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The war against the organic mafia
May 22, 2013 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Fraud in the organic farming sector has become a thriving international industry made up of a complex network of companies that bears all the marks of traditional organised crime. Excerpts.
posted by infini (48 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Organic farming seems like a perfect place for organized crime to intrude. Commit your fraud at the level of certification, and boom, your boring regular produce is now premium organic produce.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Puritan Foods.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 2:59 PM on May 22, 2013


Not surprising, considering the entire European food chain seems riddled with fraud and crime; it's horses for courses.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:14 PM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I'd think the biggest surprise would be that it's not more widespread at this point. It's well-established that people will pay a premium for organic stuff, and, unlike many people who will pay a premium for certified vegan foodstuffs, they don't seem as likely to investigate the veracity of the claims.
posted by elizardbits at 3:24 PM on May 22, 2013


Suddenly, thorzdad's comment over in the DIY engagement ring thread has taken on a whole new meaning. Is there an organic-farming yakuza?
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:48 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm also feeling extremely validated in my previously semi-irrational resentment of Whole Foods now, so thanks for that.
posted by Strange Interlude at 3:50 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Buy local.

Until, of course, someone reasons that on a cosmic scale, China's about as local as you can get, and what's wrong with an irradiated orange or two?
posted by Mooski at 3:55 PM on May 22, 2013


I appreciate the value of organically grown food, but what's wrong with irradiated fruit? Seriously.
posted by blue t-shirt at 4:00 PM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


but what's wrong with irradiated fruit? Seriously.

No idea, but like wheat, greek yogurt and artificial sweeteners, I'm sure someone will come up with something.
posted by Mooski at 4:22 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Um, German alternative newspaper reports that there is fraud and corruption in Italy. Surprising? And it's not clear that "international" goes very far outside the EU (or even outside of Italy).
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:23 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Buy local is no panacea. It's easily possible for vendors at farmers markets, etc. to make unverifiable claims such as "local" or "no spray" or even "organic" (which can be legally dicey if caught since that has legal meaning). There was an expose in the LA Times (I think) about "local" claims a year or so ago. I trust most vendors to be telling the truth, but given confusion about what labels even mean, it seems plausible that a vendor could sell food claiming X is true about it -- and honestly think their product conforms -- but the buyer has a different idea what X means. For instance, take "no spray". A vendor might say that thinking "no spray" means they didn't spray certain organic disallowed pesticides (he might say this because he doesn't have the actual organic certification, but mostly grows in an organic-similar way). A buyer might think they didn't spray any pesticides at all.

There's also little verification of "organic" claims beyond process inspections to get certification. USDA organic requires no testing -- such as sampling of produce to confirm disallowed pesticides aren't being used -- though that is slowly changing. International organic has even less verification (or, rather, it's much harder to judge whether or not the claimed verifications happened or were sufficient).

blue t-shirt: "organic" is a set of sometimes contradictory rules with disparate goals and values. Irradiation isn't considered natural by some (this is a values-based reason for it to be in the rules) and by others it's seen as a way to "cover up" safety issues in production.
posted by R343L at 4:31 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Isn't 'organic' usually code for woo and pseudo-science?

Most of the people I know who go on about 'organic' and 'natural' food are also anti-GMO and source facts from very sketchy sources.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:53 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "Isn't 'organic' usually code for woo and pseudo-science? "

There's certainly an unfortunate association between use of the word "organic" and woo/pseudoscience.
But that's not what buying "organic" should be about, at least not in my mind.

Other than a hard to quantify long term risk of exposure to low levels of a variety of X-icides, hormones and other substances I don't really think it'll do much for me individually in terms of flavor and/or health.

The reason I try to buy "organic" is because it's smart in a big picture sort of sense: posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:11 PM on May 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


Other than a hard to quantify long term risk of exposure to low levels of a variety of X-icides, hormones and other substances I don't really think it'll do much for me individually in terms of flavor and/or health.

"Hard to quantify"? So, 'indistinguishible from the placebo effect'?

It seems like most of this organic fad comes from the idea that 'natural' is better than artificial, which is an idea with no evidence. I've always thought the reverse - that nature is the impure, dirty state and only through the application of human technology can we make it better. And is anything you eat - which is the product of centuries of selective breeding - really be called natural?

Bullshit is Organic Too

This all sounds very nice, but the results of the meta-analysis show that organic foods do not contain significantly higher proportions of vitamins, minerals or other nutrients than conventionally grown or reared foods. This begs the question; if they are not actually any better for my body, and they cost more, why should I buy organic foods?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:14 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lies Caught on Tape at Farmers Markets in California.
posted by Human Flesh at 5:41 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Charlemagne i.S.: Not sure if you misread what I wrote or not but I was actually agreeing with you on the part where eating organic food probably doesn't do all that much for me personally in terms of health or taste.

Which is why I proceeded to post a list of questions that are way more important to me. My answer to these questions is to buy organic stuff as much as possible regardless of whether it makes any difference in terms of my health. Because there are big picture issues involved that have nothing to do with taste or immediate impact on personal health.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hairy Lobster: at least half the concerns you mention are not actually really required in any meaningful sense by USDA organic or are so overly restrictive I find that there are problems with the standard.

Water usage: Ever bought an organic tomato from Mexico? Then you're helping to deplete water tables there. Organic standards do not require specific water management that is more strict than non-organic.

Antibiotics: USDA organic forbids basically all antibiotic use, therapeutic or not. An animal treated with antibiotics has to be moved (or sold) to a conventional herd. Europe is much more reasonable about this and allows therapeutic use with waiting periods before the animal can be slaughtered or used for milk.

Fertilizers: Organic standards do not specify how much fertilizer you're allowed to use or require management and testing of fertilizer impacts. All it does is specify where the fertilizer comes from (i.e. manure). That is, you can sell organic food that is grown on a field with far too much manure applied, polluting local water. And it's still organic. In any case, modern organic is still heavily dependent on synthetic fertilizer, albeit indirectly.

Pesticides: While organic does severely restrict which ones you use and generally restricts amounts, it has arbitrary standards about which are used. That is, if you're concerned about reduced impact, there are organic disallowed pesticides that would be much better to use over the commonly used organic allowed ones. (examples: copper fungicides, two common pesticides used on organic soybeans).

Monocultures: Nothing in the existing organic standards require you to not grow in monocultures. For many crops it is standard even in organic to grow in monocultures. Growing most grains not in a monoculture manner is hard (we don't have equipment for efficient harvesting). On the other hand, crop rotation (non-monoculture over time) is more common in organic and becoming more common (again) in conventional. But nothing in the standard requires either space or time mixtures in crops grown in a particular field.

Crop biodiversity: nothing in organic standards require growing different varieties. Many of the varieties grown for common crops are very similar to those used on conventional farms.

Patents: Nothing in the organic standards require non-use of patented crops. There are in fact numerous patents (and other forms of variety protection) on produce varieties grown organically (see also many Zaiger family products).

This is why labels are so hard and why organic is so easily misused. Many consumers have no idea what the labels mean and they aren't based on outcomes. I'd prefer to see labels based on impact assessments: how much water is used? what kind of impact are the used pesticides having? how much energy is used per acre? And so forth, but nothing in organic requires or assures that. Unfortunately, many people think that the standard does.
posted by R343L at 5:42 PM on May 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


And, coincidentally I am actually using a good amount of bagged bullshit in my garden :D
From bulls raised organically of course.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:43 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I should note: the reason why I want outcome-based labeling is it would allow producers who don't want to conform with all the idiosyncratic rules for organic to compete with organic (or anyone) by showing reduced impact even if they sometimes use a synthetic fertilizer or pesticide (but responsibly).
posted by R343L at 5:44 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


R343L: "Water usage: Ever bought an organic tomato from Mexico?"

No. I buy'em locally or grow them myself. In part for that very reason.

Antibiotics: USDA organic forbids basically all antibiotic use

Great, that's exactly why I buy organic meats.

Fertilizers/Monocultures: Organic standards do not specify how much fertilizer you're allowed to use

However, organic farming practices often involve crop rotation and other techniques which reduce the need for fertilizing. Non-till farming reduces the need further.

Pesticides

I'm not claiming the requirements and regulations are perfect as they are. But if that's the best I can do in terms of shopping than that's what I'll do until I can do better.

Monocultures: Nothing in the existing organic standards require you to not grow in monocultures.
Crop biodiversity, Patents

This is one of the main reasons I'm growing a lot myself and why I buy the rest mostly from a local coop service which tells me exactly where my stuff is from and how it was grown. I can even go visit the farms if necessary.

Of course it isn't perfect and of course I'm probably ending up with a certain percentage of groceries that don't satisfy my personal criteria. Should I cease to try and do my best?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:51 PM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sure. I actually buy organic most of the time (but don't sweat it when I don't because there are significant problems with organic as it's practiced now, specifically land use). But the reality is most people aren't as aware of it that way. And you yourself say you grow a lot yourself to avoid some of those problems. Not everyone can grow their own (or wants to) or can even visit farms. Buying organic for some becomes a way to make them feel better -- hey, I'm doing something! -- even when there are significant misunderstandings about what the standard means in practice ... which makes it a lot easier to prey on people's good intentions.

As an aside, why do you support a complete ban on antibiotic use in livestock? I object to the ban on ethical grounds. We should allow reasonable therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock animals because that can be managed sensibly and is treating animals properly (which is presumably why the EU allows it). A complete ban offers perverse incentives to not treat animals effectively (google organic livestock and homeopathy) in order to save money (or keep the animal "organic" for higher sale price).
posted by R343L at 5:57 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


R343L: "As an aside, why do you support a complete ban on antibiotic use in livestock?"

I actually don't. There is of course a time and place for antibiotics from a medical perspective. However I would support a complete ban for any non-medical uses such as promoting growth. The amount of antibiotics used for this purpose alone is humongous.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:04 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ah, then I misread. I was pointing out that I thought the USDA organic rules for antibiotic use were unfair to animals (or, rather, could encourage unethical practices towards animals) and thought you were saying you were fine with that. I don't really think there's a good reason to use them for growth promotion purposes either.
posted by R343L at 6:06 PM on May 22, 2013


Anyhow, to reign in the derail I probably triggered... here's a resource I have used for certain products in order to get around the pervasive fraud:

http://www.cornucopia.org/

These guys have score cards for dairy and eggs. And their reviews include information about the actual farm(s) where possible. I have used these to figure out which eggs and milk to buy.

I wish they were expanding their scope but I guess it'd require significant resources and would be damn near impossible in some areas. Nevertheless it's a useful tool to help combat fraud.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:09 PM on May 22, 2013


Farmers that limit themselves to organic-certified practices will need more land, water, and fertiliser to grow a given yield when compared to farmers who choose efficient agricultural techniques.
posted by Human Flesh at 6:10 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Join a CSA. Visit said CSA farm. Get to know your CSA farmer. If anything seem hinky, get out. Few other things will work as well. Fewer still will be more worthwhile and informative if it all works out.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:52 PM on May 22, 2013


Confederate States of America farm?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:01 PM on May 22, 2013


*sigh*
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:01 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Consumers shouldn't be left to fend for themselves when it comes to health and safety. If I walked into a grocery store that had a 'glass shard free' section and a 'may contain glass shards' section, I wouldn't think it was safe to shop in the 'glass shard free' section. I would take my business elsewhere. If you don't think that food safety regulations protect you from being poisoned by normal food, why do you think they'll protect you from being poisoned by food that's labeled organic?
posted by Human Flesh at 7:18 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Every time I see CSA I think Confederate States of America. It takes me a minute to figure out what people are talking about, and I have to look it up every to remember exactly what it stands for. And I know what it’s referring to, I’ve gone to the local Farmer’s Market and talked to people about joining.

That makes it a really bad acronym for use in public without an explanation. And in general.
posted by bongo_x at 7:44 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


but what's wrong with irradiated fruit? Seriously.

the problem with food irradiation is that it is usually premised on laxer standards in the steps leading up to the irradiation: e coli on the berries, no problem the radiation will take care of it. so, producers can just invest in irradiation technology rather than solve the inherent contamination problem. in principle, this wouldn't make any difference, but contamination is symptomatic of poor practices: e coli getting on produce from workers without access to sanitary systems or working unhealthy, etc.

all of that gets lost when you go down the rabbit hole of OMG radiation in my strawberries...

Great, that's exactly why I buy organic meats.

but the biggest problem with antibiotics in meat is the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria strains. when you are dying from a blood infection from a scrape after a fall off your bicycle, your organic chicken eating won't do you any good.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:44 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


e coli on the berries, no problem the radiation will take care of it. so, producers can just invest in irradiation technology rather than solve the inherent contamination problem.

See also factory dairy farms and pasteurization. Poop in milk due to dirty facilities? No problem, we'll just treat it. See, clean poop-milk. All better.

No I am not against pasteurization, I am for not having a gross ass facility and playing CYA with technology.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:53 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anyone who's marvelled at the generic supermarket house-brand "organic" prepared foods has known for a long, long time... organic don't mean (all natural, non-hormone or antibiotic fed) shit.

You need to trust the vendor and not the "organic" label - buy locally sourced and vetted produce and meats, and then buy trusted regional or national brands.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:01 PM on May 22, 2013


the problem with food irradiation is that it is usually premised on laxer standards in the steps leading up to the irradiation

Is it? Couldn't you use that argument against any tool that reduces foodborne illness?
posted by Human Flesh at 8:06 PM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


See also factory dairy farms and pasteurization. Poop in milk due to dirty facilities? No problem, we'll just treat it. See, clean poop-milk. All better.

And since it's clean, it's fine. Pasteurization has saved millions of lives. You say that you are not anti-pasteurization, but if you are not, then what are you really arguing? What's the point? What is more important to you: the illusion of having cleaner, more "natural" facilities, or the reality of fewer people becoming seriously ill?

Raw milk is one of the filthiest foodstuffs around. I don't care that most of it comes from friendly farmers with bright, wide smiles. Most importantly, the bacteria responsible for hurting people cannot be avoided merely by using cleaner equipment. It is factually incorrect to say that bad raw milk comes from dirty facilities. These bacteria are "present as a normal flora of the gut of ruminants and are ubiquitous in the environment".

If your goal is to have cleaner facilities, then you should create legislation, regulations, or even just private certification and labeling ensuring that certain standards are lived up to. Skipping pasteurization will never, ever, ever lead to cleaner milk.

...

in principle, [irradiation] wouldn't make any difference, but contamination is symptomatic of poor practices: e coli getting on produce from workers without access to sanitary systems or working unhealthy, etc.

We already have regulations about safe workplaces and safe work practices. Perhaps these regulations should be better written or better enforced, but that's the proper way to deal with it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:15 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


So much for being taken at face value on the internet. Oh well.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:33 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Since we're not going to talk about the article, let's discuss some facts about Organic certification. Now, as it turns out, I'm in the middle of having my new farm certified Organic with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. A few points:

1) Manure application to food crops is heavily regulated on Certified Organic farms. As in, you can't do it for some months prior to harvest. This is not the case on non-certified farms. Go nuts without that piece of paper. If you do want to apply manure, it needs to be composted first. In order for the compost to be compost and not shit, you need to document the feedstocks that were put in the pile as well as their Carbon:Nitrogen ratios and the temperatures of the pile as it composts.

2) My application requires me to document my plans for maintaining soil fertility and water quality on my farm, which, for shits and giggles, has a salmon stream running through it.

3) I am required to document fertility amendments that I'm going to be applying and make them fit a long-term plan for managing soil fertility.

4) I am required to document my crop rotation plans, again as part of a long-term soil management plan.

5) Yes, l need an organic systems management plan as well as a farm plan and a holistic management plan.

6) I'm required to describe my irrigation plan and enumerate the techniques I will be using to conserve water.

7) I need to describe my weed and pest control strategies.

8) I need to document my plans for avoiding cross contamination of conventional and Organic crops.

For further fun, there aren't firm prescriptions for any of these requirements. The farm gets graded on a point system and if I'm weak in one area I can make it up in another. Note that many of the requirements deal specifically with water usage, water quality, and soil health. Neat, huh?

Now, my current application is as a vegetable crop producer, because I am certifying pasture (and the resulting hay). The application to get my meat animals certified is another one entirely and it has huge sections about animal welfare and humane handling.

So if you care about animal welfare and humane treatment, yes, you really do get something with the Organic label. I mean, for fuck's sake, to be Organic I need to have an officially humane animal handling system in place at the fucking slaughterhouse. Does a conventional producer? No.

So yes, Organic is better for animal welfare.

As far as withholding non-prophylactic antibiotics, I don't have the rules off the top of my head. Organic does not prohibit all medication and, even if it did, simply noting on an eartag that an animal no longer qualifies as Organic solves the problem. It's certainly cheaper that writing off a $2500 steer.

Funnily enough, the one chemical wormer that's OMRI-listed (that means Organic kosher) is Ivermectin, previously discussed as a solution to bedbugs in Brooklyn. Which means, in turn, that the artisanal hipsters can maintain their Organic status.

This has nothing to do with the posted article or issues of out-and-out fraud or, a thing that I see frequently, the impression of farmers' market shoppers that every vendor is both Organic and not a reseller, but it'd be nice if we could clear up some of the more egregious misinformation about what Organic does and does not mean.
posted by stet at 9:49 PM on May 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


I apologize if I've misunderstood you, RolandOfEld. Could you please clarify your remark? I came away with the impression that you were saying that pasteurization, while good in and of itself, indirectly leads to dirtier facilities, and that this situation is analogous to why one might oppose irradiation.

I am pointing out that this argument, much like the argument against irradiation, does not hold water. While I understand that you are not literally against pasteurization, it is also not the case that pasteurization itself leads to meaningfully dirtier workplaces. Raw milk production is the laxer, more dirty standard. While pasteurization may remove some incentives to ensure that other aspects of milk production are clean, pasteurized milk itself is far cleaner than the frequently filthy and disease-ridden liquid that raw milk producers profit from.

To ensure the safety of workers and cattle, we should "pick up the slack" by regulating other aspects of facility cleanliness, best work practices, animal health, and so on. Pasteurize your milk, while also making sure that the work environment is safe, clean, and humane.

Likewise with irradiation, there is no need to trade the well-being of consumers in exchange for a mere appearance or idea of cleanliness. When we are concerned about worker and workplace safety, then we should actually address that issue. When we are afraid that big companies will, through agency capture and self-serving regulations, force smaller farms to purchase potentially expensive irradiation equipment, then we should face that head-on, as well. But, if you don't have an evidence-based argument against irradiation, then it would be wise to put your resources elsewhere.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:16 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not surprising, considering the entire European food chain seems riddled with fraud and crime; it's horses for courses.

Well, horses for main courses, at least.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:33 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Forget the Organic Boys. It's the Gluten Gang you have to worry about.
posted by spitbull at 4:59 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although I must say this is a very metafilter debate . . . Not one comment has raised the cost/benefit question at a population level. It's all about either what goes in our own bodies (or our own family's) and what's best for the environment. Both are noble, laudable justifications for any particular purchasing decision.

But we have a huge problem in the developed world. Ironically, it's just as bad if not worse in rural areas as in cities. And it is that the very poorest eat the lowest quality diets. If you can't even *buy* a tomato or a head of broccoli in your neighborhood, the "organic" debate is pretty moot. Bad nutrition leads to very expensive health outcomes, lower quality of life, and cognitive and developmental impairments that may contribute to continued poverty, higher crime rates, and many other systemic social problems that are dragging the US into the gutter as they are exacerbated by growing income inequality and resulting segregation of food sources.

I just don't want us to lose sight of the fact that there are neighborhoods in many American cities (and rural small towns) where you can barely buy any vegetables, let alone fresh organic ones.

The implicit elitism of the organic food/sustainable agriculture debates -- the way they tend to ignore food security and community nutrition issues in contexts exactly like this one right here -- makes diet yet another expression of class politics and identity, easily mocked and dismissed as rich people problems. Of course these issues go much deeper. When we run out of usable soil and our waters are all polluted, no one will eat healthy food. But that's not much better than a world in which some people eat very well and others eat shit. And I don't mean organically composted manure.

And this is a cost issue too. Based on my personal experience, many "organic" produce items cost 10-50 percent more than their "non-organic" counterparts. To me there is a very real question -- an empirical one, not an ideological one -- as to whether that level of spending and ultimately investment is best spent improving the diets of the well off (on the theory that it saves the planet for everyone and/or that the benefits of healthy food will trickle down as producers scale up and organic production becomes more efficient and widespread) or best spent improving the diets of those who are already either starving or making themselves sick eating unhealthy food.

In other words, when school districts around the country are serving freaking "walking tacos" for lunch (this actually happens, I have evidence -- a bag of doritos filled with melted processed cheese food product and fake salsa), is that 5 bucks extra I spend at the grocery store to buy organic blueberries and milk better spent feeding 5 kids a serving of fucking broccoli, organic or not?

I'm not proselytizing, and I don't know the answers, I'm just suggesting we need to consider these economic inequality issues. Nowhere are they more evident and frightening than in the domain of diet.
posted by spitbull at 5:23 AM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fertilizer? Nah, we just send Nicky the Thumb to plant a horse head in every bed. Bam! That nitrogen is "fixed", capice?
posted by condour75 at 5:45 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


Eeek, just to slightly elaborate my phrasing, when I referred to a "huge problem in the developed world," I meant to compare it to the problem of starvation and malnutrition in poorer countries; but in fact, the addictive qualities of sugar and fat, exploited by a venal and unaccountable processed food industry, are also wreaking havoc in the developing world. It's a better problem to have than starvation, to be sure. But vast parts of both rich and poor societies can reasonably said to suffer from malnutrition even when they eat foods that drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and all the other consequences.

I'd be willing to bet the world's largest concentration of "organic" farmers could be described as "small subsistence farmers in underdeveloped countries" who can't afford the chemical inputs that would make their farms more efficient in gross terms. Therein lies, of course, the core argument for chemically enhanced agriculture: when you don't have enough calories, the quality of the calories you don't have doesn't really matter.
posted by spitbull at 7:51 AM on May 23, 2013


My solution is to grow my own. I have just under a quarter of an acre on which I have chickens and veggies. Which all turns in to compost, which all turns back into eggs and veggies and so on. Any other meat I buy is humanely raised and slaughtered, but I don't go out of my way to buy anything else organic because frankly, unless I'm there, I just have no idea.

I also run a food swap in my neighborhood where one can bring your excess loquat chutney to trade for my excess tangelos or vinegar or blueberry syrup.

It is a class issue though. I am lucky enough to have the quarter acre. People who live in apartments, even if they have the patio space to grow a tomato or two aren't going to have enough to swap or even really supplement their own diets, which is why we also have Food Forward in L.A. that collects excess fruits and veggies and brings them to local shelters and food banks.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:57 AM on May 23, 2013


stet: Which standard to you conform to? At least some of that doesn't seem like anything USDA organic enforces with any rigor... it's one reason that, when I bought organic more consistently, I strongly preffer CCOF or Oregon Tilth. The USDA standard seemed to be pretty hand-waving.
posted by R343L at 9:34 AM on May 23, 2013


WSDA Organic. It's state level since I have no particular interest in or need to sell across state lines. Plus I like the folks I work with on the state level. There's substantial overlap with Federal standards and the approved materials lists are pretty much national. Also, to clarify, I am not yet certified. Because my farm, which is ours as of last Tuesday, has an affidavit from the previous owner that nothing has been applied for the past ten years, we get to skip the usual three-year window after last use of a prohibited substance and get it done as soon as we can get an inspector out, which should be in a couple of months. So, not certified yet.

Oregon Tilth is my preferred standard as well. We just went the WSDA route because the timing works out and it makes it much easier to sell surplus forage (hay and such) to other farms who need the certified feed to keep their certification.

For meat and produce, I don't worry about any certification, but that's because I'm in a position to both know who I'm buying from and to have the tools to evaluate their practices. When I'm buying at the store, I go Organic because it's a step in the right direction and it's my pet issue.

Certified Organic is by no means the complete solution for food quality, safety, and security, but it bugs me to hear so much misinformation floating around.
posted by stet at 10:09 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Skeptoid did an episode about this
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:45 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


My apologies, I was called away after publishing this to hear that one of the largest such certification bodies may soon run out of subsidies. In other news, I've just said yes to love. Yesterday actually ;p

Oh and my relevant commentary on this thread after favouriting most of the early comments was to suddenly realize that I couldn't favourite the whole thread, or could I?

Outta here and back wasting time on the blue next week
posted by infini at 6:17 AM on May 24, 2013


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