Over the years, I've written occasional posts about the controversial and inexact definitions of the language of sustainable farming. Good examples are "organic" and "cage-free." Moreover, the US Department of Agriculture has been lax in enforcing its own standards.
That came to light last month when Aurora Organic Dairy was fined $7.5 million in a class action suit for fraudulent marketing claims concerning organic milk. The Cornucopia Institute, a farm policy research group, reported, this repugnant outcome:
Although the USDA found 14 serious violations of the organic standards, and career civil servants at the agency recommended decertification, political appointees allowed Aurora to continue in business with modifications to their operations and a one-year probation.
Now the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed a class-action suit against Petaluma Egg Farm for allegedly false claims that its hens are raised "free-range." The eggs are marketed under the name "Judy's Eggs." This is the same company that Michael Pollan criticized in "The Omnivore's Dilemma."
Factory farming that deceptively uses the free-range, organic label has an (infuriating) effect on genuine organic producers. They can't begin to compete with the prices of high-volume, high-profit producers.
STANFORD STUDY REDUX: I recently wrote about a Stanford meta-analysis that questioned the nutritional superiority of organically raised food. While I found some value to the study, Mark Bittman of the New York Times was appalled by its virtual dismissal of pesticides as a nutritional concern (which I also suggested was weirdly underplayed):
Since that’s largely why people eat organic foods, what’s the big deal? Especially if we refer to common definitions of “nutritious” and point out that, in general, nutritious food promotes health and good condition. How can something that reduces your exposure to pesticides and antibiotic-resistant bacteria not be “more nutritious” than food that doesn’t?
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