Thursday, May 18, 2006

As 'Organic' Goes Mainstream, Will Standards Suffer?

by Amanda Paulson
The Christian Science Monitor

"'Integrity is something that ... we all realize is important to maintaining consumer confidence,' says Ms. Beidler, who says some of their practices go beyond USDA requirements. 'I always say there's an implicit partnership between farmers who produce organic and consumers who buy it.'

But recent controversies have highlighted doubts about whether everyone lives up to that standard. A report released last month by the Cornucopia Institute, which supports family-scale farming, rated organic dairy producers on their practices. While it found that the majority followed good practices, the group was highly critical of two of the nation's largest producers: Horizon Organic, a subsidiary of Dean Foods, and Aurora Organic, which supplies private-label milk to many supermarkets. Both producers, the report said, buy much of their milk from large-scale feedlots where the cows have little or no access to pasture.

'The USDA listens to big players more closely than to consumers or small farmers,' says Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association in Finland, Minn. 'With Wal-Mart and other folks jumping in, what will happen down the road is the small- and medium-size operators will be forced out of business.'"

Copyright © 2006 The Christian Science Monitor

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