Enforce rules against false and misleading organic claims

More sustainable? “In reality, organic crops require more land, water, hand weeding, chemicals and expense to generate the same amount of food.”
– Paul Driessen
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“Over the past three decades, under supposed supervision by the US Food and Drug Administration and other government regulatory agencies, the organic food industry expanded from less than $4 billion in revenue in 1997  into a $52.5-billion-a-year (2018) behemoth – in part by blatantly ignoring rules that prohibit companies from making unproven,  unsubstantiated, deceptive and blatantly false claims about its products, and about conventional and biotech (GE or GMO) products,” writes Paul Driessen. “Companies in other industries have been sent Warning Letters, fined, or told to cease marketing their products until they end their false advertising claims. But not Big Organic.”

“Organic producers and sellers claim they use “no toxic persistent chemicals,” for example; that biotech foods threaten human health and the environment; that organic farming is more sustainable; and that organic fruits and vegetables are tastier and more nutritious … among many other questionable assertions. The claims are evidence-free or outright false. And yet government regulators let them go unchallenged, to the great detriment of conventional and biotech farming and sales, and American families. It’s time for the FDA – and EPA, DOA and FTC – to enforce the law.”
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Enforce rules against false and misleading organic claims

FDA must no longer let organic food growers, manufacturers and sellers get away with lies

Paul Driessen

A couple years ago, the US Food and Drug Administration sent a “Warning Letter” to Nashoba Brook Bakery, advising its owners that listing “love” as an ingredient in their granola violated the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The product was “misbranded,” because “love” is “not a common or usual name of an ingredient,” FDA said. Such deceptive labeling practices could mislead consumers and are not allowed.

FDA has also warned and cited companies that make “unfounded,” “unproven” or “unsubstantiated” claims about their products. FDA is committed to “protecting the public health by taking action as needed against companies that deceive consumers.” It will not let companies say cannabidiol “has been linked to the effective treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” if they don’t have solid evidence to back the claim up.

Claiming your product is better or more effective than a competitor’s is also “misleading” if there is “no evidence” to support the claim. Labels and advertising must be “truthful and not misleading” – or else.

FDA policies are equally clear in the arena of organic, conventional and biotech (genetically modified or engineered, GMO or GE) seeds, ingredients, products, manufacturing, distribution and sales. The agency’s published guidance states that “false or misleading” food labeling includes “the statement ‘none of the ingredients in this food is genetically engineered’ on a food where some of the ingredients are incapable of being produced through genetic engineering (e.g., salt).”

“GMO-free” claims, FDA says, can also be “false and misleading” if they imply that a certain food “is safer, more nutritious, or otherwise has different attributes than other comparable foods because the food was not genetically engineered.” Claiming a food is healthier or better tasting, because it’s organic, would fall under this guideline of “different attributes … because it was not genetically engineered.”

However, in stark contrast to the way it polices other food, drug, cosmetic and medical device industries, the FDA has let the $52.5-billion organic food industry and pro-organic, anti-conventional farming, anti-biotechnology interests routinely and flagrantly ignore agency rules. Their ads, websites and campaigns deliberately mislead consumers and denigrate competitors with multiple falsehoods.

  1. No dangerous chemicals. The Whole Foods website falsely claims: “All organic foods begin as crops grown without toxic persistent pesticides which can end up in soil and water, as well as in your food.”

Copper sulfate has multiple pesticide and fungicide applications in organic farming; it persists in soil, is the most common chemical residue in organic foods, and can damage human brains, livers, kidneys and stomach linings. The EU found it can cause cancer but didn’t ban it because organic farmers have “no viable alternatives.” Natural and synthetic pyrethrin pesticides are powerful neurotoxins, highly toxic to bees, cats and fish, and linked to leukemia and other health problems in humans. Rotenone is a highly toxic pesticide that can enhance the onset of Parkinson’s disease. There are many more examples.

Moreover, GMO crops use 37% fewer chemical insecticides and herbicides than conventional versions of the same crops (because biotech crops have systemic or internal biological protections against insects). Indian farmers who plant GMO cotton have doubled their cotton production, dramatically reduced insecticide use and prevented over two million pesticide poisoning cases a year.

  1. Biotech foods threaten human health. Organic interests consistently claim that GE foods cause higher incidences of everything from cancer and autism to diabetes and obesity.

Scientific and regulatory bodies worldwide have found that biotech foods are as safe and healthy as foods produced by conventional breeding, including: the World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority, British Royal Society, American Medical Association, and US National Academy of Sciences, Environmental Protection AgencyDepartment of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.

More than 100 Nobel Laureates in chemistry, medicine and biotechnology have likewise said crops and foods improved through biotechnology are “as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production.” Worldwide and with over four trillion US servings of foods containing at least one biotech ingredient, “there has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.”

  1. Organic is more sustainable. Organic interests claim their methods increase soil health and organic matter, enhance natural fertility and ensure long-term sustainability.

In reality, organic crops require more land, water, hand weeding, chemicals and expense to generate the same amount of food. Expanding organic farming would cause further wildlife habitat loss and reduced biodiversity, when we are trying to protect natural habitats and feed Earth’s seven billion people.

Biotech crops allow farmers to produce more food, from less land, using less water and fewer pesticides, and with greater resistance to droughts, floods and climate change, than is case with conventional crops – and certainly with organic crops. GE crops achieve much higher food yields per acre – whereas organic farms require 40% more land to as much as 70% more land to produce the same amount of food as their conventional or biotech counterparts.

Biotechnology also enables farmers to grow Golden Rice, which prevents malnutrition, blindness and death in African and Asian children. Greenpeace commits eco-manslaughter by battling this crop.

  1. Organic foods are tastier and more nutritious. This assertion is likewise unsupportable.

Stanford University and other studies have repeatedly found that organic foods are no healthier or more nutritious than conventional or GE alternatives, while taste tests in Germany discovered that “discerning” foodies could not tell the difference between organic food and McDonald’s chicken nuggets!

But despite these facts, the endless campaigns of false, misleading, unsubstantiated claims, full-frontal attacks on biotech and conventional farming, and outright lies are clearly working. Thousands of companies pay the Non-GMO Project big bucks to get “GMO-Free” butterfly emblems on over 55,000 products – including salt, orange juice, tomatoes and other items that have no biotech counterparts.

US and EU consumers actually think organic food is better, tastier and more nutritious than conventional or biotech food – and are willing to pay up to 50% more for “organic” milk, bread, fruits and vegetables. Less than 40% of American adults believe genetically modified foods are safe to eat.

Many of the most outrageous activist campaigns are funded directly or indirectly by organic and natural food companies and allied foundations. They’re often conducted along or in coordination with lawsuits against glyphosate (Roundup) and campaigns against neonicotinoid pesticides and biotechnology, to expand organic industry market share and profits, and drive entire companies and industries out of business. Non-GMO Project director Megan Westgate proudly proclaims her goal is “to shrink the market for existing GMO ingredients and prevent new commercial biotech crops” from ever being introduced.

The FDA says trying to enforce its rules would force it to go after every container and company that make false, misleading, deceptive, pejorative organic claims. That’s nonsense. It would only have to go after a few of the biggest, worst, most prominent violators. Others would fall in line pretty quickly.

A few Warning Letters could tell organic farmers, manufacturers and retailers to cease making these claims or marketing their products until they provide replicable, convincing, peer-reviewed evidence that organic foods are chemical-free, safer, more nutritious, more eco-friendly than conventional or GMO varieties – and that GE crops have harmed people or the environment in demonstrable ways.

Organic producers and retailers could also be required to test their foods for residues of toxic organic chemicals. Give them six months to comply – and follow up with legal actions, major fines, and requirements that every miscreant issue front-page and top-of-their-website admissions and apologies.

The FDA, EPA, Agriculture Department and Federal Trade Commission have shown little tolerance for other industry violations. Big Organic should no longer be exempt from truth in advertising rules.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, climate and environmental policy.


21 thoughts on “Enforce rules against false and misleading organic claims”

  1. Burger King in Sweden is selling “Rebel Chicken King”, no meat included.

    Also, in Norway you could call something “organic” if you grew it without artificial fertilizer, only animal manure were allowed. They imported it from Brazil. Until they found out the pastures in Brazil were fertilized with artificial fertilizers.

    Today that is not allowed either, so they require fresh soil, a.k.a recently cut down rain forest.

  2. I run past any items in the grocery store that have organic labels. Fresh, frozen, or canned I run to the next section.

  3. Thanks so much! The adamant claims about global warming happening with dire predictions, and us humans to blame, caught my attention years ago and started me looking at the other side! A similar pattern in the organic food industry. I had read Robert’s ice age book years before that.

  4. I for one love roundup. Cant get enough of that glyphosate. It makes food taste better. If for some reason theres bland organic food on my plate i make sure to spray some roundup on it before i eat it.

  5. Yes, there has been many false claims by unscrupulous companies to cash in on the popularity of organic produce. The consumer has to be aware of what they are buying and so much can be hidden by supermarkets. I only buy organic products from farms I know are using organic methods and sell them at a reasonable price. GMOs have not been proven to be safe and conventional farming chemicals HAVE been proven to be more harmful so I’ll stick with organic produce and permaculture.

  6. For fucks sake, Robert, PLEASE stick to climate and related issues.

    As far as I can tell, THE poster child of GMO and big farma (spelled correctly) is Monsanto.

    They have used their billions to steal organic farms and bankrupt small family farms around the world.

    You are one of the most vocal critics of too much consolidated power where climate policy is concerned (think IPCC and the Kyoto cabal) but apparently have no problem bending the knee to the scientific juggernaut that is the largely unproven, multinational, multibillion dollar GMO lobby.

    The reason that GMO crops have not been proven to be health hazards, is because any major reputable laboratory absolutely knows which side it’s bread is buttered on.

    Question; how many individuals, corporations or governments are willing to spend tens of millions of dollars to study the dangers of GMO foods?

    Answer; exactly the SAME number who are willing to study NATURAL, SOLAR (as well as other) cyclic causes of global climate change.

    Wait for it… exactly ZERO.

    Don’t get myopic, Robert, science has been co-opted by big business and big government, and NOT just where climate is concerned.

    https://www-globalresearch-ca.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.globalresearch.ca/the-seeds-of-suicide-how-monsanto-destroys-farming/5329947/amp?amp_js_v=a2&amp_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQA#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.globalresearch.ca%2Fthe-seeds-of-suicide-how-monsanto-destroys-farming%2F5329947

    There are dozens of links tying Monsanto to a spate of suicides in third world countries, but it’s past my bedtime, so I picked one.

    https://www-vanityfair-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/05/monsanto200805/amp?amp_js_v=a2&amp_gsa=1&usqp=mq331AQA#referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com&amp_tf=From%20%251%24s&ampshare=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.vanityfair.com%2Fnews%2F2008%2F05%2Fmonsanto200805

    They are patently evil.

    Read up, Robert, and yeah… stick to climate, or you will most assuredly lose the most well read and informed among us 🙂

    • I agree with you 100%. It is his website and he can do what he wants but posting this kind of stuff is a hit on his credibility. Will he post anything contradicting the disjointed and at times, absurd material that Paul Driessen put out in this piece? I doubt it. Yes, there is corruption in the organic industry especially as it is taken over by the large food conglomerates, the same people also pushing GMO. That doesn’t change the clear superiority of produce. grown in an authentically organic fashion.

  7. https://annals.org/aim/article-abstract/1355685/organic-foods-safer-healthier-than-conventional-alternatives-systematic-review

    “The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, −37% to −23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small. Escherichia coli contamination risk did not differ between organic and conventional produce. Bacterial contamination of retail chicken and pork was common but unrelated to farming method. However, the risk for isolating bacteria resistant to 3 or more antibiotics was higher in conventional than in organic chicken and pork (risk difference, 33% [CI, 21% to 45%]).

    “Limitation:
    “Studies were heterogeneous and limited in number, and publication bias may be present.

    “Conclusion:
    “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

    And isn’t he a libertarian who want no government control, no EPA at all?

  8. Better to start growing your own. Food production will go down due to floods, more frosts, shorter growing season, then you can grow it however you want!

  9. Paul, you have lost your credibility by citing as your authority such organizatons as the World Health Organization, an arm of the UN (the same U N who brought you the IPCC and global warming), the Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture and EPA, arms of the same federal govt that is working to destroy democracy in this country.

    Remember, according to the UN, 97% of all scientists were on board with global warming.

    Quoting fascists as your authority says something about where you are coming from. Think about it.

  10. Claiming your product is better or more effective than a competitor’s is also “misleading” if there is “no evidence” to support the claim. Labels and advertising must be “truthful and not misleading” – or else.

    yeah so claiming GMO Crap is better or more effective is ALSO MISLEADING then!! bevcause no human nutrition studies were EVER done
    they get approved as new novel to get a patent
    but
    then claim theyre the same when it comes to selling to idiot humans to eat
    ponder why? the FDA recently upped the allowed ROUNDUP residue IN YOUR FOOD to 2x the prior levels?
    something like 2grams per 10kg of your bodyweight per day.
    if you ate gmo soy or corn everyday and most of you do
    the yearly/lifetime accumulation would be getting high
    and roundups been found in city peoples urine so its def IN the food youre eating
    thanks but NO THANKS
    and claiming 7x more land for organic over GMO is utter rubbish, many 1 and 2 acre organic gardens produce tons of produce per yr.
    even non gmo hybrid corn if you must grow hybrid dont use much if any more space per plant and seeing as GMO are hybrids with “extras” that argument is a NO GO.
    If people wanting clean chem free food at a tiny 20% at best of a market is such a threat to big ag???
    why?
    ah yes Monmongrels no seed grown that THEY dont own
    for an inflated price and a yearly purchase cos they wont breed true.
    its a mugs game.

  11. Doubtless there is abuse in organic food production. Once there got to be big money in it, the evildoers were bound to move in.

    But no one is going to convince me that true organic food is not both healthier and more delicious than conventionally grown foods.

    The answer here is to grow your own. For many different reasons, this is the answer for today. Start small if you must, but start TODAY.

  12. I do not wish to be rude but Driessen is talking out of his rear end saying organic growing requires more watering, feeding and weeding.

    It does if you do it badly, large scale.

    If you do it well, smaller scale, yields skyrocket, watering requirements decrease and weeding is a very minor activity.

    More food, less land through top quality organic growing does require more compost, more humans. 3-10 people per hectare in fact.

    How evil is employing humans instead of forcing machinery to be used?

  13. I would argue that farming is evolutionary. All phases serve as learning stages. Most all farms act as wildlife habitat as well depending on who is the steward of the land. If we all bought from local farmers we would easily resolve conflicts as we would know our farmers and not depend on any govmint agency to tell us right from wrong operators as their opinion creates divisive attitudes to begin with. But that itself is another lesson.

  14. There are a few factual problems with this article, but I’ll limit my response to GMOs.

    I studied genetics. I know how GMOs are produced. We are dealing with a black box as far as genetics is concerned, even after relatively cheap genetic sequencing is available. There’s much we still don’t know about DNA. It turns out that much of what they call “junk DNA” is actually instructions on how to produce the mRNA used to make proteins that build up the body, or plant. We haven’t decoded those instructions yet. Using the relatively crude methods of gene splicing, what unintended proteins are being made? Do they include show acting poisons that like smoking will take years to have their effect? If they take years to have their effect, how will their effects be isolated from other environmental factors? You’re dealing with unknowns, and quite frankly, I don’t want to experiment with them on my own body.

    Some of his other claims apply mainly to large, industrial scale mono-cropping farming, not family farms.

    Granted, there’s dishonesty on both the pro-GMO and anti-GMO sides, like non-GMO sugar which has been so highly processed that it makes no difference, and that “golden rice”, which the FDA concludes provides no nutritional value, is safe and beneficial. Why has the industry spent so much to defeat mandatory labelling of GMO foods? False claims need to be investigated and opposed.

  15. Organic or not? Each to their own I say.

    I eat whatever I consider good for me, on which I may be correct or not.
    I consider it more important for everyone to have as wide a choice as possible of food products, and that choice be informed about methods of cultivation. Let the consumers judge with their pockets, and not by order of some dangerous do-gooders in governments.

  16. As a small farmer, I am saddened by the fact that huge, multinational corporations–aided and abetted by GMO’s and their lackeys in government–have largely taken control of the seed industry. In concert with developments in artificial intelligence and robotics, this will push all independent farmers off of the land. I can imagine a future wherein small producers will be prohibited by law from selling their crops and livestock.

    I can imagine that most folks on this site were glad to see the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of eastern European communism. It strikes me that the evolving crony capitalism of big government/big corporation is bringing us a world that is not much different. (It was well described by Huxley 80 years ago, in his book, “Brave New World”.)

  17. “Scientific and regulatory bodies worldwide have found that biotech foods are as safe and healthy as foods produced by conventional breeding, including: the World Health Organization, European Food Safety Authority, British Royal Society, American Medical Association, and US National Academy of Sciences, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration.
    More than 100 Nobel Laureates in chemistry, medicine and biotechnology have likewise said crops and foods improved through biotechnology are “as safe as, if not safer than those derived from any other method of production.” Worldwide and with over four trillion US servings of foods containing at least one biotech ingredient, “there has never been a single confirmed case of a negative health outcome for humans or animals from their consumption.”

    I think you really need to do a bit more research before you write something like this Paul.

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