether or not the organic brown rice, or organic barely malt came from a well mana ged, paradise-like or ganic agricultural operation, as the imagery suggests.96 Industrial organic ag riculture boasts of its orga nic pastoral foundation only when it is financially beneficial to visu ally connect a product to organic ideals. Consumers, misled by Big Organics and co mplacent with new organic conveniences, have continued to shape the term base d on what they are willing to buy. The exploitation of organic authenticity is effective for the unaware consumer and unnerving for the conscious consumer. All told, the principles governing indust rial organic agriculture show that the term organic has grown into something large, but largely not alternative. These methods do not emphasize local, sustainabl e food production, but they do emphasis 96 U. S. Mills Inc., Erewhon: Crispy Brown Rice No Salt Added, available at accessed March 2009. 57


quantity, cheap efficiency and a global ec onomy. As Cindy Burke states in her book To Buy or Not to Buy Organic Instead of organics cha nging the world for the better, it seems that, sadly, the wo rld is changing organics.97 Simply put, industrial agricultures guidance has altered the meaning of the term organic. Organic is not your Mother.98 Organic integrity is the assurance that a certified organi c product has been cultivated or produced within all of th e aforesaid philosophical and methodical guidelines described in chapter one. Initially, when national organic standards were drafted, this generated consumer comfort because the label aimed to denote such integrity. But as the organic industry beco mes more internationa l and global, organic food has become less polysemous in mean ing. While the global community argues over the true definition of organic food, bur eaucratic discrepancies persist concerning the malleable and poorly monitored standards; this lack of inte grity and reliability undermines the industrys credibility. Whole Foods Market, the predominant orga nic retail force in the United States, offers their Organic brand name at a cheaper price, which has many different stamps of certification on its label, including the USDA Organic Seal. These products are distributed by Whole Foods in Austin, Te xas. However, on the back side of many of these products in very small black print it indicates the country of origin which is 97 Cindy Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic 10. 98 Pollan, Naturally. 58


not often the United States. Frozen broccoli florets, frozen asparagus, and the frozen California blend are all products originally from China.99 It is not logical to label a frozen blend of vegetables from China C alifornia Blend. Other products countries of origin include India, Russia, Peru, the Netherlands, Madagascar -the list is long. It is difficult to image the successful regul ation of all of these countries and their organic standards given internati onal organic certification issues. Irregularities commonly appeared with certified food from countries overseas. It is difficult to assess and verify orga nic integrity overseas since the USDA contracts certifying bodies in the Unite d States who then contract international certifiers in other countries to inspect organic farms. The USDA never sets foot on the farm from which the product originates nor has dire ct contact with the actual food items. WJLA, a D.C. based news station, tested USDA certif ied organic ginger so ld in Whole Foods Market to discover the presence of the toxic pesticide aldicarb. The ginger had originated from China, and been certified by a certifier cont ract through Quality Assurance International, w ho is contracted by Whole F oods Market. This discovery led to the massive recall of Simply Orga nics ginger, as well as Pickling Spice, Seafood Seasoning and Jamaican Seasoning. Further investigation revealed that the Chinese certifiers had difficulty communicating with a language barrier, often disregarded organic rules and regulations, and were poorly trained.100 99 Whole Foods Market Internal Document, Country of Origin, available from accessed February 2009. 100 WJLA Script, I -Team Investigates: Pesticide-laced Organic Foods Follow Up August 5, 2008, available from http://www, (accessed February 2009). 59


Organic: Limitations and Impossibilities It is unrealistic to presume that an id eal will never be changed when it comes to implementation. However, the organic ideal ex isted as part of a social and political agreement concerning permanent forms of su stainable agriculture and its role in strengthening local communities. As the communities to which organic farms supply become global, the alignment of the term organic to its political and social afterthoughts become diluted. The organic label has changed from an i ndicator of trustwort hy food to a set of weakly enforced standards. The label has largely become a marketing tool, and while it does denote something, it has lost much of its integrity with the expansion of the organic market. As Julie Guthman, author and Associate Professor of Community Studies at the University of Santa Cruz notes the peculiar mix of state, non-profit, and private-sector organizations involved in organic regulation has fostered a great deal of self-serving competition and has t hus enabled a wide spectrum of allegedly sustainable practices to all occu r under the name of organic.101 As use of the term organic has crosse d nations and continents, it has shifted some of its definition to fit the needs of a global culture. It has adjusted to a different set of mental lives: from that of the sma ll, local citizen to th e international, welltraveled vagabond who has constant access to specialty items and non-seasonal produce. In this form, the term necess itates ill-fated farming methods, yet the international definition applies itself to all examples of organic agriculture, from the 101 Julie Guthman, Regulating Meaning, Appropriating Nature: The Codification of California Organic Agriculture, Antipode 30, no. 2 (1998): 135-154. 60


small to large farm, polyculture and monoc ulture. This definition conforms to the lowest common denominator in order to satisfy all international participants. Global application of the term organ ic to uniform standards of production does not exemplify sustainability or balance. The global community has asked too much of the organic label; it s idealistic intenti ons cannot be accomplished with what the term has become. 61


Chapter Three The Term Organic Ferments Organic industry participants have real ized that while organic food has spread phenomenally, its traditional values of sustainability, land stewardship and community have been compromised in the pr ocess. When organic food in the grocery store comes from Chile and Mexico, and is sold cheaper than the local organic produce, something in the industry needs to change.102 As noted in the UTNE article Beyond Organic, a reaction against the em pty impressions of industrial organic agriculture has left something missing within the organic industr y. Its not so much of a movement as a creeping sense to gr owing, buying, and eating food is more than a business transaction.103 As a result the lack of rigor in the organic certification process, concerned organicists began to use different terms that address the inadequ acies that the term organic overlooked, such as safe and fair labor, local food security, land stewardship, and market prices for impove rished farmers. The newer agricultural, social, environmental and political ideas are called beyond-organic and focus on achieving a higher level of sustainability than certified organic standards through communities.104 102 Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma, 168-169. 103 Joseph Hart, Beyond Organic: Good Food is About More than Standards: Its a State of Mind, UTNE Reader; January/Feburary 2006, available from (accessed March 2009). 104 Burke, To Buy or Not to Buy Organic, 65. 62


However, since the word organic is USDA regulated, beyond-organic is not a possible food labelit only denotes a philosophy as an alternative to organic.105 The beyond-organic philosophies in clude the larger movements of locavorism, SlowFood and Grub, and empl oys emerging regulated food labels including Demeter Certified, Fairtrade, and Equal Exchange as well as community established standards. These ideas stress th e importance of clea n, safe and fair food within systems, alternative or mainstream, and provide useful information to consumers in an ever-confusing food situation. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms is prim e example of an organic farmer and idealist who now calls his farm beyond-orga nic. As he explained in an interview with Mother Earth News More and more people are aware of th e compromise and adulteration within the government-sanctioned organic cert ified community. When someone asks if were certified organic, we respond playfully: Why would we want to stop there? We go beyond organic. 106 Salatin offers his customers transparency and a connection to his farm that the organic label never could. In stead of paying the extra fe es for certification, Salatin openly welcomes customers to traverse hi s land and observe farm practices for 105 Organic George, Beyond Organic: A New Label, May 15, 2006, available from (accessed February 2009). 106 Megan Phelps, Everything He Wants to Do is Illegal, Mother Earth News October 1, 2008, available from (accessed March 2009). 63


themselves. In line with th is philosophy of observable farming, he has an open-air slaughterhouse on his farm where Salatin proc esses his chickens. He also refuses to ship his meats in hopes that farming reli es on more sustainable methods, expressing that, the way I produce a chicken is an extension of my worldview.107 Community specific movements and associated food labels have surfaced as a reaction to diminishing organic integrit y. The Montana Sustainable Growers Union (MSGU) exemplifies one beyond-organic reaction to the inadequacies of USDA organic regulation. The MSGU is a collective of farmers within 75 miles of Missoula, Montana who all rely on direct market sale s. As the organizations website explains, many of the small farms in the MSGU have been certified organic before, but now opt out of the process due to political beliefs and/or financial viability.108 By establishing the Homegrown sta ndards, the MSGU voiced their reaction against the impenetrable walls of the term organic; MSGU farmers either did not think the term organic applied to their type of farming, or could not pay all the necessary fees associated with certification. Their locally su pported treaty of principles goes beyond the requirements of organic standards to ensure healthy food, soil fertility maintenance and rural economic stability. The MSGU emphasizes local aspects of agriculture, focusing on how homegrown strengthens local awareness of culture, ecology, economy, politics, quality and conservation.109 The MSGU and Salatin retain the abstract essence of the farming ideal by refusing to abide by government organic standards in their operations and not 107 Pollan, The Omnivores Dilemma, 227. 108 Montana Sustainable Growers Union, Our Mission. available from (accessed March 2009). 109 Montana Sustainable Growers Union, Why Buy Homegrown? available from (accessed March 2009). 64


becoming hyper-concrete food producers. These farms preserve their ability to manifest farming ideals because their cer tification standards are guided by the knowledge gained by keen and observant farm ers, and the local resources available. Salatin and MSGU represent ideals of food prod uction that are not easy to standardize but maintain a high level of integrity associated with individual operations. Alternative Food Labels Since consumers cannot rely only on th e term organic in order to make informed food choices, alternative food labels have materialized in order to better equip the urban dweller to make educated purchases. These classifications are community, nationally or internationally regul ated and they strive to address issues that are not clear within orga nic regulation, such as fair wages and reasonable market prices. Whether or not these alternative labe ls effectively bypass the limitations of the term organic is arguable. Fairtrade Fairtrade is a food label that was establ ished in order to address social and economic concerns of third world farming and its direct link to poverty. The term Fairtrade ensures that poverty-stricken fa rmers in undeveloped nations receive ample pay for their labor, and a set price for thei r (usually specialty) crop. Additional profits are used to fund community projects, such as building schools, health care systems 65


and clean water.110 The Fairtrade label is found on beverages such as tea, coffee, and hot cocoa, fruits, grains, and sweeteners.111 Certification standards evaluate long -term relationships between producers and purchasers, verify the absence of ch ild labor and pesticides, and evaluate a premium price for goods above the market value. Ensuring safe and fair labor conditions and wages, the Fair trade certified label addresse s social issues that the organic label does not. Nonetheless, issues concerning the Fa irtrade labels aris e because the food label oversimplifies the integrity and su stainability of food production systems and those involved. The Fairtrade standards impl y the inevitability of an international food economy, which is not necessarily sustai nable. The transportation of Fairtrade goods is highly dependent upon fossil fuels since these products are often products from Africa, South America, and Central America that are shipped to developed Western countries. The label links farmers, who are paid just a bove poverty rates, to become dependent upon a specialty market of wealthier nations. As Brendan ONeil articulates in his BBC articl e, the Fairtrade labels m ain concern today is with increasing farmers' wages by fairly small amounts rather than really transforming poor communities.112 If a farmer in Africa is cultivating specialty goods for consumers in the developed western part of the world, that farmer is not putting his energy into cultivating food fo r himself and his community. 110 Brendan ONeil, How Fair is Fairtrade? BBC News March 7, 2007 available from (accessed March 2009). 111 Consumer Reports, Fairtrade Certified, available from accessed March 2009. 112 ONeil, How Fair is Fairtrade? 66


Urban dwellers rely on the inform ation given on a food items label. Alternative food labels try to fill in the gaps of the or ganic ideal that the term organic inadequately addressed. However problems with these labels remain unfixed because it is increasingly difficu lt, if not impossible, to accurately and objectively communicate the complexity of the current food production paradigm. Often this information is informative, but examination of the Fairtrade label and its accompanying practices shows that the whole story of the food item is not communicated. How can food consumers understand the origins of their food? The locavore movement started to address this problem, as knowing the place in which the food is grown is a first step. Locavore While a multiplicity of food labels that describe the diffe rent repercussions and precautions taken within the food indus try could further untangle the confusion that is associated with organic food, disconnection remains between consumers and producers. By becoming more connected w ith local food sources concerned eaters have begun to solve this issue. They id entify themselves with the movement of locavorism. A locavore is a conscious consum er who defines his or her diet according to a reasonable radius of regional food products, which varies from person to person.113 This term, which was the 2007 Oxford American Dictionary Word of the 113 The Locavores: Jessica Prentice, Sage Van Wing, Dede Sampson, and Jennifer Maiser, Locavores, available from (accessed March 2009). 67


Year, represents the shift within the sphere of public food awareness.114 As a Businessweek article noted, the rise of farm ers markets is testament to a dramatic shift in American tastes. Consumers increas ingly are seeking out the flavors of fresh, vine-ripened foods grown on local farms rath er than those trucked to supermarkets from faraway lands.115 The locavore philosophy is abstract, yet ideal in its tenets; the movement is flexible enough for different communities to interpret the ideals in appropriate, individually rooted ways however founded in strong enough ideals to persist throughout the nation with some level of consistency. In a world of increasing agricultural ins ecurity, the myriad of benefits of a local diet include ensuring community f ood security and stre ngthening the local economy. By spending food dollars on local pr oduce at a farmers market, consumers are making sure that small farmers contro l the surrounding land instead of gigantic corporations, who often allow policy and national standards to govern cultivation.116 Also, local food sources dras tically decrease the risk s of food-borne pathogens causing a widespread epidemic. As Sandor Ellix Katz explains in The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, Decentralized local food systems provide security because they spread and dissipate the myriad food-safety risks not only the terrorist variety but also 114 Collin Dunn, Word of the Year: Locavore Nove mber 20, 2007, available from (accessed March 2009). 115 Pallavi Gogoi, The Rise of the Locavore, BusinessWeek, May 20, 2008, available from (accessed March 2009). 116 This is not emphasized with the Fairtrade label. 68


accidental contamination so that even a worst-case scenario is contained and does not have as catastrophic an impact.117 As more citizen support is generated for small, local farmers, it will become increasingly easier to suppl y urban dwellers with f ood from the nearby regions.118 Since the nutritional value of foods rapidl y declines as time between harvest and consumption is lengthened, eating local means eating healthier foods.119 A personal relationship with local food operations can ease th e worries of the industrial food eater. With a local food opera tion, one is able to get to know the farmer, the structure and methods of his fa rm, and what his opinions are concerning food production. By talking to a farmer, and asking questions, consumers will know whether or not they want to buy their f ood, and that type of knowledge cannot be represented through any ki nd of food label. A Natural Solution? As the terms Fairtrade and locavore have shown, alternative food labels struggle to represent the whol e picture of a food item, th e processes through which it is produced, and the repercussions of its production. As the public demands more clarity concerning these issues, alternative labe ls arise to fill in the gaps inadequately addressed by preceding labels. Consumers turn to food terms such as Demeter 117 Sandor Ellix Katz, The Revolution Will not Be Microwaved: Inside Americas Underground Food Movements, (Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2006); 146. 118 It is nearly impossible to have a completely loca lly based diet now, unless you live in an extremely rich and healthy bioregion, such as those near to the West Coast of the United States. 119 The Locavores: Jessica Prentice, Sage Van Wing, Dede Sampson, and Jennifer Maiser. The Top Twelve Reasons to Eat Locally. Available from (accessed March 2009). 69


Certified (for biodynamic ag ricultural operations), Cer tified Humane Raised and Handled, Cruelty-Free, and Protected Harvest in order to gather more information and make educated food choices.120 These labels provide more information to the consumer, however the proliferation of f ood labels does not necessarily solve the problems of communicating the essence of a food item. Regardless of how many food labels an item has, no word or group of words can describe the extremely complex we b of production that naturally governs agricultural cultivati on and its environmental conseque nces. If food is something that points us toward a particular place, a particular time of year, and a set of ongoing global processes, consumers would need direct personal experiences to point them towards the whole story of food.121 Food labels create an indirect link between producers and consumers that is facilitate d by middle men when a direct link would be more helpful. 120 For a more detailed description of what these labels denote, see Appendix B. 121 Gussow, Can an Organic Tw inkie be Certified?, 150. 70


Conclusion There is a global linguistic problem within the international industry: the term organic implies that there are no differen ces between the integrity of all organic foods. But, as my analysis has examined, organic foods are created in different production, processing, and transportation systems. The terms abstract character is difficult to classify simply because of its plethora of connotations. Moreover, organic is going to be defined differently within different communities of language users. As Micheal Pollan notes, the organic ideal is so ex acting that it is most often honored in the breach.122 These inequalities among the organic producers change the organic food item. Defining the term organi c in a fashion that satisfies all people involved in the organic industry may be impossible. Language users across the world, specifi cally eaters who buy the majority of their food based on label desi gnations, can communicate more effectively by realizing the inadequacies of emotionally, socially a nd politically-charged words. If consumers have a better understanding of the nuanced term organic their buying habits may be changed depending upon their justifications for purchasing organic food. Where food labels themselves have not communicated these degrees of difference, a direct dialogue can and will. The irony with which George Orwell spoke of equality among livestock in his book Animal Farm is applicable to certif ied organic food: all or ganic food is created equal, but some is more equal than others. 122 Pollan, Naturally. 71


Appendix A Biodynamic Agriculture Biodyanmic agriculture was created by Rudolf Steiner in 1924. As the UKs Demeter Production Standards suggest, the goal of biodynamic agriculture, is always to practice agriculture in such a manner that structuring the farm as an integrated unit results in productivity and h ealth, and that those input s needed for production are generated out of the farm itself.123 The use of preparations is the most striking difference between organic and biodynami c agriculture. Other different methods include planting by the lunar calendar, and conceiving the farm as a living organism within itself. Spiritual Science The distinction between biodynamic and organic agriculture is found within the governing philosophy of sp iritual science. Within th is philosophy, the spiritual and physical are without dis tinction, and many of the agricultural methods have a spiritual basis. Cosmic forces play a role in everyday life. These forces regulate the course of material change.124 According to spiritual science, through attentive awareness of plants and their nature, one can discern what planetary a nd cosmic forces are present within an 123 Biodynamic Agricultural Associa tion, Demeter UK Pr oduction Standards, Demeter Certification Scheme: September 2006, available from (accessed March 2009). 124 Steiner, An Agriculture Course, 14. 72


organism, and also which ones are needed. Pl ants and fruits both have an ethereal nature within them. The farm and plants (m icrocosm) within the farm are a reflection of the cosmos (macrocosm). Biodynamic farmers manipulate these forces with use of preparations. Preparations The main difference between plain organic agriculture and biodynamic agriculture is the utilization of biodynamic preparations The preparations are six homeopathic sprays from plants which enhance the ethereal nature of the soil, ultimately nourishing the crops and plants under cultivation. They include yarrow, chamomile, stinging nettle, oak (the rind), da ndelion and valerian. Each preparation is processed and used for different reasons. For example, yarrow is dried, pressed together and placed inside a stag bladder. This herb re-endows the earth with cosmic forces. The bladder is sown shut and hung up in the summer. It is then buried for the duration of winter. Afterwards, it is ready to distribute amongst manure for crops mixed into a diluted water solution. the mass we thus gain from the yarrow has an effect so quickening and so refreshing that if we now use the manure, thus treated, just in the way manure is ordinarily used, we shall make good again what would otherwise become a ruthless exploitation of the earth.125 The solutions are not transpor ting fertility into the soil, but rather awakening dormant fertility that already exists.126 125 Steiner, An Agriculture Course, 93. 126 Consult Rudolf Steiners An Agriculture Course for more information on biodynamic agriculture and Phillip Confords The Origins of the Organic Movement for a discussion of how biodynamic agriculture affected the orga nic agricultural movement. 73


Appendix B Other Food Labels Demeter Certified Biodynamic certified is entitled Demete r-certified. This food label denotes abidance by biodynamic agricultural standard s, which include separate production, processing and packaging standards, and is accepted as an extension of organic certification.127 It is found on beverages, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat products. The differences between Demeter certificati on and organic certif ication include the required use of preparations, limitations of the use of organic commercial manures, preference to any and all energy saving tec hniques, and a required proportion of land to grazing animals. Demeter certification standards forbid caged livestock, hydroponics, container gardening and genetically modified organisms.128 Certified Humane Raised and Handled This food label addresses the safety and healthy raising circumstances of livestock. Certification standards require ample space, healthy feed, fresh water, gentle handling, and are not confined by cages, crates or tie-stalls.129 Antibiotics and hormones are prohibited. Annual inspectio ns take place on livestock operations by third-party certifiers. 127 For a more indepth discussion of biodynamic agriculture, consult Appendix A. 128 Biodynamic Agricultural Associa tion, Demeter UK Pr oduction Standards, Demeter Certification Scheme, September 2006, available from accessed March 2009. 129 Humane Farm Animal Care, What is Certified Humane Raised and Handled? available at accessed March 2009. 74


Protected Harvest This food label addresses multifaceted methods of pest management. Food with a Protected Harvest label implies th at the food item was cultivated within a system of integrated pest management, t hus reducing the amount of pesticides used. The certification process examines the cultiv ation system, allotting points for certain uses of chemicals and the food operation mu st have a certain minimum of points to become certified.130 Unregulated General Claims Unregulated terms often appear on food labels, but are close to meaningless because there are neither standards nor cer tification involved. These terms include Free-Range (in the case of eggs, there are no established standards), Cruelty-Free, Hormone-Free, No Animal Testing, Ozone-Friendly, and others. 130 Greener Choices, Protect ed Harvest, available at accessed March 2009. 75


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