Given the current failure of proper government oversight into a wide range of businesses –banking, finance, mortgage lending and meat processing to name just a few, the fact that USDA announcement that it would begin more rigorous spot checks on organic products was greeted by some in the media as evidence that the organic is meaningless left us scratching our heads in disbelief.
Most notable was a blog post in Forbes Magazine that stated Don’t Trust Organic-Yet. Forbes Health and Science staff writer Rebecca Ruiz concludes her post with the following thoughtless advice. “Tt’s worth thinking twice about paying the premium for organics until there’s more confidence in the system.”
A story in The New York Times on the increase in auditing was slightly more thoughtful, though it failed to detail the huge role of independent certifiers licensed by the USDA to oversee compliance and who perform a wide variety of spot checking regardless of government requirements.
What’s missing is far less egregious than both stories suggest. Unlike meat processors and bankers, the vast majority of organic growers and processors all strongly support stricter enforcement of the rules. Self-enforcement which is mostly absent in many other industries has long been key to the growth of organic.
Of course the media reaction to this news illustrates what we already know. That consumers are skeptical and confused about what organic means. The fact that conventional marketers now slap the term natural on so many over processed products doesn’t help things but as more and more products move into mainstream stores NBN expects this skepticism and negative media reports to increase.