Friday, November 04, 2005

They're Coming After Your Organic Foods

Is nothing sacred? Apparently not. Organic foods are nothing new but remain a small part of the overall market. However, the growth of this sector has far outstripped that of other areas.

With sales of roughly $12 billion, organic food remains a
niche market within the $500 billion food industry. But the sector's growing appeal to consumers has fueled a 20 percent annual growth rate in recent years, making it highly attractive to food giants looking for gains in a slow-moving business.

Accordingly, big players have entered the arena. These include General Mills (under the Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen brands) and Kraft (under the Back To Nature and Boca Foods brands). Of course Wal-Mart has an interest here too.

Wal-Mart wants in, too. "We are particularly excited about organic food, the fastest-growing category in all of food," Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's chief executive, said at a recent shareholder meeting. "It's a great example of how Wal-Mart can appeal to a wider range of customers."

Republicans have heard the call and have once again intervened on behalf of big business.

The debate has been under way for several years. But last week, Senate and House Republicans on the Agriculture appropriations subcommittee inserted a last-minute provision into the department's fiscal 2006 budget specifying that certain artificial ingredients could be used in organic food.

This was apparently done without a hearing or prior notice. Standards first established in 1990 can be temporarily rolled back under the new spending bill.

At the same time, Charles Sweat, chief operating officer at
Earthbound Farm, the country's largest grower of organic produce, said he was concerned with the section of the spending bill that gives the Agriculture Department authority to grant temporary exemptions to allow conventionally grown ingredients like corn, soybean oil or tomatoes in organic food when organic versions are not "commercially available."

Here is a good site with lots of current information. It includes the text of a speech by Rep.Kucinich to Congress against this development.


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