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Organics Industry Plagued by Recession and Scandal

It's only January, and the organic industry is already having a bad year. Not only have producers been losing consumers due to the hefty price tag of organic food, but the industry has struggled to maintain its integrity.

With organic feed prices at an all-time high, farmers in the UK are lobbying the government to temporarily relax organic feed standards to assist livestock producers who are currently paying twice as much for organic feed as they would conventional. In California, state investigators have discovered that California Liquid Fertilizer, an organic farming treatment, had been spiking its fertilizer with a synthetic product banned from organic farms. The tainted fertilizer infiltrated up to a third of the organic market, including produce giants such as Earthbound Farms, for up to seven years. Following the incident, investigations have begun into other organic fertilizer distributors in different states.

With these issues now in the spotlight, it's my feeling that consumers will be left confused about organic standards of quality, and distrustful of industry practices. Does this affect your preferences about shopping organic?


Join The Conversation
roxyb roxyb 8 years
I know this sounds jaded...but is anyone truly shocked by this news? It is upsetting to hear but not shocking. I think I (along with most people I know) suspected that some organic foods had something going on behind the scenes.
oneprettything oneprettything 8 years
This makes me want to grow more of more of my own food! We try and grow as much as possible and buy the rest from small, local farms. I also think that by avoiding processed foods and animal products we can avoid a lot of these issues and additives. I realize that kind of diet isn't for everyone though. It's so sad that it's so incredibly hard to get simple, unproccessed, untainted food. =(
SamanthaCabaluna SamanthaCabaluna 8 years
This is Samantha from Earthbound Farm. I wanted to chime in on your discussion. Earthbound Farm, other organic farms, and those who made the conscious decision to choose organic were defrauded by the makers of Biolizer XN; this liquid organic fertilizer, which was endorsed as organic by the highly respected Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), was found to be fortified with non-organic nitrogen. As soon as we confirmed this, we notified all growers in the Earthbound Farm network of the findings and required that they review their inputs to determine whether they may have used this particular fertilizer and to stop using it immediately if they were. This product has not been used by any of our farmers for well over a year. There are 150 farmers who grow Earthbound Farm organic produce on farms of all sizes, from 5 acres to 680 acres. As an organic leader, we are committed to the protection of organic integrity. Our farmers fertilize with a variety of methods, including cover crops, so this liquid fertilizer was far from the only source of fertility for our crops. They also use beneficial insect habitat, crop rotation, trap crops/host crops and other very traditional, scale-neutral organic practices. To protect the organic integrity of our crops and our farms from being victimized again, we have instituted a stringent organic verification process for all liquid fertilizers: any of our farmers using any kind of liquid fertilizer must subject it to nitrogen testing and process validation by an independent, third-party lab, to ensure that any product marketed as organic is legitimately organic. Since its founding on 2½ acres in 1984, Earthbound Farm has maintained an unwavering commitment to organic farming. We are passionate about its potential to produce healthy food and to protect the environment. We think it's important to provide the organic choice to people all across the country, in the supermarkets where they shop every day. This fertilizer problem underscores the crucial importance of strict adherence to the organic standards, enforcement of those standards, and transparency at all levels. All of us who believe in the benefits of organic food and farming must take responsibility for defending and protecting the integrity of the organic standards.
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
I've always feared this so I refuse to pay more for something that I can't even believe in 100%...
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
I prefer to just buy from my local farmer (or farmer's market) that practices safe and sustainable farming (including grassfed or pastured animals).
michlny michlny 8 years
It's so frustrating. We try to be healthy and make the right options - but we can't trust anyone. I wish I could grow all my own food.
soulight soulight 8 years
My mom is all about the organic, I, on the other hand, am not because I don't have the disposible income my parents do, seeing as I'm a lowly student. I was always wondering if "organic" was one of those labels you see everywhere like "made with whole grains" that doesn't really tell the whole story. It's sad that people are putting money and faith in products that may be deceiving them.
mannylove mannylove 8 years
Hmmm.that's tough to hear. Now it will be hard to justify paying more for organic products when you question whether they are truly 100% organic or not. Not sure what I will do now...
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that it's really going to make people question things a lot more and that's a shame. for myself - i was trying to buy organic because of precedence and because there was a higher standard that was being applied to how foods were grown and produced. knowing that there was a fertilizer company that wasn't being honest - well that makes you question things sometimes. granted at least we know this now, and we know what the company was, so you are able to watch out for products that used this - but still - it makes you wonder. i know that there are folks who are out for their own personal gains, but if they are more honest about how they produce things, then it would be a win win in the future. as for the high costs - that's a hard one - but i think that if we're in the position to understand that we're getting a higher quality, and perhaps healthier product because it's organic, then i think that consumers are a bit more willing to pay a little bit more. it can be hard for farmers to keep making a profit since their costs are so high, but like anything else, it due time i'm sure it will all level out.
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