The Myth of Organic and Sustainability Food Marketing

The use of "organic" in food marketing is highly unregulated outside the US and the word "sustainability" is un-standardized and means both wild and farm raised. The USDA, a government agency that regulates agriculture in the US with the intent of protecting consumers, has guidelines about what can be labelled as organic but is so understaffed that labeling abuses are all too frequent and unenforced. And, the harvest standards are different across the many segments of the food industry, from meat production to fresh produce to fruit to fish and seafood. 

The current USDA definition of "organic" is:

"Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used."

"Organic" is not the same as "natural", even though by a plant or animal's chemical structure it is. And, it certainly does not mean that fertilizers aren't being used to cultivate the food source. A farmer can feed GMO soybeans to his chickens and produce organic fertilizer from the dried chicken droppings; which is then tilled into the soil to produce more food. Can it really still be considered organic? Of course, because we're only looking at the end product and not the whole process of how that product gets to the market.

The myth of sustainability is that if we (as farmers/gatherers/food producers) use herd management best practices, this food source can be harvested indefinitely. If you think that eating buffalo meat is healthier and better for you because it's a leaner meat than beef, and you eat it because it isn't raised on a farm, think again. All buffalo meat in the US is farm-raised and the herd is roughly 500,000. All wild, free-range buffaloes in the US exist only in environmental and government preserves--and hunting these is a crime. 

Our greed and growing appetite for consumption fuels these myths.

Think you're supporting a small food co-op, family farm, or responsible food producer? Take a look at this infographic and see who owns these popular organic food products.

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