Which giant corporation owns your favorite tiny organic food brand?

Here's Good Magazine's chart showing which giant, high-fructose-corn-syrup megacorps own your favorite hippie organic microbrands. Link (via Lawgeek)


  1. Aw, as an ex vegan you would think I feel especially cynical toward organic foods, but I still get a fit of nostalgia whenever someone serves it. The mag left out Prince Charles, as well.

    Just goes to show the fallacy of the yes, but if we all did it, argument. Always one step ahead, the mega corps.

  2. Well this is tricky territory. If you assume that mass organic is still really organic (and I’m not sure you can), then is it not better than mass conventional in terms of environmental impact?

    The book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” gets into this a bit in its middle section.

  3. If you are truly concerned about the enviornment, and you truly believe that organic food is positive for the enviornment, then you wouldn’t have any problem with the mass-marketification of organic foods.

    Of course, if you are purchasing organic foods as a way to boost your social status and “green cred” with other shallow urban hipsters and/or crunchy types, then you are probably pretty pissed off.

    No problem though, just go macrobiotic, and that will give you many more years of indignant smugness before it goes mass-market.

  4. All the more reason to eat as few packaged foods as possible. Although that is a bit challenging with milk.

  5. No problem though, just go macrobiotic, and that will give you many more years of indignant smugness before it goes mass-market.

    hehe, it’s funny because it’s true.

    Personally, I disagree with Michael Pollan in that my uses for food as medicine and for taste sensation are very very weakly linked. When my body needs refueling and when I want to savor the flavor very rarely overlap in the time domain.

    As long as I’m refraining from the extinction of species by my actions, I’m content to consume Spirutein to refuel, and then eat the concoctions of molecular gastronomy to stimulate my palette. I do the former several times a day, but only seek out the latter a few times a month.

  6. It is very possible within a few years that corporations will find it environmentally necessary to further mass produce organic, as well as make it more affordable, since we all know the organic process comes no where near justifying the mark up.

    As well, I worked on a very small scale organic farm last summer and found it slightly odd the fellow who owned it, despite not using pesticides, no gm, everything more or less painstakingly done by hand with the occasional use of a tractor being the only real technology involved, couldn’t call his crop organic or sell it to whole foods, whereas these mass produce farms can. i mean, i know which I would want to eat.

    At this point, you surely must admit the environment is a social issue, and as such is not particularly effected by individual consumption choices. There is a great argument for eating organic, and making it cheaper and easier to find, but i find it slightly self important to think eating organic bean curds is saving the world.

  7. #8,

    I don’t know if organic bean curds are saving the world. I suspect the effect is minimal at best. I suspect the following things are much better methods at conservation than going “organic”:

    1. Preparing your own food, as opposed to purchasing pre-prepared items.

    2. Going vegetarian or vegan.

    3. Purchasing foods that don’t require refridgeration.

    4. Purchasing foods that are dried (i.e. bulk dried lentils vs. lentils in a can).

    However, if you assume that organic food is better, in and of itself, then mass-marketification of organic foods is a good thing. Wouldn’t you want all-natural organic foods to be as avialable as Walmart or Starbucks, if you think they are benificial?

  8. Whorizon is not organic, what a sociopathic joke. These carcinogenic corps have been trying for years to change the definition of ‘organic’ to include GMOs and what ever poison they want to filter thru humanity. I did not know that Pepsi owned Naked – pasteurized juice is dead anyway. Buy/eat locally grown living food. I recommend that most folks have a 60% percent raw diet for what ever that’s worth. Good luck.

  9. Organic is a scam. When the big food conglomerates found that that they could sell bananas to the credulous public for double the price by slapping on an organic label suddenly lots of organic bananas appeared on supermarket shelves along with everything else. I always see the immaculately coiffured rich people buying organic. So concerned they are, it seems to be, in delaying their ultimate demise. What a shame it would be if they should perish.

    If you want to know where we erred, it is when we ate from the tree of knowledge. See, this is an agricultural metaphor. People think there is a purity in plants and farming, but it is what has corrupted us. We were meant to be hunter gatherers. That we aren’t is only because of the accident of our consciousness which arose from our tendency to throw things to kill things. That said, we had agricultural brains even before agriculture. What does this mean? Just as agriculture can create a surplus of food, human consciousness can create a surplus of thought. We have what it takes to create lots of useless things that put us out of bounds with respect to the natural world. Whether there is a true organic or not, and whether we partake of a true organic or not, WE are not natural and never will be. Alas.

  10. #10

    to reiterate,

    Wouldn’t you want all-natural organic foods to be as avialable as Walmart or Starbucks, if you think they are benificial?

    Yes, of course, and this, as well as the other things you mentioned will have to be the logic of the food industry if scarcity sets in. The market will simply adjust, which is fine, if you’re into that kind of thing. Because it will be Walmart and Starbucks selling you organic, as indeed starbucks already is in big cities. or saying it is, anyway, with laughable results.

    But there are those environmentalists who find fault in the very existence of industry as it stands today, and who say the problem is not what we eat, but an entire social and economic structure bent on environmental [and social] destruction. After all, as people who are into conscious consumption like to say, you vote with your money, but in that case, surely the 10% of people who have 90% of the money equally have 90% of the vote? They are also the people handing out jobs and deciding what will be produced.

    Anyway, as I said, I’m /not/ vegan, but love lentils. Very easy to cook with, very cheap; I can make a batch of delicious lentil spread to last for days. A remnant of my vegan past. I’m a bit rusty arguing about this subject, so sorry if I haven’t made a great deal of sense.

    BTW: points deducted if anyone mentions soya devastation in South America as an arument aainst veganism. That mostly goes cattle feed, as well as virtually everything else. Seriously, soya is in everything. Look it up.

  11. Ah, what I mean to say is the corporate interest in the industry is a sign of an attempt to consolidate power post climate change, and that personal, environmental reasons for eating organic tend to be a bit specious.

  12. I can understand why some people would be bothered that these big conglomerates are selling organic foods. With the competition to get new foods on the market and getting them on desirable shelf space in stores, a product often needs significant financial backing, hence big corporations.

  13. What bothers me is the fact that brands are not required to disclose their corporate owners on their labels or even websites. We as consumers have the right to know who is the ultimate producer of the stuff we buy, just as we get to know what ingredients are in food products thanks to the Nutrition Facts label.

    This is something I blog about with some regularity — my post about Naked/Pepsi (http://www.walletmouth.com/2007/10/naked-lies.html) includes an exchange with the company’s customer service that reveals an all-too-common disingenuousness when it comes to such questions.

    For more fun with corporate parentage, check out the charts at http://www.msu.edu/~howardp/ (where you’ll learn, for example, that Annie’s is owned by private-equity firm Solera Capital). Other good resources are hooze.org (which I can’t get to load at the moment, but I’m sure it will be back up soon) and my own blog, walletmouth.com.

  14. I have a difficult time understanding all of this anti-corporate sentiment. What’s wrong with corporations? Doesn’t Conagra and Monsanto help feed billions of people? Can we have a lemming explosion without industrial agriculture?

    I see the greasy liberal extremely concerned about his food. Another component article of his self-absorption. Hey, don’t forget that we have the corporations to thank for our self-absorption! We have corporations to thank really for our entire identity, for the entire unexamined way we see the world.

    The greasy liberal cares about the self no less than the saw-toothed conservative. IF they have enough money, they both feed from the organic food trough.

    Don’t forget about the poor who can’t afford organic food. Don’t forget about the American poor who end up in the American gulag.

  15. There’s more than just hipsterism that’s relevant here. Too often big-corporate takeover is a harbinger of rising cost for declining quality.

    Breyer’s All Natural icecream, pre- and post- takeover by Unilever is a perfect example.

    I never bothered making my own icecream before that – Breyers was just a good as the cheesy “status” brands, but still good. Now it’s shot up in price, and it’s full of the same goop as the crappiest brands.

  16. @12: On the other hand, maybe we are natural and always will be?

    Just because our nature is self destructive, viral and unethical in its overall effect, does not remove us from nature. The more we become the catalyst for change on this little planet, the more our DNA must be delighted.

    The forbidden fruit we have eaten merely blinds us of the ability to see the long-term view. We hold ourselves in high esteem whilst entirely missing the fact that we are part of a process.

    Of course, comments like this do nothing to help our immediate issues. It’s my hubris too.

  17. I find it’s a good idea to only eat food that is organic. Years ago I tried eating inorganic objects, but my body just couldn’t extract nutrition from chunks of metal, old tires, bricks, and light bulbs.

  18. Doesn’t Conagra and Monsanto help feed billions of people?

    It would be more accurate to say that they put stuff in people’s mouths. Agribusiness food is designed to ship well and look good. The loss of food value is devastating. The nastiest, wormiest, brown-spotted piece of shriveled up fruit in a third world market has more nutritional value than the big, plump, shiny, plastic-looking fruit at the supermarket.

  19. Jardine – You should try the tires again – they’re mostly organic compounds; even the steel-belted ones are still mostly organic.

  20. Jardine – You should try the tires again – they’re mostly organic compounds; even the steel-belted ones are still mostly organic.

  21. @20–We are natural in the same way that disparate objects in a room are all related. A jacket hanging from a door could be thought of as being part of the door. It is only human imagination which has typed the two objects as distinct in purpose that we say they’re not part of the same object. A bullet traveling through the door wouldn’t stop at the jacket and decide not to go through it too because it wasn’t part of the door. Neither would a bomb make a similar distinction. It is only in this sense that we are natural. Yes we are part of nature, but so is plutonium, I guess. If we employ ordinary human definitions and distinctions we are not though.

    Quite off-topic you see. The subject had something to do with corporate ownership of organic brands. If we are to get anywhere, we must steadfastly stick to this topic the way in which we would not deviate from a straight line if we were ploughing a field. Anything less would be inefficient. This is our agriculture. This is our mind. Natural? Maybe. Doomed? Maybe.

  22. Reactions to this manner of post elucidate the unwillingness or outright incapacity of many folk to be moderate in any sense whatsoever — politically, sociologically, ethically, whathaveyou.

    Corporations, for example, are either the devil, snatching up innovation and shrink-wrapping it for the masses, or they’re the benevolent strings which hold society together. The truth can’t actually be somewhere in the middle — such has the harsh reality of modern life taught us (shh… what’s that? oh, that’s the man).

    Blindness resulting from the polarization of modern culture is pathetic but it is more importantly dangerous in that it creates a penchant for regurgitation in place of critical thinking and dependence in place of individuality & personal responsibility. I don’t understand how one can cling to the ideal that eating brand-name anything is a positive step for humanity whilst simultaneously decrying the aspects of our social nature that allow branding & other cultural conglomerations to occur.

    Even if mankind has learned nothing else, he must know that societal woes cannot be assuaged from the top down. Those who believe that society is a top-down phenomenon are so far left or right of center that they’re both blind to reason and inept in the endeavor of compromise — an art which, I might add, is essential to achieving the sort of civilization restructuring that most “radicals” say they wish for.

  23. @25: so not as off-topic as you suggest; the difference between our definitions of natural and man-made is the difference between organic and non-organic agriculture.

    A grower may choose to raise plants with fertilisers that are one step away from their original sources, such as compost, or to remove weeds with pine based oils. These would qualify them as organic producers. Alternatively, they may choose to use what we have defined as chemical fertilisers and pesticides. They would then be non-organic.

    Whether one system is better that the other, or even just a subset of the other is debatable, but I’m not surprised that so many conglomerates choose to encompass as many methods of production as they do; it broadens the customer base, gives them more flexibility when market demands change: that’s what their shareholders want isn’t it?

    I merely meant that the image, production methods and emotional ties that we might have to our favourite brands might be more illusory than we like.

    But it’s entirely natural that we see them as very different; that’s marketing for you.

  24. @ #18. Monsanto? Are you kidding me? Why should I have ill will towards Monsanto? They are THE most evil corporation on the planet.

    They are responsible for Agent Orange and DDT (Couldn’t believe that one company could make two things that bad, but that is just the tip of the iceberg). Involved in the Manhattan Project. Roundup Weed Killer. The Terminator Seed.
    Roundup Ready Soy!!!! I eat soy because it is supposed to be healthy. But 60+% of the Soy in this country is Roundup Ready. Its been genetically modified so you can douse it in Roundup and it survives. I don’t want roundup sprayed on my property, and I CERTAINLY don’t want to eat tofu that has been sprayed with Roundup.

    When they started genetically modifying food (Monsanto is the world leader in this) they claimed it would allow them to use less pesticides. Instead, the opposite has occurred. The plants are engineered so you can spray more chemicals on them.
    Not to mention, GMO foods have the potential for environmental disaster. Nature operates best when there is polyculture. Different breeds of plants. GMO is creating monoculture. Once this happens, a pest or plague can wipe out everything, not just a small percentage of a crop.

    Monsanto created Nutra-Sweet. The CEO of Searle (subsidiary) at the time was our good friend Donald Rumsfeld. No wonder it was legalized even the though the National Beverage association didn’t want it to be. It is highly unstable about 85 degrees and breaks into two carcinogens.

    Monsanto polluted a river with PCBs so bad that if you put a live fish in it within three minutes its skin peeled off and it died.

    If you run a business where you sell Organic non-GMO foods, and this is how you make your money, what happens if a mile or so away there is a farm growing GMO MOnsanto plants? Well the GMO pollen blows through the air and cross-pollinates with your plants, and you are no longer allowed to claim your food is non-GMO, and you go out of business. And then to add insult to injury, a Monsanto lawyer tells you they are suing you for stealing their patents. Sound ridiculous? It has happened.

    Just last week Monsanto was trying to make it illegal for a farmer selling hormone free milk to label it as such. That is just sick.

    Why the anomosity towards Monsanto? how could you ask such a ridiculous question. (Unless of course you are just trolling).

    There is so much more to hate about Monsanto then what I have written.

  25. @26: Just because none of the comments are moderate doesn’t mean we’re not out there; having moderate views makes it less compelling to shout them out.

  26. I am unclear what point it is you are trying to make Pyros. Perhaps if you tried trolling less and treating us as equals more you would get better results. Characterizing everyone here as “greasy liberals” doesn’t help either. I found that especially offensive as I don’t fit into the neat categories that you assume everyone adheres to.

    The reason for the anti corporate bias is because people don’t trust them. For good reason. There is shit in your food Pyros and the corps knowingly feed it to you. Whenever you read about a problem with E. Coli. in food just translate that into “more shit found in your food today”.

    Scottfree – “the environment is a social issue” Just a slight disagreement here. Superficially yes, ultimately no, not in the least. In the end the environment is an existential issue and “the markets will adjust” can be translated to “people will go hungry and die”. The environment is the ultimate issue for without one there is no mankind nor even any life at all.

    Actually I agree with Zuzu in that I’d have little objection to Spirutein or something similar. I’m not particularly wedded to “organic food” mainly because I just can’t afford it in the first place. For me the big issue is the loss of trust that I feel. I don’t trust the corporations to not put ground up plastic in my food and I don’t trust the government to regulate them. I’m pissed off about that and I feel I have a right to be.

  27. Here is the nasty truth that no one wants to address. There is NO way to eat healthy. We are all consuming certain amounts of pesticides and toxins. We can’t do anything about this– Face it..even an organic farm can’t control the acid levels in rainfall..and they can’t control seepage of other nasty particles running off of highways and such directly into their irrigation. I find this entire conversation exhausting. There are no solutions.. Someday..we’ll all be dead. Some people will live long lives and some won’t. When you think about it..hasn’t it ALWAYS been that way? Relax–enjoy your life.

  28. Relax–enjoy your life.

    I’m in. And the point about not being able to really eat healthily is true at a fundamental level. A food item is a mix of substances, most of which have some interaction with you at some level. What’s good for you at one dosage, kills you at another. What works at one age, makes you ill at a different time of life. The idea of a static, perfectly healthy diet is a medical illusion.

  29. Hee hee hee. I work at Whole Foods. I knew about General Mills owning Cascadian Farms, but conagra owning Lightlife AND Alexia? Oh man the granola head cutsomers are gonna poop their pants when I post this in the store (soon to be fired after doing so!).

  30. #22: The nastiest, wormiest, brown-spotted piece of shriveled up fruit in a third world market has more nutritional value than the big, plump, shiny, plastic-looking fruit at the supermarket.

    You have got to be joking. Talk about a baseless overgeneralization. Are the worms adding that much nutritional value?

  31. I felt I should follow up on my previous comment. Relax, enjoy your life. Eat less frozen pizza and more apples ;-)

  32. You have got to be joking.

    No, it’s literally true. Well, maybe not the worms part, but the rest of it. It turns out that plants that struggle to survive against drought, pests, less fertile soil, etc. are far richer in nutrients.

  33. @30 “Noen” I don’t appreciate being called a troll. As far as I know, a troll is a fictitious thing. If trolls did exist, I don’t think they would appreciate the comparison either.

    You exhort me to treat you as an equal. Well, have you considered the possibility that we’re not? Have you considered the possibility that I may just be a little better than you? If so, why should I treat you as an equal? “Greasy liberal”, by the way, is anything but a “neat” category. And just so you know, I don’t assume that this is the particular neat category that you fit into especially since I have no idea who you are other than someone who isn’t sure about what point I was trying to make.

  34. Why do people automatically assume that large, successful companies don’t care and will fly under the radar? Inspectors are all over these brands, and if they find they don’t meet the organic standards they claim, their product is decertified. I’d certainly think that companies like Kraft and Dean would be under a watchful eye, just like the smaller mom and pops. Just because a company is large doesn’t mean that the folks who work there don’t care and are out to poison and swindle their consumers. So, are we to assume that if a brand like Annie’s, for instance, becomes so successful that it’s an attractive purchase to a mega company, that the quality will suddenly hit rock bottom and it’ll ride on it’s previous brand reputation well into the future? Not likely, consumers know quality. I can taste the quality in my organic milk. My 8 year old can taste it too and says so. She can even pinpoint different fat percentages in her milk. Yes, I care about the source of my food as well, and that its production doesn’t harm. That’s why we have organic certification, companies agree to abide by it and they submit to inspection. If that’s not enough, then consumers who want more pure food will have to come up with a more stringent standard than the current organic certifications. Maybe too, live in a bubble like Biodome…

  35. Hippies can grow their own food, these are items for consumption via capitalists like myself.

  36. What amuses me about this is just how obvious the cause is: over-regulation. These days, the amount of regulation that the U.S. Federal Government enforces makes difficult for small businesses to break even, let alone make a profit. You want to have small organic companies? Then push for deregulation of the markets. That is the way to allow fiercer competition, which is anathema to big businesses, as it forces them to be accountable to real market pressure. Competition drives down prices and pushes up quality; the free market will do a better job of protecting the environment than any top-down command economy.

  37. Roundup Ready Soy!!!! I eat soy because it is supposed to be healthy. But 60+% of the Soy in this country is Roundup Ready. Its been genetically modified so you can douse it in Roundup and it survives. I don’t want roundup sprayed on my property, and I CERTAINLY don’t want to eat tofu that has been sprayed with Roundup.

    Ok, hold on, as far as herbicides go, Round Up is incredibly safe, selective, and biodegrades rapidly (unlike, say, DDT where its persistence and accumulation in the environment is precisely the problem).

    GMOs also need to be demonstrated as a problem to justify the kind of hostility conveyed here as well. The only problem with “Round Up Ready” GMOs would be if the crops grown somehow genetically transferred (i.e. bred) with other “weeds” and conferred that resistance trait to them, which would the make one of the few (aforementioned) incredibly safe and effective herbicides suddenly impotent. Then people would start using the nasty stuff again. (There’s also a problem of acquired immunity, similar to what’s happened with antibiotic resistant bacteria, due to overuse, such as the arial dusting of coca fields in Colombia.)

    I’m also willing to concede that Bt crops (e.g. corn) could use further studies both on the ecosystem and as a possible food allergen for a small minority of humans.

    A more important issue is the repeal of all farm subsidies, which would make moot the demand for much of this kind of genetic engineering, as well as allowing much more impoverished regions of the world, such as Africa and parts of S. America and Asia, to competitively farm for export on the global market and raise their standards of living — since their current economies and infrastructure really only allow for agriculture to be viable currently.

  38. Competition drives down prices and pushes up quality; the free market will do a better job of protecting the environment than any top-down command economy.

    The better argument for that, IMHO, is that the government issues permits (and zoning) specifically allowing companies to pollute, and legally indemnifying them from the responsibility of the costs to clean it up or to be sued for damages with nuisance torts. Corporatism is a bitch.

  39. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t know that all the items sold in major chain grocery stores are made by major corporations or are made with money from major corporations. How did these items get into the major chain stores if they weren’t?

  40. #38: Do you have any citations that support that assertion? I haven’t been able to find anything yet via Google.

  41. Any pointers to where I can get more info on the benefits of organic food and the dangers of GMO food?

    You know, double blind, placebo controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals, not blog rants?

  42. #48,

    I read about some studies a while back. It might have been in the New York Times in a much larger article about food, but that’s a guess. One of the other specifics mentioned was that agri-produce had increased omega 6 fatty acids and decreased omega 3s vis-a-vis more paleolithic produce. The general tenor of the article was that produce now is chemically very different from historical produce. From a common sense standpoint, the incredible flavorlessness of supermarket fruits and vegetables has got to be related to a concomitant decrease in nutrients.

  43. supermarkets do not sell food. They rent shelf space. Everything is calculated, including making you walk through the processed, boxed “food” to get to fresh essentials. Everything must turn over fast. Total Darwin. Fruit must instantly appeal to the eye. Vegetables also. When you breed for appearance, you are breeding for appearance not nutrition. Any nutritional value is coincidental.

    Visit Japan. Farmers routinely compost perfectly good produce because of slight visual flaws.

  44. The more that I think about it, the more that I think that I’ve read three or four different articles with different points on the subject, but I don’t remember where. I promise, however, that they would have been in the NYT, BBC or somewhere comparable, not in the Journal of Holistic Farming Practices. I don’t read that stuff.

  45. @ Pyros #39
    “I don’t appreciate being called a troll. As far as I know, a troll is a fictitious thing.”

    If you truly believe that then why would you object? I called you out on your behavior Pyros. You were the one who started with the name calling, I find it offensive, please knock it off.

    “You exhort me to treat you as an equal. Well, have you considered the possibility that we’re not? Have you considered the possibility that I may just be a little better than you?”

    My point is that even if your are correct the best way to get one’s views heard is by treating others as you wish to be treated. Being snooty and condescending is unlikely to work out well as a debating tactic.

    “I have no idea who you are other than someone who isn’t sure about what point I was trying to make.”

    Perhaps you could explain it then? Thanks.

    #37 lisa80268
    “Relax, enjoy your life. Eat less frozen pizza and more apples”

    Sure, but you see Lisa what I hear when you say that is: “Let them eat cake”. (I know that you don’t mean this.) I just can’t afford to eat the best quality food all the time. I’m doing ok compared to the others around me but still, sometimes I have to go to the food shelf. There are no fresh fruit or veggies there. Not much meat either. Just a lot of starch and canned goods. So the suggestion I and the millions of others in my position should just eat healthier rings a bit hollow for me.

  46. I am in the organic food business and have been for years representing many of the companies above as their broker. I don’t think its a matter of thinking the bigger companies don’t care. Its that they buy these once organic/natural companies because they are money makers. Then once they take over, the standards (sometimes) become lowered because they are in the business to make money. So get this….Balance Bar which was bought out by Kraft (Fake Cheese is their specialty)who in turn was purchased by Phillip Morris (cigarette with your Balance Bar anyone)? Its all about the bottom line with these companies..not keeping organic standards.

  47. Dear Pyros #39,
    Your reading comprehension needs improvement. I was following up on my earlier comments and making the point that we should do what we can to eat healthy–but truly..scrambling around, running gas out of our cars to find that farm market or whole foods shop that is selling “organic foods” –is ridiculous. How do you know it is organic.. because it has s ticker that tells you so? Wake up– there is NO possible way we can as a society eat or maintain a totally healthy life style. Can you control the amount of pollution in the rain water? You personal air quality? On another note…as our population grows..how do you people expect to feed everybody. Have you heard the news… their is also a water shortage..so they have had to make drought tolerant plants. Should they stop this kind of scientific study and let everyone starve in the future? ahh..let them eat cake. (with genetically modified flour of course)

  48. I am in charge of the organic food section at the grocery store where I work. Until I read this, I never knew that the companies, such as Muir Glen, was owned by a larger corporation (General Mills).

    I like the comment that #55 made.

  49. Spazzm, for solid information go here: http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/Home/index.cfm

    I did not read the book, but I have listened to this guy on DVD and he seems to know his stuff…you can read up and get back to us, okay?

    PS I buy my organic lettuce and spinach at Wal-mart…the brand is Earthbound Farm http://www.ebfarm.com. They are certified organic by CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers http://www.ccof.org.

    PPS This same problem exists with personal care products — over there, Burt’s Bees has recently been acquired by Cholrox. I hope things don’t change, but the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database will let me know if they do http://www.ewg.org.

    I hope somebody will let me know if they have any factual evidence to show that these companies can’t be trusted.

  50. After this thread has run its natural course, it would be interesting to look into what happens to food in restaurant kitchens.

  51. I know that the word is used in the post title, but may I mention once again that whether or not food is organic is only one of many variables in determining its value?

  52. Coming from the original topic of corporate companies “disguising themselves” and owning “organic brands,” the curving paths of these dialogues are interesting. I have to agree with Lisa80268’s take though. It’s one of the most practical views.

    People are truly naive to think that products in our stores (even hip healthy ones) originate from small companies. Small companies will never be able to get the distribution necessary to become available to the masses (or the trend setting consumers). Plus, stores have slotting fees that drive up the unit cost so much that you have to have scale to make a profit. That’s just the truth of our evolved economic system. I work in the industry, and I can tell you that the vast majority of all beverage products are owned or distributed by one of the major beer or soda companies. If they aren’t, then they will be in the very near future. But I don’t think that is a doom and gloom thing or an evil conspiracy. It’s just reality. The demands and regulations are too high. Unless those obstacles change drastically, it will remain that way.

    I do agree that a brand’s parent company should be required to be printed on the label.

    Since it wasn’t mentioned, two other great examples are Odwalla (Coca Cola) and Kashi (Kellog).

  53. Dear Takuan, thanks. I’ve seen that video before.
    I agree that Monsanto are evil, but what does this have to do with whether organic foods or GMO foods are generally safe and beneficial?

    To use an analogy: If Microsoft, a producer of operating systems, is evil, does that mean all operating systems are evil? Should I stay away from OS X?

    What I’m interested in is health information about the technologies and products themselves, not the moral and legal failings of some of the producers.

  54. Gemini, thanks for that.
    I can’t help but notice that, so far as I can tell, the site does not contain any peer-reviewed scientific studies at all.

    It does, however, contain copy designed to sell books:
    ” In [this book] you will will read internal memos by the US Food and Drug Administration scientists warning of toxins, allergies, and new diseases — all ignored by their superiors, including a former attorney for Monsanto. You will discover how industry studies are designed to avoid finding problems. And you will learn why the FDA withheld information from Congress after a genetically modified supplement killed nearly a hundred people and disabled thousands.”

    This verges, IMO, on a sensationalist rant, and does not inspire confidence in the scientific quality of the book, I’m sorry to say.

    Anyways, my local library has a copy, so I’ll have a look.

  55. WOW talk about synchronicity. this just appeared on google news:

    Some major brands of shampoo, shower gel and dish soap marketed as “natural” or “organic” contain small amounts of a potentially dangerous chemical, according to a report released yesterday by the Organic Consumers Association.

    turns out they contain 1,4-dioxane in quantities up to 300% what california allows. and surprise! it looks like the list is mostly populated by megacorps pushing “natural” products. not all megacorps did bad; clorox products were clean.

    but my favorite quote of all was from the hain flak:

    Lisa Lehndorff, a spokeswoman for Hain Celestial, which owns Jason and Alba, said that the Jason tagline of “pure, natural, and organic” refers only to ingredients and that Alba makes no organic claims. The “natural” claim means “we strive to use ingredients originating from natural sources,” she said.

    wow! as opposed to what, those supernatural sources? “contains no ectoplasm”?

  56. I think what people are having difficulty grasping here is how the food we eat is part of interconnected social, ecological, economic and political systems that span the globe. To say that “organic is a scam” or that “there’s no problem with corporations” is to overlook how organics and corporations fit into those interconnected systems.

    “Buying organic” is one approach that some people take to make a difference or at least a statement on a number of different levels. I think people get upset when they learn of the multi-national ownership of their favourite organic brands, because purchasing products from multi-national corporations runs counter to the change they were trying to achieve by buying organic in the first place.

    To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I’ll use myself as an example. When I shop for food, my goal is to use my power as a consumer to support businesses and business practices that contribute to the pursuit of environmentally sustainability and social equity. (I treat buying food as a political act, because it is one.) This requires a great deal of consumer consciousness and research, because of the incredible amount of greenwashing that goes on, and because of inadequate product labeling.

    This is how I make my food choices:


    Independently/cooperatively-owned, locally-grown, organic.

    This is why:

    1. I can have a relationship with the people and places who supply me with my food. This also means that I can often return any packaging to them for reuse.
    2. In the best cases, employees are treated fairly receiving good wages, benefits, and sometimes shares in the business.
    3. In even better cases these businesses are also involved in local community projects.
    4. They have the hardest time of it and need my support.
    5. Unlike corporations and multi-nationals, they aren’t governed by people who have no investment in the local community. An independent local owner is more likely to care if they pollute the local water supply, because they can’t just pick up and move to a new location where the water isn’t polluted.
    6.Unlike corporations and multi-nationals, I can support their business, and their business alone–I don’t have to give my money to a company who is also involved in things that I don’t agree with.
    7. They’re generally not in bed with policy-makers or involved with the Fraser Institute (unlike many of our corporate food folk).

    1. Helps prove that small local farms are viable, making it harder to argue that valuable farmland would better used for subdivisions.
    3. Less travel from field to table means less oil used and CO2 emissions produced.
    4. Provides local people with jobs.
    5. Keeps money in the local economy.
    6. Local businesses are held to local labour and environmental standards, so they *should* be more socially and environmentally sound than foreign businesses with poor standards.
    7. Having a local food supply allows me the opportunity to have some say in the regulatory process surrounding the production of my food.

    1. No pesticides:
    -contributes to a healthier eco-system: pesticides get into the groundwater, lakes and streams poisoning habitats and water supplies; they kill organisms important to the ecosystem
    -does not support chemical companies whose record of global environmental and social devastation and labour exploitation is truly horrifying
    -uses less oil (used in the production of pesticides)

    2. No GMOs:
    -helps to protect the future of the global food supply and local ecosystems which are under threat from a combination of GMO seed pollution and corporate patents…among other things. (http://www.earthsave.ca/articles/health/gmos.html)
    -does not support the ecologically and socially harmful practices of biopiracy, (http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/77/gillette1), unsafe experimental crop testing, and the pushing of GM seeds on poor farmers in the developing world.

    (Environmentally)Sustainable agricultural practices:
    1. Ensures that land will continue to be fertile into the future.
    2. Less waste/pollution.

    When that option isn’t available, these are my other choices in order of priority:
    -(not local) organic fair-trade (chocolate, coffee, sugar, tea)
    -local corporate organic
    -(not local) organic (for things that aren’t available locally, or I otherwise couldn’t afford)

    I also look for products that use less (buying in bulk is good) or reusable packaging, and products where I can supply my own packaging (farmer’s markets).

    So for me, buying organic is part of a multi-faceted approach to contributing to the pursuit of ecological sustainability and social equity. The way that multi-nationals operate has meant that their actions on the ground generally fly in the face of those goals. I’d give you evidence, but I’d need a few pages. If given a choice, I would also not buy my organic food from Walmart, because I don’t support the company’s business practices of killing local businesses, buying cheap products from places with poor environmental and labour standards, or their notoriously poor treatment of their employees.

  57. You have to make sure that you’re actually buying from who you think you’re buying from in order to support the organic food movement. Case in point: Who owns Kraft Foods? Why, Philip Morris, the biggest tobacco company on the planet!

  58. I eat organic because food tastes better when it has actual ingredients?

    So it’s as much a taste issue as any kind of trendy thing or healthy thing – because I eat organic pizza rolls and those things are way tastier than their contemporaries.

  59. Noen, waaaaaaaaay back on the thread you mentioned environment as an existential issue. First of all I take it you don’t mean that in a philosophical sense. But more importantly, if poor people start to starve and die [in greater numbers] who will make money for those people for whom the market works? The market needs workers, even more then managers, actually, and its important to remember that. Just as environmental issues are hegemonic in the UK, so too will they become in the US. So for me, I wouldn’t be surprised if an environmental crisis simply brings the same, but more so.

    But the thread is so all over the place now, I don’t know how to jump in, except to say, I don’t think personal consumption choices really matter here. I think what matters is to analyze what corporate takeover of organic brands means. The obvious bit is based on the identification of a niche market, one which tends to be quite affluent. It also tends to be a demographic more up on the news and socially minded, but by stressing health benefits, corporate brands have attracted a wider demographic, possibly at the expense of the older ‘hippy,’ if you will, market which moved on to macrobiotic [I don’t even properly know what this is] and locally grown diets etc. Overall, since the market tends to exert its influence over science [cf the Panorama episode on the sugar industry], and so can manipulate what healthy means, no, corporate ownership of organic brands will not do a great load of good in the world.

    But, yes, also: properly organic food is well tasty.

  60. Pepsi also owns Izze, the carbonated fruit soda that has no high fructose corn syrup. When Pepsi bought Izze, they agreed to leave Izze exactly as it was. And they did… then they introduced Izze-esque, which contains “crystalline fructose”, a variant of high fructose corn syrup!

    Someday food companies will have to answer for causing the epidemic of diabetes that arose when high fructose corn syrup entered the food supply.

  61. Balance Bar which was bought out by Kraft (Fake Cheese is their specialty)who in turn was purchased by Phillip Morris (cigarette with your Balance Bar anyone)? Its all about the bottom line with these companies..not keeping organic standards.

    Guess what, wheat, corn, and tobacco are all plants grown on farms. That’s why agribusiness sells both food products and cigarettes. The only reason Altria* separates Philip-Morris (cigarettes) from Kraft (foodstuff) is for public relations.

    *hehe, “Altria”, it’s like “altruism” if it were a car. :P

  62. As for “Relax–enjoy your life” (#31), I don’t agree. This is too close to checking out of the political process and letting big business run things without opposition. I would hope most people find it hard to relax knowing that they’re being fed crap.

    Furthermore checking out when things aren’t perfect raises a false dichotomy: the question isn’t if we can eat perfectly healthy all the time, else check out entirely and “relax”. The question is why should we tolerate fraud, corruption, and abuse? Why should we tolerate even a little mad cow disease or downer cattle in meat?

    For me the interesting thing will be to see where people’s breaking points are. The status quo isn’t profitable enough for big business and it’s unhealthy for people to consume so it can’t last. How much longer will big business profit matter more than paying workers better, forcing better working conditions (or forcing businesses to relocate elsewhere and denying importation of their products), standing up for tough regulations and enforcing them ruthlessly because you value yourselves and your families too much to do otherwise?

  63. Gemini,
    I checked out the book you recommended today.
    Regrettably, it does not present “solid information”.
    As is my habit, I immediately skipped to the end, where the references are listed. I have only parsed the first three pages of references (out of a total of 15), but this is my impression so far.

    Most references were not from peer reviewed scientific articles, but other sources such as:
    *Newspaper articles.
    *Websites with a clear agenda, such as mindfully.org or psrast.org(popup alert).
    *Online articles written by adherents of the Natural Law Party (remember those? They wanted to reduce crime through ‘yogic flying’).

    I could actually not find one peer-reviewed, published study that supported the view that GM food is generally harmful. There might be some, though, because several of the articles referenced in the book were so old I could not find an online copy. One was even from 1976!

    The papers I could find were either not peer reviewed, in favour of more research, or both. One called GM crops potentially beneficial. None presented studies or referenced other papers that had found detrimental health effects of GM food.

    Oh, by the way, that salesblurb I mentioned earlier? It went like this: “And you will learn why the FDA withheld information from Congress after a genetically modified supplement killed nearly a hundred people and disabled thousands.” It turns out that yes, a supplement probably killed at least 37 people. Yes, it contained GM ingredients. What the book doesn’t mention is that the deaths were caused by the manufacturer’s lax filtering practice and/or overconsumption of the supplement. In the end, FDA banned all forms of the supplement, not just the GM variants. Read more here.

    All that aside, I could still have gone along with it. But then, on page 57, he quotes (as an authority) Richard Strohman, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Yes, that Prof. Richard Strohman.

    At that point, I had to put the book down in disgust.

    The author is not a scientist (nor is he a journalist) so he can be excused for writing a book that contains more snappy quotes than scientific facts, but that does not matter to those of us who search facts.

    I remain ambivalent on the whole GM/Organic issue.

  64. Do you know that you and your pets eat GMO Food (genetically modified organisms) everyday? I recently watch “The Future of Food” and believe that everyone of my friends NEEDS to watch this movie.

    We can’t sit around allowing corporations to use us, our pets and our children as lab rats testing out the health effects of GMOs!
    In the US, you can rent THE FUTURE OF FOOD from Netflix, but I recommend that you step up to the plate and purchase this video today. TRUST me you will thank me for this.

    Step out of your paradigm and make it a priority that you watch this film.

    Your friend,

    Nathan Janes

    The Future of Food
    Special Edition DVD 2-Disc Set

    Home Viewing

    There is a revolution going on in the farm fields and on the dinner tables of America, a revolution that is transforming the very
    nature of the food we eat. THE FUTURE OF FOOD offers an in-depth
    investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented,
    genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery
    store shelves for the past decade.

    To view and purchase the entire film please log onto

  65. Theres a new business I know of, they’re called Holy Food Imports. They provide organic products grown in Israel, however unlike many of the larger organic companies, Holy Foods is a small business not owned by a larger corporation.

    Although they don’t have a website online now, it will be up and running sometime around May first. Their website can be found at holyfoodimports.com

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