The Organic Food Debate. Amy MacGregor Berkeley Bliss Susan Butler Jeremy Steinmeyer. Organic Foods . An agricultural revolution? A consumer fad? Depends on who you ask. ‘Organic’ Defined. Basic definition means ‘living’ and used to define carbon based life forms
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The Organic Food Debate • Amy MacGregor • Berkeley Bliss • Susan Butler • Jeremy Steinmeyer
Organic Foods • An agricultural revolution? • A consumer fad? • Depends on who you ask
‘Organic’ Defined • Basic definition means ‘living’ and used to define carbon based life forms • ‘Organic’ is more of a description of the agricultural methods used than the food itself
Texas Department of Agriculture says... • “a system of ecological soil management that relies on building humus levels through crop rotations, recycling organic wastes, and applying balanced mineral amendments and that uses, when necessary, mechanical, botanical, or biological controls with minimum adverse effects on health and the environment.”
What’s Available? • Almost anything • sugar • corn flakes • fruits • vegetables • meats • pasta
Historical Context • 1940, Sir Albert Howard published An Agricultural Testament, advocating that Britain preserve the ‘cycle of life’ • 1960, the Soil Association opened first shop selling organic produce • The 60’s saw interest in organic techniques grow throughout Europe and the United States
The Revolution Continues • 1990, federal government set standards for the production, processing, and certification of organic food in the Organic Food Production Act of 1990 • National Organic Standards Board established by this act (USDA oversees the program) • Recent years have seen impressive economic growth
Impressive Market Growth • Last few years have seen significantly increased interest in organic food • Close regulation of organic food production has contributed to an increase in consumer confidence • Sales have increased from $178 million in 1980 to $4 billion in 1998, a 2,147 % increase
…a few other Growth Facts • Now growing at a rate in excess of 20 % a year, compared to 2 - 3 % a year for traditional food market • Fastest growing chain is Whole Foods Market (founded in Austin) with growth of 900% in the 90’s and now has 78 stores in 17 states • Traditional food stores have added organic foods sections
Typical Organic Consumer • Six out of ten people would choose organic food if it was easily available and cost no more than conventional food. • Reasons for buying organic food • 46% say health is the main reason • 40% say it taste better • Reasons for not buying organic food • 42% say the costs are too high • 15% say they are not seen in shops • 10% say there is not enough variety • 4% say they don’t buy because it does not taste better • Age 25-34, and shopping mostly at specialty stores (source: MORI report Institute of Food Science and Technology)
Why American’s are turning to Organic Foods • Concern over toxic pesticide residues • Concern over antibiotic drug residues • Concern over food poisoning • Concern over genetic engineering • Concern for the environment
Why eat organic foods? • Protect future generations • Protect your own health • Save energy • Prevent soil erosion • Protect our water supply • Protect farm workers • Eat nutritious and delicious foods • Support a true economy
Why should you pay more for organic food? • Common complaint: organic food is EXPENSIVE • Reality: inorganic foods really are more expensive
Things to consider when contemplating price differences • Most farms are small family run operations that are not highly profit-driven and seldom receive government subsidies or support for research • Organic food takes longer to grow than inorganic as chemical growth hormones and fertilizers can speed up the growth rate of inorganic crops
Organic Produce is usually picked when it is ripe unlike inorganic food, which allows for transportation time and is picked unripe and before it is fully developed. • The majority of organic distribution is done on a small scale so the transportation cost are often higher, pushing consumer prices up • Organic certification bodies charge their members for annual inspection and use of their certification labels, once again driving prices higher
Environmental Concerns Superweeds Insect Resistance Herbicides Wildlife Natural Resources Environmental Concerns • Superweeds • Insect Resistance • Herbicides • Wildlife • Natural Resources
Superweeds – Pro-Organic • The fear that crops will transfer altered genes to other plants or that the crop itself will become an unwanted weed • Examples: • Johnson grass • Multiflora rose • Kudzu
Superweeds – Anti-Organic • Genetically modified plants have the same weaknesses as their traditional counterparts and cannot survive the wild because of different conditions • Insecticides and herbicides are useless in the wild • New method of inserting DNA into chloroplasts
Insect Resistance – Pro-Organic • Bacillus thuringenesis (Bt) bioinsecticides are one of the few insecticides available for organic farmers. Many genetically engineered plants have their own Bt toxins which cause greater resistance in insects, leaving this type of insecticide ineffective. • Can be harmful to beneficial insects such as the monarch butterfly
Insect Resistance – Anti-Organic • This problem can be resolved by planting traditional corn around the perimeter of Bt corn leaving a buffer zone in between the toxic pollen and the insects.
Herbicides – Pro-Organic • Crops that are genetically engineered to resist chemical herbicides have specific limits to toxicity. Changing patterns of herbicides could have the environment.
Herbicides – Anti-Organic • EPA approved a new herbicide containing diflufenzopyr which has low acute toxicity to humans and other animals
Wildlife – Pro-Organic • Animals could eat the debris left over from genetically engineered plants. • Using fish with metal-sequestering proteins to clean up pollution
Natural Resources – Pro-Organic • Inhibits sustainable agriculture • Soil erosion • Water quality
Natural Resources – Anti-Organic • Helps biodiversity of indigenous organisms to improve the natural ecosystem.
Government Regulation • Organic Food Production Act of 1990 • USDA • National Organic Program • National Organic Standards Board • NOP Proposed Rule
NOP Proposed Rule • Final Rule: • SUMMARY: This final rule establishes the National Organic Program (NOP or program) under the direction of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), an arm of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This national program will facilitate domestic and international marketing of fresh and processed food that is organically produced and assure consumers that such products meet consistent, uniform standards. This program establishes national standards for the production and handling of organically produced products, including a National List of substances approved for and prohibited from use in organic production and handling. This final rule establishes a national-level accreditation program to be administered by AMS for State officials and private persons who want to be accredited as certifying agents. Under the program, certifying agents will certify production and handling operations in compliance with the requirements of this regulation and initiate compliance actions to enforce program requirements. The final rule includes requirements for labeling products as organic and containing organic ingredients. This final rule also provides for importation of organic agricultural products from foreign programs determined to have equivalent organic program requirements. This program is authorized under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, as amended.
Standards • The organic standards require that: • each organic farmer and food handler develop an organic plan for their operation; • the plan would be evaluated and approved by an accredited certifying agent; • the farmer/handler would abide by the list of approved substances for their system; • imported organic products would be recognized as equivalent if they were produced in accordance with the national standards (or under stricter standards). (Dr. Lineberger’s HORT 315 site)
National Organic Standards Board • Established by 1990 Act • Regulates certified organic claims • USDA oversees
Certification • http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/nop2000/nop/finalrulepages/finalrulemap.htm
Labeling • Must meet federal standards • Imported products must meet equivalent standards as the NOP
Implications for the Mainstream Food Industry? • Possible to see the current interest in organic foods as a reaction to consumer unease over use of pesticides, recent food scares and a reluctant lack of trust in the mainstream food industry • The way these issues are handled by traditional marketers will influence how the organic market will develop
Local Organic Retailers • Brazos Natural Foods • Kroger • Albertson’s • Check your local grocer!
Links • http://www.nofavt.org • http://www.ifst.org/hottop24.htm • http://www.fao.org • http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop • http://envirolink.org
Feedback • Now we’d like your comments and questions… • How do you feel about the organic movement? • What benefits/detriments do you foresee? • Is this just a fad?