We Can No Longer Rely on Organic Standard

by Alliance for Natural Health

The USDA’s organics program has been taken over by corporate interests; it’s time to fight back. Action Alert!


Consumers looking for clean, healthy food have for years turned to foods with the USDA’s organic seal. This seal is understood to mean that the food has been grown in accordance with organic principles—most importantly, that the farming practices promote healthy soil, which in turn produces healthy food.

Unfortunately, corporate influence has infected the USDA’s organic program to such an extent that it can be difficult to trust the organic seal.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have taken over organic eggs and dairy.

According to organic standards, livestock are supposed to have access to the outdoors, fresh air, and sunlight.

But these provisions have been interpreted in such a way as to allow CAFOs to confine animals to barns but add “porches”—a roof built over a concrete floor with screens as walls—and still label their livestock as “organic.”

This allows CAFOs to continue to raise millions of chickens or livestock on the cheap in cramped, squalid conditions but charge the organic premium.

The USDA estimates that half of all organic eggs come from CAFOs.

This is crucial for those seeking healthier options: organic eggs have been found to contain more micronutrients than conventional eggs: organic eggs have three times more omega-3 fatty acids, 40% more vitamin A, and twice as much vitamin E. Buying CAFO-raised organic eggs means consumers are not getting the benefits they think they are.

Organic milk suffers from a similar problem: half of organic milk sold in the US comes from CAFOs, according to the Cornucopia Institute.

Recent exposés have detailed how CAFOs try to cheat the system by not pasturing their cows as required by organic standards. Real organic milk from grass-fed cows contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an unsaturated fat that studies have shown helps protect the heart and help in weight loss.

Again, consumers are being duped into thinking they’re buying healthier milk when organic rules are manipulated and broken in these ways.

What can be done to save real organic agriculture? Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t seem to care.

The government’s program has totally been co-opted by industry: it isn’t small, independent organic farmers who want CAFO milk and eggs and hydroponic produce to be organic.

We can also see the fingerprints of corporate influence through the ever-growing list of synthetic additives that have been allowed in organic production.

More than 250 non-organic substances are currently allowed, up from 77 in 2002.

For example, General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, Organic Valley, Earthbound Farms, and Whole Foods Market voted to include ammonium nonanoate, an herbicide, in organic production—a vote which they ultimately lost.

The growing consolidation of the industry also gives larger corporations an edge over the dwindling number of independent farmers who do not have powerful lobbyists at their disposal.

The USDA also has no mandate to promote organic agriculture, since it would be doing so at the expense of conventional agriculture which is represented by powerful special interests.

We’ll also point out that the organic standard did not start out as a government program. It began as a movement of private certifiers in the 1970’s and 80’s. States began passing their own standards. It wasn’t until 1990 that the federal government got involved with establishing its own organic program, opening the door for Big Food corruption.

Read the full article at Alliance for Natural Health.


The Healthy Traditions Glyphosate-tested Program. Foods with this logo have been tested for the presence of glyphosate.


Click to enlarge. Source.

Who Owns Organics infographic from The Cornucopia Institute.

The first wave of acquisitions of organic processors was concentrated between December, 1997 and October, 2002.  This period coincides with the initial release of the draft USDA organic standards and its full implementation in October, 2002. A second wave of acquisitions in the organic sector has been occurring since 2012. Surprisingly few major corporate agribusinesses note ownership ties on their acquisitions’ product labels.

Dr. Phil Howard, an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State and author of the infographic above, has identified some significant updates to his Who Owns Organic Chart, including:

  • December 2018: Nestle-Osem divested Tribe (sold to Lakeview Farms)
  • November 2018: Kraft Heinz acquired Primal Kitchen for $200M
  • September 2018: Kraft Heinz acquired Ethical Bean Coffee
  • June 2018: Tyson acquired Tecumseh Poultry/Smart Chicken; ConAgra acquired Pinnacle Foods (Earth Balance/Udi’s/Evol) for $10.9B
  • May 2018: Pepsi acquired Bare Foods
  • February 2018: Danone’s venture division invested in Harmless Harvest coconut water; Nestlé acquired majority stake in Terrafertil/Nature’s Heart
  • December 2017: Campbell Soup Co. acquired Snyder’s-Lance for $4.87B
  • November 2017: Unilever acquired Tazo Tea (from Starbucks) for $384M; Nestlé acquired Chameleon Cold-Brew
  • September 2017: Nestlé acquired Sweet Earth and a 68% stake in Blue Bottle Coffee; B&G acquired Back to Nature (from Brynwood Partners and Mondelēz) for $162.5M; Unilever acquired Pukka Herbs
  • July 2017: Lactalis announced it would acquire Stonyfield from Danone for $875 M; Campbell Soup Co. acquired Pacific Foods for $700 M; AB InBev acquired Hiball
  • June 2017: Dean Foods acquired Uncle Matt’s Organic
  • Dean Foods acquired minority stake in Good Karma
  • April 2017: Unilever acquired Sir Kensington’s
  • February 2017: Maple Leaf Foods (#43) acquired Lightlife Foods from Brynwood Partners
  • December 2016: B&G Foods (#95) acquired Victoria Fine Foods
  • November 2016: Pilgrim’s Pride (#18, but 76% owned by #4 JBS) acquired The GNP Company (Just BARE chicken) for $350 M; Dean Foods and Organic Valley form a 50/50 joint venture; Pepsi acquired KeVita; Dr. Pepper Snapple Group acquired Bai for $1.7 B
  • July 2016: Danone announced it would acquire WhiteWave for $12.5 B. Deal completed with the condition that Stonyfield be sold in April 2017
  • June 2016: Coca-Cola acquired minority stake in Aloe Gloe; Kellogg acquired Pure Organic
  • May 2016: Hormel acquired Justin’s (nut butters) for $286 M
  • March 2016: Pulmuone acquired Vitasoy/Nasoya for $50 M
  • General Mills investments via its “301 Inc.” venture capital arm include the following: $1.25 M in Tio Gazpacho in March 2016, $2.1 M in Good Culture in March 2016 (+$3 M in September 2016), $18M in Kite Hill in May 2016, additional $6 M in Rhythm Superfoods in January 2017, $6.5 M in Farmhouse Culture in March 2017, and $3 M in Purely Elizabeth in April 2017

The Cornucopia Institute