Organic-food lobby perceived for both ‘deception, good marketing’

I have called it the greatest consumer scam ever perpetrated on a gullible public.

I have called it the greatest consumer scam ever perpetrated on a gullible public. Others just see it as a benign marketing scheme where no one really gets hurt.

After all, consumers buy all kinds of products that have dubious value and purpose. All of that is fair enough, and I have come to believe that consumers should have the opportunity to buy organic products if they are willing to pay for it.

Having said that, I note the organic food market and the consumer are evolving, and that is governing where the future lies for that segment of the food chain.

Firstly, the organic-food lobby continues to be fairly successful at promoting its agenda. They are consistent in their message that implies all regular food is saturated with pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones, and a host of other evils real or imagined.

Organic food promoters throw those innuendoes around as pejoratives, rather than any reflection of the real story. But that is not unique to the organic food industry.

All is fair in marketing and promotion if one can get away with it.

One has to admire both the guile and luck of the organic industry. They have turned a perception into a deeply held consumer belief and seem to have a pliable urban media and government regulators mesmerized by their duplicitous intentions.

Curiously, no amount of scientific evidence seems to dent that annoying reality — although cracks are appearing particularly in outlandish nutrition claims. It seems that after 50 years of nutrition-related studies, there is no substantive proof that organic food is any better than regular food. The organic lobby during that time has tried its best to invent proof that it is better — but to no avail — it’s all incidental.

The crowning point came a number of years ago in front of a U.S. government public enquiry when the main organic industry representation had to admit under oath that indeed organic food was not more nutritious than regular food.

It was a watershed moment and consumers, God bless them, seem to now understand that simple reality. That’s caused proponents to become even more shrill about alleged chemical contamination of regular foods — even where there never has been any. The most blatant involves organic meats, where consumers are confronted with labels that state no hormones were used in the production of pork and poultry products.

The fact is no hormones are ever used in the production of those products organic or regular. The consumer doesn’t know that — but it’s just marketing, right.

Another part of the evolution of organic food, which will affect its credibility, is the rapid commercialization of the actual production practices and the industry has only itself to blame for what has happened.

Naive consumers continue to have the delusion that organic food is produced by small-time farmers dedicated to the health of the planet and safe food. The reality is starkly different — commercial agriculture noted a long time ago that there was profit to be made from gullible consumers wanting to buy organic food products at higher prices. They noticed a big hole in the process and quickly drove a truck through that opportunity. It all had to do with certification, and the organic lobby to protect itself from any embarrassing revelations fought long and hard to make sure that organic certification did not involve any form of regular random testing for contaminants. That remains the Achilles heel of the organic industry.

The result has been almost a total takeover of organic production of vegetables by the same commercial industry that produces the same regular vegetables. Production practices are governed by lax organic certification agencies, some of them invented by the growers themselves.

In fact, the situation is so out of control that China has been able to export vast quantities of so-called organic produce without any genuine certification and certainly no testing.

It might take time, but consumers are bound to slowly realize that organic claims are going to be bogus unless it involves regular and certified testing. It will happen as it did, with the consumer revelation on the dubious claims about nutrition.

It seems the organic lobby has hopelessly compromised itself on the testing issue. Its only response has been to step up the misleading marketing claims and innuendoes about contamination.

One hopes consumers will see the light, but then never underestimate the power of marketing.

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