Not so long ago, I reported on a study that showed organic purchasers really believed that the organic food they were purchasing was somehow better than other conventional choices. They called it the “Organic Label Health Halo.”
It turns out that the organic halo was knowingly designed and accomplished. Yeah, that’s right: the organic industry is trying to scare you on purpose.
Researchers over at Academics Review conducted a review of all organic marketing and industry strategies from 1988 through 2014. What they found was nothing short of an unethical and deceptive campaign to scare consumers into buying organic produce.
The researchers found that organic producers realized quite early on that organic sales were going to be limited if consumers were completely satisfied with their conventional choices. The organic industry realized the market wasn’t going to open up for them unless they did something to make consumers more interested in their products. So, that’s what they did — they started selling fear.
The study found “direct evidence that widespread, collaborative and pervasive industry marketing activities are a primary cause for false and misleading consumer health and safety perceptions about competing conventional foods.”
Our review suggests a widespread organic and natural products industry pattern of research-informed and intentionally-deceptive marketing and advocacy related practices with the implied use and approval of the U.S. government endorsed USDA Organic Seal. Since its formal launch in 2001, the trade association arm of the organic industry has stated that the USDA Organic Seal endorsement has been a critical element in establishing consumer trust in their product offerings.
That’s right – scaring consumers is actually a strategy employed by the organic industry to make a buck. Can you imagine that the only way the organic producers thought they could sell their product was through fear?
And what did the researchers use for data? This:
An extensive review of more than 200 published academic, industry and government research reports into why consumers adopt organic product purchasing behaviors was conducted by Academics Review – a non-profit led by independent academic experts in agriculture and food sciences. This review was then supplemented with an assessment of more than 1,000 news reports, 500 website and social media account evaluations and reviews of hundreds of other marketing materials, advertisements, analyst presentations, speeches and advocacy reports generated between 1988 and 2014. Our findings were reviewed and endorsed by an international panel of independent agricultural science, food science, economic and legal experts from respected international institutions with extensive experience in academic food and agriculture research and publishing.
Enough data for you?
I told you that this is precisely why we can’t all just get along. Until the organic industry stops lying about conventional produce in order to create unnecessary consumer fear, there will be a divide between the production methods. But they won’t do that — because it is working.
Fear is selling.
And just as it is unethical for anti-GMO activists (which no doubt includes plenty of organic adherents) to lie about the falsified dangers of biotechnology, it is also unethical for the organic industry to sell fear. Think about it: this is why moms are so confused when they go to the grocery store, why they’re willing to shell out more money from a tight budget for that organic label, and why some moms feel guilty for buying conventional produce. That, my friends, is unethical. But they’re willing to do it for the almighty dollar.
Unfortunately, the cat is already out of the bag and the organic industry’s fear has transformed it into a billion dollar industry with die hard adherents. But that doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and allow them to continue. Conventional farmers work hard to ensure they are producing high quality, safe food that is available to everyone.
The best thing we can do is show folks that we care and that it matters.
Sarah [NurseLovesFar says
I'm so sick of defending our conventional farming practices to the organic foodies and activists. I would honestly love to see a response from many organic farmers on how they feel about this study and how their products are marketed? Are they proud of it? Are they going to do anything to change it?
I'm working on a detailed response – hopefully you'll both see fit to allow a link to be published on your blogs when it happens.
I'm certainly interested in what you come up with. I sincerely hope you aren't planning on just pushing the responsibility for fear-based marketing on the people that buy your products, as I've heard other organic farmers do.
Derek Perkins says
Hey conventional farmer…when did the the use of chemical pesticides become 'conventional' and what ever happened to 'natural'. Frankly I don't care if a food is certified organic as long as it is grown naturally and hopefully locally. Most people aren't against farmers, but many are against GMO, mono-culture farming and pesticides that are messing up the bees. Unfortunately these are common in 'conventional' farms.
To me, conventional farming is using the latest and best technology and farming practices in order to grow more food more efficiently and better. I'm sorry if you think getting better at what you do is "unnatural." If you'd like to farm "old fashioned" then I hope you're willing to pull the plow across the field with your brute strength, pull weeds in the 90 degree weather, and at the end of the day have poor yields.People against GMOs probably don't understand them (or they've been fed a warped and mangled view of them). And pesticides aren't messing up the bees — we don't know what causes colony collapse disorder (though, ironic enough, I did read that there was an organic pesticide that has become suspect for that…).
So you are saying GMO is better Isn't it proven that Pesticides are not safe to be eaten. And have a company control all the seeds that farmers can plant is a good thing also lets help the corporations get richer with crazy storys about organic being bad for you and chemicals good.
Yes, GMO is better than organic, because it gives us the opportunity to produce more with less (including less chemicals). I'm not sure what pesticides you are attempting to eat. Certainly consuming pesticides straight out of the bottle is ill advised. But any trace amounts of residue on conventional produce is safe and it isn't going to harm you. If you're referring to BT sweet corn, then you're wrong. Bt is simply a protein that pests cannot digest. Humans, on the other hand, can digest proteins. It's amazing and fascinating because our bodies are a whole lot more complex than a bug's body. Finally, no one company controls all the seeds that farmers plant. There are several large seed companies and even a few small ones still. No one company is attempting to control all the seeds. Yes, corporations try to "get richer" but that's the point of working and having a job — to earn more money. Do you work for fun? I don't think so.
Clear Food says
All agriculture is "man made" – defined by most of the activists' who oppose GMOs is not natural. Organic techniques by comparison to conventional (or traditional – yes traditional has been much more about controlling nature to produce higher yields – an age-old tradition) are modern marketing manifestations. This is a modern religion created by marketers and extreme deep ecology activists based on the combined philosophies of Austrian Nazi Rudolf Steiner and two British landed gentry elites fascinated with the use of manure composting practices in India (a country riddled with famine before adopting conventional practices) . These philosophies were brought to America by publisher JJ Rodale whose heirs today oversee a multi-million-dollar organic publishing business- see: http://goo.gl/qjMfd6. Organic is more artificially created and designed for marketing than actual results. Like most religions, unfortunately, wresting followers from their adherence and beliefs results in a violent reaction. Historically this has resulted in wars and that's what we're being unfortunately forced into today by profiteering special interests and propaganda spewing extremists.
The real problem is corporate farming as in large farms producing as much as they can without really caring for the soil. If crops were mulched (as in organic gardens) there would be few weeds, versus GMO fields where the herbicide is sprayed over the entire field as the crops are Roundup tolerable. We all know how fast weeds grow, hence how much spraying is done. Eventually such herbicides end up in our water systems. I choose to eat non GMO/organic grown food and try to grow as much as possible. This is the great thing about the anti GMO movement. Many more people are choosing to grow their own. And by the way pulling weeds is a healthy exercise.
It is exceptionally obvious that you fundamentally know nothing about agriculture. I'm willing to bet you've never even step foot in a field before; right? 1. You obviously have no idea of the scale we're talking about. Do you honestly think we could mulch the millions and millions of acres that are planted? Unless you want to cut down every tree in North America, you aren't going to mulch every field.2. Corporate farms ARE family farms. You apparently aren't familiar with business law either? A corporation or "corporate farm" is simply a type of business entity. It does not change the farm from a FAMILY farm to something different. We incorporate to protect ourselves from the ridiculous amounts of liability out there. 96% of farms in the United States are family farms — corporate or otherwise. 3. Family farms care about our land. That's what we have at the end of the day – our land. That's what we pass on to our children. It is our GREATEST business investment. We don't deplete the soil and leave it as some wasteland. Our family farm has been in the family for close to 100 years, and many farms around us have been productive even longer. We absolutely care about our land and keep it well. 4. In fields where Round Up is applied, it is applied twice a year. That's it. We don't go back out there and put more Round Up in the field because a weed popped up. The stuff is expensive and we don't throw it around willy nilly. The rate of weed growth and the rate of applying herbicide has nothing to do with each other.5. Organic farming has yields that are far too low to be capable of feeding the world's population. AT BEST, you can get 2/3 the yield from an organic crop compared to a conventional crop. That number is far lower when it comes to the main staples of our diets, especially corn. Grow your gardens (we always do), but that isn't going to meet the world's demand for food. And when the demand isn't met, that means people are starving. I'm not ok with that. Besides, do you really want to return to an economy where everyone has to produce their own food?6. If all herbicides were banned today, it would take 70 million additional new workers to weed our fields. That would automatically make food prices soar to the point that no one could possibly afford it. So, |'m not really sure what you're trying to advocate there.I highly recommend you hang around and do something reading. I'm fairly confident that a number of the articles I've posted will help you understand these issues better.
My husband is in the process of taking over his family's non-organic dairy farm. On the farming side of this, I feel like we have to constantly defend our decision to maintain the farm as a conventional dairy farm. So many people are aghast when we tell them the farm is not organic. Thank you for educating!Deborah