About $20,000 in government fines, it seems.
There are not many people who truly still believe an 'organic' label is healthier food. Organic pesticides are no better (or worse) for us than synthetic pesticides and the list of exemptions for synthetic ingredients that organic food conglomerates have gotten approved by the US Department of Agriculture is dizzying. Meanwhile, organic companies (and the USDA) are stuck trying to claim a fruit mutated by random cosmic rays is organic but a fruit with a precisely controlled genetic optimization is not only inorganic but unnatural and harmful, a claim that every major scientific body disputes.
Mary Esch at Associated Press tells the tale of farmers who are part of the growing backlash against the government-industrial takeover of organic food 11 years ago - The USDA's National Organic Program. Yet the Certified Naturally Grown group, which has grown to almost 800 farms in 47 states, is careful to say it is not in competition with Organic food.
It's Granola Conservatives or Libertarians About Food, or whatever we want to call organic farmers who want to sell at a Farmer's Market and not have to sign over a large chunk of their revenue to centralized government. Conventional organic farmers who pay the fees and do the paperwork are worried about these smaller upstarts following organic practices without the government hassle - so they want them to be certified USDA Organic.
Why would other farmers care? There isn't much difference, other than that the USDA says its official Organic process uses no GMOs and those farmers say it will create confusion. How so, anything with a different label than 'Organic' is not going to be purchased by organic shoppers, right?
Sure it will be, by the ones who know biology. Scientifically literate shoppers recognize that GMOs are are not 'inorganic', so if they just prefer small farms and organic over synthetic pesticides, 'Certified Naturally Grown' is the way to go. It's for farmers don't want to fill out a bunch of paperwork and spend up to 6% of their revenue in government fees but still embrace organic values.
Transplanting lettuce in Schaghticoke, N.Y. How would you know if it's USDA Organic or Certified Naturally Grown? Credit and link: AP Photo/Mike Groll
Big Organic says it creates 'confusion' but it's really about competition. When California implemented a no-smoking ban without a vote by the legislature or the public, some bars and restaurants ignored it. In San Francisco, non-smoking bars and restaurants sued the hold-outs because places that still allowed smoking had a 'competitive advantage' to places that did not - they did not list the health of their employees or the public in the court filing. So it goes with organic certification. If the food is the same (except for those Evil GMOs that anti-science hippies hate) and costs less, 'Certified Naturally Grown' will sell more. The $29 billion Organic sticker becomes less valuable when there are alternatives.
When is the last time you saw a surprise spot inspection at an Organic farm? Never. But Certified Naturally Grown farmers peer review each other so there is a good chance the quality will be more reliable, unless you don't believe in peer review.
Are the fees and paperwork overstated? The Associated Press quotes a USDA Organic farmer who says the fees and paperwork to get a USDA Organic label are exaggerated. But he does $2,000,000 in revenue and says the premium he gets to charge makes the cost worth it.
So the next time you are at a Farmer's Market and see a USDA Organic certification, you may have to wonder if the food is actually better for you than the produce at the table without a label, or if the farm is owned by a millionaire.