A “USDA Certified Organic” Label Is No Longer Sufficient? Now We Need A REAL Organic Label?

The Real Organic Project:

We are a grassroots, farmer-led movement created to distinguish soil-grown and pasture-raised products under USDA organic.

Our mission is to grow people’s understanding of foundational organic values and practices; crops grown in soil and livestock raised on pasture are fundamental to organic farming.

Our first goal is to create an add-on label to USDA certified organic to provide more transparency on organic farming practices and level the playing field right on the shelf.

I’m torn.

On the one hand, I think it’s good to shine a light on what the USDA considers organic. I already knew “organic” could mean using manure from factory farms (along with attendant pesticides and heavy metals) and using synthetic chemicals, albeit “approved for use with organic.” Now it looks like organic might also mean being grown without soil, that is, hydroponically (which would mean bringing in nutrients and other chemicals produced elsewhere. Not very renewable, is it?) and raising livestock, in part, on CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) with less exposure to pasture than one would imagine organic means.

On the other hand it’s creating yet another food system with its own standards and certifications. It’s not fixing the 98% of food. This is what the original organic food system did. It went off in another direction. And what do we have to show for it? Polluted water, polluted air, polluted food, inhumane treatment of livestock, monocropping, land degradation, food fraud*, chemicals, lots of chemicals, like Roundup that has now been shown to cause cancer and since it was never dealt with continues to contaminate organic crops let alone the people whose job is to handle it. But we also have some maybe less-contaminated food, right? Still, only a limited number of people can access it. Who is this Real Organic Project for?

I also wonder … Will this new segment of food production end up demanding an even higher price for its goods because it has a certain pedigree?

So … Good: shining a light on weak organic standards. Bad: not fixing the problem for most people.

* Speaking of food fraud, the Organic Consumers Association said:

But as demand for organic grows, so grows the number of companies that want a piece of that pie — and are willing to flout organic rules to get it. That’s a problem for the “real” organic producers whose prices are undercut by the fraudsters. And it’s a problem for consumers, who get cheated.

It’s not a problem for most consumers, who eat the 98% of food that is not organic. It’s only a problem for more elite consumers. If we cared about consumers, everyone, we wouldn’t be growing food as we do.

This is a screen shot of a tool the USDA was developing in 2012 to help consumers compare the cost per serving of organic and conventional fruits and vegetables. It looks like it never got off the ground. Source: CPG Solutions

3 thoughts on “A “USDA Certified Organic” Label Is No Longer Sufficient? Now We Need A REAL Organic Label?

    1. Bix Post author

      I was shocked to see the new Trump administration deleting all these documents. I mean, they’re all gone. This USDA price comparison tool? Gone. No mention of it anywhere. Lots of pages discussing science behind vitamins and herbs … gone. In their place, something on the order of “we don’t know.”


  1. Bix Post author

    When the USDA decided to allow a food system distinct from most food, that is, the National Organic Program (NOP), I’ll bet anything they did it to get activists off their back. People didn’t want pesticides in their food. But industry was making more and more food with higher levels of pesticides (e.g. Roundup ready crops that are genetically engineered to withstand the herbicide glyphosate/Roundup). USDA appeased industry by allowing organic. And that was that. Pressure off.

    If we didn’t have organic food, USDA would be forced to clean up farming and livestock. People wouldn’t tolerate it. But I can’t imagine that happening in my lifetime.



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