Has organic been oversized?
The New York Times asks the question ... and answers it with a fairly emphatic 'yes.' From the introduction to the story:
The fact is, organic food has become a wildly lucrative business for Big Food and a premium-price-means-premium-profit section of the grocery store. The industry’s image — contented cows grazing on the green hills of family-owned farms — is mostly pure fantasy. Or rather, pure marketing. Big Food, it turns out, has spawned what might be called Big Organic.
Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, Kashi: all three and more actually belong to the cereals giant Kellogg. Naked Juice? That would be PepsiCo of Pepsi and Fritos fame. And behind the pastoral-sounding Walnut Acres, Health Valley and Spectrum Organics is none other than Hain Celestial, once affiliated with Heinz, the grand old name in ketchup.
Over the last decade, since federal organic standards have come to the fore, giant agri-food corporations like these and others — Coca-Cola, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills, Kraft and M&M Mars among them — have gobbled up most of the nation’s organic food industry. Pure, locally produced ingredients from small family farms? Not so much anymore.
The newspaper shares the concerns of Michael J. Potter, the founder of Eden Foods, based in Clinton, Mich. He calls the certified-organic label a fraud and refuses to put it on Eden’s products.
The story offers much detail on the regulations, standards and guiding forces behind that USDA label, which has become a huge (and profitable) marketing tool in the food industry.