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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Has USDA Organic Label Been Corrupted?


Organic food is now a $30 billion a year industry, and you may be surprised to know that the brands Bear Naked, Wholesome and Hearty and Kashi are all owned by Kellogg’s. Pepsi Co. owns Naked Juice.

A recent report from the organic food advocacy and watchdog group The Cornucopia Institute contends that big food companies are corrupting organic foods.

The New York Times also had a recent article looking into how large food corporations may be changing organic foods.

The Cornucopia Institute is especially critical of the system for determining what gets the USDA organics seal, as is Michael Potter, founder of the independent organic food producer Eden Foods. Potter has refused to put the USDA’s “certified organic” seal on his products because he says it’s a fraud.


  • Michael Potter, founder of the organic food producer Eden Foods
  • Mark Kastel,co-founder of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic food advocacy and watchdog group

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Bob Nassif

    Why do we continue to allow corporations to undermine our basic values and manipulate our government and society to optimize profitability?

    • Dirk Fontenot


    • Frj159

      Because we all vote to give more power to the corporations which is what the Republican party wants to continue to do in this election. Don’t vote against your own self interest. Wake up America!

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/ID7HHLO7JL76PLB7FSRGJSXJPA Summer

        1st appontment Obama made was to put a lobbyist for Monsanto as head of the FDA food commission,Michael R. Taylor,  stop with the left right crap. It’s all of our politicians

        • Meir Fox

          Its not about left or right, its about the CFR…the government has been hijacked since Andrew Jackson.

    • Irony

      I agree, Bob.  And also find it ironic.  Why should we take Eden Foods’ words for it then?  Like Eden Foods say, “Please, Be An Organic Skeptic”  I’m not taking their words without proof either… Having said that, I’m not against Eden Foods, and I appreciate their campaign to educate people not to take things as they are told to us.  I’d love to find proof – like the results of their internal (or external) audits. :)

      • Irony

        Oh, and I only spent 2 min on their site looking, so they could very well have the results posted.  I didn’t mean to come across like they aren’t making it public.  Please read my comment above without sarcasm as none was intended.  :)

      • Wfantle

        Hello Bob,


        I was asked by WBUR to take a look at some of the comments
        on their website and to answer at least one technical question if
        possible.  But I will take the
        opportunity of telling you that we are highly impressed with the ethical
        approach at Eden Foods. 


        As an example, when we did our research study and rated all
        organic soyfoods companies in the United States they came out on top.  Not only are they certified organic, which
        still has meaning although we need to constantly be vigilant, they actually
        know and visit many of farmers they purchase from rather than buying from
        anonymous brokers.  And then they test
        every load of their soybeans for GMO contamination.  That’s high integrity!


        Mark A. Kastel

        Senior Farm Policy Analyst

        The Cornucopia Institute

        (Mark is having difficulties posting comments to this page and asked me to add this response. — Will Fantle, The Cornucopia Institute)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000718410502 David Woo

    Just listened on the segment at WHYY. Mark Kastel is on point with this. What he is talking about is the transparency needed to keep consumers informed about the food we eat. If the NOSB has limited representation from farmers and consumers, then in whose interest are the standards being debated for?

  • Some Guy from Oregon

    I think the USDA Organic label should mean what it says, but why don’t food companies dissatisfied with USDA simply use an Organic label with higher standards, such as California Organic?

  • guest

    I would love to know the guests’ thoughts on “organic” canola oil.

    • mtfarmboy

       No such thing.  Canola, or gmo rapeseed cannot be organic.

    • Wfantle

      Organic crops, including canola are required to be produced
      from seed that is not genetically engineered. 
      There is certified organic canola oil in the marketplace.


      Mark A. Kastel

      Senior Farm Policy Analyst

      The Cornucopia Institute


      (Mark asked me to post this for him, as he was having difficulty adding this comment. — Will Fantle, The Cornucopia Institute)

      • Al

        Certified organic canola oil. 

        I still  wouldn’t consume it. As stated above, its a GMO rapeseed, so its MANMADE. Its more like GARBAGE.

  • http://twitter.com/mem_somerville mem_somerville

    The Foodie Fights are cracking me up. And the purity trolls trolling the purity trolls is priceless.

    Funny, though, because if there was a discussion about another food/ag topic–say, GMOs, there would be “balance” with organic activists. Interesting that these folks get the whole floor to themselves. 

  • Judyinmb1

    Kashi is CRAP, full of salt and people should make their OWN juice! Pay attention to labels and get involved!

  • Theresa Marquez

    Kastel and Potter are an insult to the thousands of hard working organic farmers who like so many of the consumers are passionate about organic and work hard to uphold the standards. This is clearly the majority of the organic farmers.  The FDA has thousands of ingredients on their list. The National organic program, less that 300 and many have been debated widely for the past forty years. I know. I was there in the 70s and 80s and 90s debating.  How about another side of this story?  The organic standard is the strictest in the world and our hope for the Good Food Movement. Potters self serving attitude and Kastel’s addiction to sensationalism does not serve the greater good.  

    • Wfantle

      What Ms. Marquez fails to reveal to WBUR listeners is that
      she has enjoyed a handsome six-figure salary as an officer of the CROPP
      Cooperative (DBA Organic Valley) for about 15 years.  Although this $750 million agribusiness is
      owned by family-scale farmers many of their foundational values are
      increasingly being sold-out by its management.


      Buying eggs from factory farms that do not let their
      chickens outside betrays their members who are abiding by the spirit and letter
      of the law governing organics.


      And recently, pursuant to the Here and Now story, Organic
      Valley lobbied for the continued use of carrageenan at the same USDA meeting
      where the nation’s leading independent researcher reported that peer-reviewed
      published research indicates that it’s an intestinal inflammatory agent and
      that could lead to cancer.


      One of our farmer-members at Cornucopia once told us, after
      we were attacked by Walmart when we reported improprieties in their organic
      labeling, that, “Burglars don’t like watchdogs.”


      Ms. Marquez, and the other millionaires that control the
      Organic Trade Association, don’t like the work The Cornucopia Institute does
      exposing improprieties in the organic marketplace.  Wonder why?


      Mark A. Kastel

      Senior Farm Policy Analyst

      The Cornucopia Institute


      (Mark Kastel asked me to post this for him as he was having difficulty posting comments. — Will Fantle, The Cornucopia Institute)

    • Mike Potter

      Just because my opinion makes Organic Valley look bad, does not mean it is self serving.
      Those in the industry that employ cheap short cuts, like vanilla flavor, are trying only to enrich themselves, not serve a greater good. When the National Organic Program was implemented, I’d said say half the organic food was actually organic. Today I would say it is, conservatively, only 20%. Ignoring the corruption and marketing lies does not make them go away, it only encourages more.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jason.millmann Jason Millmann

      As a consumer I know the many works that Eden Foods does to keep it’s product pure and natural.  Mr. Potter has been working along side “Salt of the Earth” organic farmers for decades. Eden Soy has THE most stringent criteria in the US to be organic.  I’ve never heard of anyone fight so hard to keep food real and authentic.  I got into organic food about 4 years ago when I started caring for my health (yes I should have done it WAY before).  I trust Eden very much.  The only other company that I trust as much is Megafood vitamins.  They are the top two of the organic business, there are many seconds but only one first. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1490831969 Ann Reed

    Why don’t organic growers form a label of their own. Co-op an independent laboratory and set up your own labeling system. If the government has their hands in it they can change the definition. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/jason.millmann Jason Millmann

      demeter biodynamic is set up that way… so is the nongmoproject.org  both are good “certification” organizations. 

  • yiran756


  • Judy

    I listened to this program and at first was dismayed by the apparent infiltration of this process by the corporate voice.  But, then as I sat there listening, and considered by own food consumption, I realized how these issues of additives need not be problematic.  Quite simply, it is in the processing that these additives become a problem.  Eating real, unprocessed food, ideally locally sourced, eliminates the need for additives.  And, the example of apple juice from Eden, well not only is it very expensive, but frankly fruit juice is a less than ideal component of our diets.  It is barely better than drinking soda.  A few more vitamins are consumed, but a massive amount of fructose is consumed which has been shown to have significant health implications, and the fiber one gets from eating a piece of fruit is gone.  So skip the apple juice, and drink water when you are thirsty, and have an apple the way it was meant to be consumed.

  • Worried Listener

    We need government systems to work if we, as a society, want controls in place that are effective. Corporate pressure will always exist to define rules for the purpose of increasing profits as we’ve seen in our food system, banking, housing, etc. The only way we can combat this is by electing the right representatives, letting them know how we feel and punishing (i.e., not re-electing) them when they support something we do not want. Unfortunately, we’ve become much less active in politics (look at our voter turn out), rarely communicate with our elected officials and continually send poor-performing representatives back to Washington.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.millmann Jason Millmann

    Mr. Potter is a wonderful human being.

  • Tony54

    Wake up and VOTE for WHO ?  All of the candidates are bought by lobbyist and the Republican of Democratic party which BOTH are paid for by corporations through the lobbyists !
    We have no one to vote for that will represent us !@9d73a3d2b27bc3d6f94ffe132f293517:disqus Diebold machines are INTENTIALLY easily defrauded so they can rig elections. Why else would they not want a paper trail ?

    We are all SCREWED unless we can get a THIRD party candidate in all branches of the government, which will never happen !  Just watch Fox news, Republicans believe every word.

    All media ON EARTH is now controlled by 3 corporations. Where will the truth come from ? Not the internet, they keep trying to pass internet censoring bill for a reason. The military is using social media and propaganda to manipulate the public on the internet will “shill” people.
    How can we now know what the truth really is ?

    I welcome any REAL ideas that have a chance.

  • http://vernonhuffman.blogspot.com/ Vernon Huffman

    Support your local farmer. Better for you and for the planet to cut out all the middle men.

  • Al

    Of course the organic movement was infiltrated. There is nothing new here.
    The FEDS or corporations have been doing this for years.
    They infiltrate “anyone” who threatens their way of doing business. You threaten the corporate “STATUS QUO” in America and they will find ways to bring you down.
    Examples of this are numerous over the years against health food store, those who sell raw milk, etc. They bring in the IRS, BATF and others to do the dirty work of Corporate America. And they will pounce on you with their lawyers and suck you dry until you give up or die. Monsanto is an example of how EVIL works. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1244876442 Suzanne R. Ballard

    I agree totally with this on a CORPORATE level. But I do take exception to the fact that headlines and comments like this demean the small certified organic farmers who try so hard to uphold these standards. It is unfair to lump them into the same category with money hungry corporate extortionists. Seriously.

  • Gmaterry1

    GREED SUCKS along with BIG corporations that feel the need to control and own every thing :-(

  • consumer-victims

    i’m really upset at how food companies market their products. i can’t believe that they are selling products that can cause everyone’s overall bodily health to degrade over time. This is simply shocking to hear and observe.

     It really goes to show that there are lots of people trying to make money and not caring at all how it affects people. 

    • Leslie Mann

      Eden Foods is the Hobby Lobby of the organic foods aisle.

      More than 80 companies have petitioned the courts for permission to use their owner’s religious beliefs to discriminate against women. That’s not surprising given the right-wing’s all out attack on birth control and women’s reproductive health care.

      I won’t buy Eden products until you stop playing politics with women’s health and drop your attacks on birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

  • Joy

    Last time I checked, we had a DEMOCRAT in office, not a Republican, and he is guilty of putting Monsanto allies in bed with the FDA. Meanwhile, he and his wife advocate eating “healthy” and more greens, while they have a personal chef who makes them wholesome, organic food, while the majority of the U.S is stuck with Monsanto ridden GMO crops because they’re affordable to the average person and they can’t afford the non-contamated food of the Obamas. I hope he has a way to pay for all the sick people as a result of GMOs & the HFCS processed crap that is subsidized. Oh… but by then he will be long out of office and the problems he helped create will just be blamed on someone else.

  • Waheed


  • Pat

    Customers no longer always right is the only conclusion of current trends where “we do what we want to do, and can get away with” is the prevailing industry trend of corporatism with enablers like Congress and the DOJ who look the other way, or impose minimal penalties upon tortfeasors too willing to risk their reputation since they can sell off a division or brand name, and win anyway.

    Corruption produces lawlessness which produces more lawlessness! Not your father’s business practices, and not your father’s government, thanks to not your father’s supreme courts.

  • http://www.biggerfatterpolitics.blogspot.com BiggerFatterPolitics

    The FDA is corrupt so it would follow that the USDA are crooks too.

    Click HereMedical Industry Steals More Than the Bankers and Kill More Than the Nazi Holocaust

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