Organic foods cost about twice as much as the same product only without the organic label. Now the Washington Post tells us that foods labeled organic are chock full of the additives found in the cheaper, non-organic product. Kimberly Kindy and Lyndsey Layton report, for example: “Three years ago, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees determined that synthetic additives in organic baby formula violated federal standards and should be banned from a product carrying the federal organic label. Today the same additives, purported to boost brainpower and vision, can be found in 90 percent of organic baby formula.”
Organic foods are now a $23 billion a year business. Half of all adults say they buy organic foods at least some times. “But the USDA program’s shortcomings mean that consumers, who at times must pay twice as much for organic products, are not always getting what they expect: foods without pesticides and other chemicals, produced in a way that is gentle to the environment,” according to the reporters.
The story the Post tells is how consistent lobbying has gradually weakened organic labeling standards. Well, not so gradually, since the National Organic Program was only created in 2002. That leaves consumers in the lurch. Or, as the current chair of the USDA’s organic standards board said, “As the organic industry matures, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to find a balance between the integrity of the word ‘organic’ and the desire for the industry to grow.”