Sunday, January 04, 2009

Huffington Post's Marion Nestle Interview on Organic Standards and Certification

During the holidays, Huffington Post featured a short interview by Kerry Trueman with food expert Dr. Marion Nestle about the USDA's organic standards. The interview kicks off with a reference to the recent story in the news about the company in California that managed to sell fertilizer that wasn't organic to up to a third of California's organic farmers for five years. It seems that a whistleblower told the state's Department of Food and Agriculture about it as early as 2004, but the state didn't take the product off the market until three years later, in 2007. Furthermore, state officials didn't come out and reveal its knowledge that this had been going on until a year and a half later, after the company had received a mere slap on the wrist for "mislabeling" their product.

Dr. Nestle talks about how the entire organics industry is based on trust and the integrity of the inspection process, and of how the "beyond organics industry" (which focuses on consuming locally and knowing who exactly is growing your food instead of relying on certification) is still
entirely based on trust. She also comments that we have no real way of knowing how widespread cheating either is or isn't in the organics industry, regardless of certification. Business is business, after all, and as the organics industry becomes more and more lucrative, profit and not integrity will hold more and more weight.

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