Brace yourselves, the month of September has been dubbed the Organic Festival.
For the entire month of September, the Organic Trade Association is hosting the Organic Festival – an entire month for bloggers and activists to dedicate to supposedly myth-busting “myths” about the organic label. Sponsorship for the event comes from some pretty big names, such as Simply Organic, Organic Valley, and Naturepedic. As you can see from the OTA’s website for those participating comes equipped with graphics, memes, talking points, online events, and prizes. It is literally a fully equipped public relations campaign presented in a pretty little package.
So, who is the OTA and what is is that they do? In their own words from their website:
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers’ associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. Organic products represented include organic foods, ingredients and beverages, as well as organic fibers, personal care products, pet foods, nutritional supplements, household cleaners and flowers.
In other words, the OTA is a trade organization consisting of organic businesses. A browse through the organization’s member roll quickly reveals that this trade organization is supported and funded by organic farms, organic corporations, and organic industry groups. This is, quite literally, an arm of “Big Organic.”
Let’s be clear: It fully expected and anticipated that the organic industry and their organizations are going to do things that will advertise and support the industry. Every trade organization wants to support their own businesses and industry partners. After all, that’s just good business. Besides, what is the point of having a fancy USDA label if you aren’t going to monetize it?
Unfortunately, a quick review of the materials put together for the Organic Festival shows that it quickly devolved from an event aimed at supporting organic products to attacking those products’ conventional counterparts. For example, on September 11, the Festival will share and promote the graphic that organic production prohibits the use of “toxic pesticides.” First, that’s just false; organic farmers can use pesticides that are every bit as toxic (and sometimes even more toxic) than those used in conventional agriculture. It also leaves the impression that conventional food is covered in “toxic pesticides” that can will harm you and your family; that is also false. As the month goes by, there are misleading and false statements that correlate conventional products with higher rates of cancer, higher incidents of birth defects, and a reckless disregard for the environment.
It’s unfortunate and sad that the OTA and organic industry have, yet again, decided to take this approach for marketing purposes. The last thing we need is more consumers that are confused or mislead about food safety and the integrity of our agricultural practices across the board.
In response, we’ve decided to create a different kind of campaign. For each daily graphic that will be featured by the Organic Festival, we’ve created a graphic presenting a counter argument. With help from some of our other friends in agriculture we’ve put together a graphic for each day that highlights the best of agriculture. We’ve taken a positive spin and wish to promote all agriculture. While it is perfectly acceptable to discuss the merits of both production methods, fear should not be the basis of a campaign to sell products. Because, in reality, consumers deserve a whole lot better than being afraid of their food, especially when we live in a time of an abundant and safe food supply that has never been achieved in the world before.
We hope over the next 30 days, you will enjoy the graphics we’ve created, share them with your family and friends, and join us in standing up for facts, not fear.
Krista & Amanda
PS. If you decide to share one of our graphics or want to contribute to our efforts, please consider using the hashtag #FactsNotFear
Amanda, everything about organic is sad to you! I just wish you would have an open mind towards organic Ag. You never know, maybe an organic farmer will save your life someday. I don’t hate conventional farmers, I love talking to other conventional farmers. I always keep an open mind when I visit with them.
I suggest you go back and read this article again. Maybe read it a couple more times. You’ve completely missed the point. In fact, I’m not sure the post is even about organic production methods or organic farmers; it’s all about organic marketing here.
It is true that I have analyzed portions of organic production and certification in the past, especially the outright ban of genetically modified crops or the preference for “natural” over “synthetic.” Such criticism has nothing to do with organic farmers; I’m simply commenting on those aspects of organic production. Why shouldn’t we be allowed to discuss those things? Is organic agriculture completely immune from any type of discussion about it? Conventional agriculture is sure criticized all the time and no one seems to think we’re immune from it. I know you’ve personally engaged in this type of criticism of conventional agriculture yourself.
But all of that aside, this post has nothing to do with that. Nor does the #FactsNotFear campaign. Have you actually looked at the graphics we’ve created for this campaign? Have you found any of them to be offensive? Every single of one of them is pro-agriculture. Every. Single. One. While the OTA has created an entire campaign attacking conventional farmers as using “toxic” pesticides and insinuating that we’re creating a dangerous product, we’ve taken the high road here. That’s what this is about – organic marketing tactics that think it is perfectly acceptable to mislead and scare consumers into thinking that there is something wrong or dangerous about conventional products, when nothing could be farther from the truth! Do you remember the #NewMacDonald campaign? Did you think that something like that — using children to convince consumers that conventional agriculture was destroying the environment and poisoning their families with a complete disregard for anything other than profits — was even remotely okay? Pepsi and Coke have gone at each other in advertising for years and years; Pepsi has never suggested to consumers that Coke will kill you if you eat it.
I certainly don’t think organic farmers are “sad.” I really don’t care if that’s how you or anyone else chooses to farm. Good for you. While I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take your comment about an organic farmer saving my life as some type of veiled threat, I don’t know why such a comment is necessary. I absolutely do not hate organic farmers and cannot believe you would even suggest such a thing. I have nothing against organic farmers personally, and I’m sure they are good and decent people. I have interacted with several since starting my blog and we’ve had some good discussions. But again, that really isn’t the point here. Is organic agriculture so privileged we cannot discuss its merits and downsides? Hardly. Does it mean that the organic industry can engage in marketing tactics that attack my family’s farming methods without me responding? Obviously not.
Check out the graphics we’ve created. I think you’ll find that they’re actually very positive. In fact, unlike the OTA’s graphics, even an organic farmer could share them!
Sarah Schultz says
I’m certainly not claiming to be perfect, but I have seen Mr. Fonder engage in discussions regarding his distaste of large farms (not certain if this is unique to conventional agriculture or if he doesn’t like large organic farms either?) and certainly the use of glyphosate which he has stated “encourages farmers to be lazy and don’t care about anything but money”.
The response to #OrganicFestival has been to share facts about ALL agriculture and not fear, like how *some* of the “myths” the OTA is sharing. Can you truly tell me with conviction that conventional farming uses “toxic pesticides” and organic farming doesn’t? Using words like toxic is meant with the intention of scaring consumers into buying organic foods. Anything can be toxic with the right dose. The OTA even went so far as to say that organic farming doesn’t use fertilizers — simply a lie, they didn’t even specify that they don’t use synthetic, they just said they don’t use fertilizer.
Conventional agriculture practices are under continuous scrutiny and attack. This is one way we can present “our” side without picking a fight, even though so many assumed and chose to see it as a fight, it certainly is not.
When organic marketing time and time again banks on the fear of the consumer with tactics like “1 in 2 children will be born with autism by the year 2025 due to glyphosate use”, that is simply absurd and not backed by science. If conventional agriculture used the same radical marketing tactics, I guarantee you “we” would not get away with it. I’m really tired of the double standard when it comes to marketing of agriculture products. Any product should be good enough to sell itself. Chevy doesn’t sell truck by tell you that Ford trucks will kill you.
It’s never been organic farming or organic farmers I’ve had an issue with — it is 100% the marketing and for the life of me I cannot understand why it is an issue that conventional farmers are standing up to the marketing schemes in a respectful and tactful way.
Amanda, my general impression about you is that you hate organic farmers. When I said that an organic farmer might save your life someday, I met that God for bid if someday you have a bad car accident and some good samaritan organic farmer just happened to come by and save you from e.g a the burning car. Would you refuse their help because that was an organic farmer or burn up in the car? I know you don’t like me other wise you would not have blocked me on Twitter. I’m not out to attack you I just want to engage in honest civil dialogue and tell my side of the story but you don’t seem to want me to be able to do that. I apologize if anything I said offended you. Like side before try keeping more of an open mind towards organic.
Nope. I don’t hate organic farmers. And, come on, it’s ridiculous to act like I would refuse help from an organic farmer. I don’t think I’ve ever said or published anything attacking organic farmers personally, only pointing out my disagreements with certain production practices or marketing schemes. I understand if that’s your general impression, but I don’t think it’s fair and definitely not accurate. I have no idea why I blocked you on Twitter, though I do block people if I think they’re attacking me unfairly or just won’t stop. Not sure if that was the case (honestly, I can’t remember), but that’s just one way it happens.
Bottom line is that I don’t hate organic farmers. I even acknowledged in this article that the organic industry is going to support their label and that’s fine. I just don’t want them doing it by suggesting that conventional farmers are intentionally employing practices that are going to kill people or make them ill just so they can make a buck. I’m a big fan of conventional agriculture. I’m going to keep supporting it and promoting it. And I’m definitely going to say something when I see that type of rhetoric.