Trump's Agriculture pick should pop Big Organic's bubble
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Once Sonny PerdueSonny PerdueThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Georgia election day is finally here; Trump hopes Pence 'comes through for us' to overturn results Civil war between MAGA, GOP establishment could hand Dems total control Trump administration races to finish environmental rules, actions MORE takes over at the Department of Agriculture, housecleaning ought to be at the top of his agenda. The former Georgia governor will have an opportunity to unravel an unholy alliance that has formed between the media, the federal government and Big Organic, the multibillion-dollar industry committed to duping the public into paying a hefty premium for the privilege of buying politically correct food.

Witness the live NPR broadcast that took place at a fundraising dinner for The Organic Center on Thursday. The publicly funded media outlet assisted the lobbying arm of an industry worth $43 billion, spreading the word that organic is better because “science says so.” That’s classic propaganda.

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It’s not clear why taxpayers should subsidize publicity for an event already underwritten by well-heeled sponsors. All the usual suspects were there, including Whole Foods, the National Co+op Grocers, New Hope Network, UNFI, Annie's Inc., Josie's Organics and Braga Fresh Family Farms, Nature's Path Food Inc., Organic Valley, Stonyfield, Horizon Organic, Aurora Organic Dairy, BPM LLP, Cal-Organic, Foster Farms, Frontier Co-op, and Driscoll's Inc.

 

That’s just the start. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) intends to run another propaganda program for Big Organic, known as “Organic Check-off.” This initiative would direct funds to organic marketing research and promotion programs. What is organic marketing? The Organic Trade Association’s marketing campaigns disparage conventional methods for growing food. That is, they’re going to bad-mouth the safety of affordable food, scaring the public into buying overpriced produce from places like Whole Foods.

The Check-Off would funded by a small tax, one-tenth of one percent in most cases, on organic food. While this will make already overpriced products even less affordable, Big Organic is desperate to secure the extra credibility that comes from the government imprimatur on Big Organic’s messaging.

The industry also doesn’t mind having USDA take over all the fundraising work. The estimated $30 million to $40 million raised annually by the Check-Off would most likely be funneled to The Organic Center, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable organization that’s funded, co-located and led by Organic Trade Association.

USDA, at least under its prior management, expected to launch the Check-Off program following a comment period that ends April 19. That leaves enough time to ensure the program never gets off the ground.

Propaganda efforts like this aren’t just a waste of money, they can cause real harm. For instance, Big Organic’s minions regularly publish a list of the “Dirty Dozen” foods, vegetables they claim were tainted by excessive pesticides. But the people who heard this message didn’t just turn to organics. The ones who couldn’t afford paying the up to 50 percent organic price premium tended to stop eating fruits and vegetables altogether, according to a study by nutrition experts from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

A balanced diet is indisputably good for health, but would low-income shoppers see a health benefit by switching to organic? Definitely not. Over 240 peer-reviewed scientific studies have searched in vain for a benefit to eating organic. There’s a simple reason for that. Organic food and conventional food are virtually identical, with the only difference being that organic produce is grown with inefficient, old-fashioned farming techniques. There’s nothing wrong with organic food, there’s just no legitimate safety, health or taste reason to pay more to cover the increased production costs.

Surveys show that one of the most effective selling points of organic is that the produce is supposed to be “pesticide free.” This is a complete myth.

Federal rules allow pesticides to be sprayed on certified organic crops, including Pyrethrins, rotenone and spinosad, all of which the Xerces Society has declared “highly toxic” to bees. They’re not safer, these chemicals are obsolete compared to more advanced, and safer, conventional pesticides.

So “organic marketing” is all about spreading misleading information. The government should not be involved in this effort, picking sides between organic and conventional agriculture. Perdue can stop this by shutting down the Organic Check-Off program for good.

When Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsSenate GOP faces retirement brain drain Roy Blunt won't run for Senate seat in 2022 Lobbying world MORE (R-Kan.) schedules the confirmation, Agriculture Committee members ought to take the opportunity to put President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump mocks Murkowski, Cheney election chances Race debate grips Congress US reentry to Paris agreement adds momentum to cities' sustainability efforts MORE’s nominee on the spot. Will he pull the plug on federal involvement in organic propaganda? It’s the healthy thing to do, and it will go a long way to cleaning up the department.

Amanda Zaluckyj is a Michigan-based attorney and agriculture writer at The Farmer’s Daughter USA.


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