START A PETITION 25,136,189 members: the world's largest community for good
START A PETITION
x
Jun 12, 2006

Organic farms are a growing concern
As Wal-Mart begins bolster their selection, advocates worry about quality
The Associated Press

Updated: 6:09 p.m. ET May 30, 2006

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA, Calif. - Earthbound Farm’s fields of organic baby spinach and romaine lettuce are a living symbol of the organic food movement’s explosive growth in recent years.

What started two decades ago as a three-acre roadside farm in this valley 90 miles south of San Francisco has grown into the country’s largest grower of organic produce, with more than 100 types of fruits and vegetables on 28,000 acres in the U.S. and abroad.

Earthbound’s extraordinary growth is only the most visible example of how organic farming is changing. Small family farms created as an alternative to conventional agriculture are increasingly giving way to large-scale operations that harvest thousands of acres and market their produce nationwide.

And with Wal-Mart, Safeway, Albertson’s and other big supermarket chains expanding their organic offerings, the transformation may only be in its early stages.

“I don’t think (consumers) have any idea just how industrialized it’s becoming,” said Michael Pollan, a journalism professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma.” “There are some real downsides to organic farming scaling up to this extent.”

Pollan and others worry that the expansion of “Big Organic” will lower food quality, weaken standards and hurt small family farms. As organic goes mainstream, critics say, the movement loses touch with its roots as an eco-friendly system that offers a direct connection between consumers and the land where their food is grown.

Byron Albano, who handles marketing for Cuyama Orchards, his parents’ 210-acre organic apple orchard in Santa Barbara County, worries the entry of Wal-Mart and other supermarket chains will “lead to organic produce becoming a commodity with prices being dictated by those buyers.”

Other experts say the trend simply gives more consumers access to high-quality food and keeps prices down. It’s also good for the environment because fewer pesticides and fertilizers will pollute the air and water.

Despite its size, Earthbound Farm follows the same practices as smaller organic farms. It rotates crops to enrich the soil and avoid disease, doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or herbicides, and brings in syrphid flies and other beneficial insects to control pests.

Earthbound’s bagged salads and other organic products are now sold in more than 80 percent of U.S. supermarkets.

“Earthbound Farm’s mission is to bring the benefits of organic to as many people as possible,” said Myra Goodman, who founded the company with her husband Drew.

Organic food only makes up 2.5 percent of U.S. food sales, but it’s the fastest growing segment of the market. Sales reached nearly $14 billion last year, up from $6 billion five years earlier, according to the Organic Trade Association in Greenfield, Mass.

“Consumers see organic products as fitting in with a healthful life,” OTA spokeswoman Holly Givens said.

To meet growing demand from increasingly health conscious consumers and supermarket chains, farmers and ranchers are scaling up production and converting land to meet organic standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the USDA’s rules, organic produce must be grown without synthetic fertilizers or bioengineering and animals raised without antibiotics or growth hormones. A separate industry of government-approved organic certifiers has emerged to inspect farms and food handlers to ensure they conform. Some advocates don’t think the rules go far enough and are asking for a requirement that dairy cows be pasture-fed, not raised on feedlots.

The latest USDA survey in 2003 found that 2.2 million acres of farmland and ranchland had been certified organic, but that number is believed to have risen substantially since then, said Jake Lewin, director of marketing at California Certified Organic Farmers, one of the country’s largest certifiers.

Concerns about the increasing commercialism of organic farming reached a new level this spring when Wal-Mart announced it was joining other major grocery chains in ramping up organic sales.

Some small farmers worried that the world’s biggest retailer, notorious for squeezing suppliers to get the lowest price, would push them out of business.

Other advocates welcome the news, saying growers would benefit from rising demand and consumers would see prices drop. In the past, organic food has been associated with high-end retailers like the Whole Foods Market supermarket chain.

“It will bring organic to a whole new economic stratum that our farmers’ markets and natural food stores have been unable to reach,” said Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Organic Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, Calif.

But others worry that as more farmers shift to organic production to meet the needs of big supermarket chains, they will drive down food quality and weaken standards.

For example, some suppliers have been marketing organic soybeans and other products grown overseas, where it’s harder to determine whether farms meet U.S. standards, said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, in Finland, Minn.

“We’re heading for a consumer crisis over standards and the outsourcing of organic products from overseas,” Cummins said. “There will be continuing conflict between consumers, the USDA and companies not playing by the rules.”

UC Berkeley’s Pollan encourages environmentally minded consumers to shop at their local farmers’ market. When they buy organic products in supermarkets, those items must be refrigerated and often transported long distances, consuming as much fossil fuel as the conventional food system, he said.

“If organic means anything, it should mean that this food has a lighter environmental footprint,” Pollan said. “It’s really the supermarket and the supermarket shopper that drive the industrialization of organic.”

But Earthbound’s Myra Goodman said organic farmers can’t be expected to solve the problems of the U.S. food distribution system. Her company has a good relationship with Wal-Mart, whose organic expansion plans represent “the democratization of organics.”

“The vast majority of food is bought in supermarkets,” Goodman said. “Those people should have an organic choice.”

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
var url=location.href;var i=url.indexOf('/did/') + 1;if(i==0){i=url.indexOf('/print/1/') + 1;}if(i==0){i=url.indexOf('&print=1');}if(i>0){url = url.substring(0,i);document.write('

URL: '+url+'

');if(window.print){window.print()}else{alert('To print his page press Ctrl-P on your keyboard \nor choose print from your browser or device after clicking OK');}}

URL: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13050427/

Visibility: Everyone
Posted: Monday June 12, 2006, 10:39 am
Tags: about their as quality wal-mart advocates begins selection bolster worry [add/edit tags]

Group Discussions
Comments
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:

Author

pElAgUS hellot
female , single
Tamarindo, Costa Rica
PELAGUS'S SHARES
Oct
24
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\nBreakfast:\r\nBread & strawberry jam\r\n\r\nDinner:\r\n\r\ n250 gr couscous\r\n1 zucchini\r\n1 slice oignon\r\n1 red bell pepper\r\nCurry\r\nOlive oil\r\nPepper\r\n\r\nMix the hot water with the couscous, grill the zucchini with curry & pepper, then grill the bell pepp...
Oct
23
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\nBreakfast:\r\n\r\nOatme al & Rice milk\r\n\r\nDinner:\r\n\r \n5 medium potatoes\r\n400 gr mushrooms,\r\npepper,\r\n parsley,\r\nolive Oil\r\nCurcuma\r\n\r\nCoo k the potatoes in the water with curcuma.\r\nGrill the mushrooms in the oil with pepper, then add the potatoes & t...
Oct
21
(0 comments  |  discussions )
Breakfast:\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\ nOat meal with rice milk\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\nDinne r:\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n1 brocoli\r\n\r\n2 big apples\r\n\r\n250 gr pasta\r\n\r\nCinnamon\r\n \r\n\r\n\r\nCook the brocoli in water\r\n\r\nCook the pasta in water, a mn later add the apples cut in cubes & the cinnamon.\r\n\r\n\r\n\r\n Mix &a...
Oct
20
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\nBreakfast:\r\n\r\nAvoca do with olive oil & pepper\r\n\r\nDinner:\r\n \r\nPasta\r\nsweet peas\r\n1 cucumber\r\n1 slice red oignon\r\ncurcuma\r\npepp er\r\nsoy oil\r\n\r\ncook the pasta with the curcuma.\r\ngrill the cucumber with the oignon in the oil & pepper.\r\nMix & se...


SHARES FROM PELAGUS'S NETWORK
Feb
16
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\n\\r\\n“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”\\r\\n\\r\\ n \\r\\n\\r\\nSpence r Johnson\\r\\n\\r\\n  \\r\\n\\r\\nMany years ago, when I was in high school chemistry lab, I was assigned to do a litm...
Feb
15
(0 comments  |  discussions )
New Petition! Speak out against Time-Warner Merger with Comcast! Let your opinion be know before your bill goes up and your programming choices dwindle.\\r\\n\\r\\nUrge DOJ and FCC to Not Allow Merger of Time-Warner and Comcast\\r\\nhttp://www.t hepetitionsi...
Feb
13
(0 comments  |  discussions )
New Petition! Speak out against Time-Warner Merger with Comcast! Let your opinion be know before your bill goes up and your programming choices dwindle.\\r\\n\\r\\nUrge DOJ and FCC to Not Allow Merger of Time-Warner and Comcast\\r\\nhttp://www.t hepetitionsi...
Jan
29
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\nI have recently posted some BlogSpot radio interviews and YouTube videos, publicizing my two new books,\\r\\n1) Deepening Your Personal Relationships: Developing Emotional Intimacy and Good Communication.\\r\\n2) Psychological Healing Through Creative S...
Jan
24
by Ys A.
(0 comments  |  discussions )
\\nCoretta Scott King: “We have done what we can to reveal the truth, and we now urge you as members of the media, and we call upon elected officials, and other persons of influence to do what they can to share the revelation of this case to the ...


MORE MESSAGE
Mar 31
Message: what's going on?... by Apolonia P.
(1 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nZEN was suspended by Eric with no warning. We don\\\'t know any reasons nor how long it will last....\\r\\nI asked about it on the forum but my post was immediately deleted. 2 threads and petitions about Zen also. And 2 her help-groups. :-(\\r\\nUntill to... more
Feb 17
Message: Petitions that stop abuse to the speechless by Aza A.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nCan someone please tell me why petitions that want to end animal abuse,end the on going pain being inflected on the poor helpless animals. Paim that only ends when the animal dies.\\r\\nIs it that the 23 plus million members don\\\'t care or understand ... more
Message: Thanks by Gail B.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nThank you all for the warm welcome, still learn how to use the site.\\r\\nMay the grounds you set your feet upon be blessed every step of the way.\\n more
Feb 15
Message: My Daughter's Friend Needs Help by Cameron F.
(0 comments  |  discussions ) — \\nThis is Venus Marquez\\\'s friend, Gina Arellano. Venus is a friend of my daughter Nikka.  She seems to be covered in rashes/sores due to possibly chickenpox and needs to raise at least 200 Euros - about $275 US - to cover medical expenses.\\r\\nIf... more
Feb 13
Message: Free Puppy Ads In Terrifying Abundance! by Karen O.
(0 comments  |  0 discussions ) — I was so upset, when on my homepage, in the news section...there appearred, all sorts of advertisements all over, for free puppies...these are surely going to reappear in the future,  as horrific abuse cases.  What is wrong with people? Do t... more
 
Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of Care2.com or its affiliates.