Organic Industry News
April 8th, 2011
Three people died and 34 have been left ill in northwestern China from food poisoning believed linked to tainted milk, the government said, in what is the country’s latest food safety scare.
A preliminary investigation showed victims in the city of Pingliang suffered nitrite poisoning after drinking milk, a local government statement said.
Nitrite is a chemical used to make dyes and to preserve meats.
Two suspect dairy farms have been shut down and are being investigated, said the statement issued on Thursday. Pingliang is in Gansu province.
According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, nitrite poisoning can result in nausea, dizziness, respiratory distress, loss of consciousness and seizures.
Such safety incidents are routine for China’s notoriously scandal-prone food industries, with the dairy sector a particular area of concern.
The dairy industry was rocked in 2008 when at least six babies died and another 300,000 became ill from milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine.
Melamine had been added to give the appearance of higher protein levels.
Authorities said at the time that all suspect milk powder had been confiscated or destroyed and promised to clean up the industry, but melamine-tainted products have continued to reach the market.
In July last year, authorities announced they had found 25,000 tonnes of tainted milk powder earlier in 2009.
Last month, the country’s largest meat processor was forced to apologise when clenbuterol was found in some of its pork products. The illegal additive can lead to dizziness, heart palpitations and profuse sweating.
Other recent scandals have involved contaminated red wine, bleached mushrooms, fake tofu and recycled cooking oil.
Keywords: food poisoning, milk, dairy, China
March 24th, 2011
California’s Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS) has partnered with College of Marin and Fresh Run Farm to offer students the nation’s first-of-its-kind apprenticeship program for organic farming. Participating students will learn progressive, responsible farming practices including landscape ecology, composting and fertility management. In addition, students will learn the business side of farming with coursework in marketing and certifications.
The Organic Farming and Gardening Apprenticeship Program is the latest of 611 active apprenticeship programs recognized in California by DAS, a division of the Department of Industrial Relations (DIR). DIR’s Director, John C. Duncan, gave official approval of the program today during a signing ceremony at College of Marin’s Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden.
“The Organic Farming and Gardening Apprenticeship Program will be a model program in sustainable food production,” said DIR Director Duncan. “We realize there are particular challenges organic farmers face, and the organic apprenticeship program will benefit this niche industry and support the continued growth of organic farming by providing valuable training to future farmers about sustainable, local food systems.”
The apprenticeship program includes 1,800 hours of hands-on paid training at Fresh Run Farm in Bolinas and 11 courses of related instruction provided by College of Marin. Students will be able to complete the program in two years or less.
“The College of Marin’s Indian Valley Organic Farm and Garden represents the values of Marin County—the 3 E’s of sustainability—the environment, the economy and social equity,” said College of Marin Superintendent and President Dr. David Wain Coon. “The farm promotes a healthy environment, strong local economy, and helps achieve social equity through education. This partnership is truly something to celebrate!”
The organic farming industry is the fastest growing sector in agriculture. Marin County alone boasts of 23 registered organic producers that farm 810 acres of land. Nearly all row crops grown in Marin today are certified organic.
“Many of us make the claim that our most important crops are new organic farmers and this program is a really great way to stand behind that claim,” said Fresh Run Farm Owner and Operator Peter Martinelli. “There are so many younger people today looking for these opportunities and it is important that we provide them with a clear, legitimate path to entering the industry.”
Keywords: organic apprenticeship, education, learning, Marin
March 22nd, 2011
A recent study conducted at the University of Granada has found that combined exposure to organochlorides significantly alters semen quality in young people.
The analysis, conducted by Clemente Aguilar, from the Medical Research Laboratory of the University Hospital San Cecilio, Granada, Spain, looked at a sample of 280 volunteer students aged 18-23 years from the University of Almería, Spain.
The most common means of exposure to pesticides among the general population is through food and other household products. From the 18 pesticides found in the participants’ blood, some are forbidden in Spain, such as DDT, although others as the fungicide called vinclozolin -employed in vineyards and citrus groves – are legal.
All the samples analysed had at least one pesticide in considerable concentrations, and the average number of pesticides detected was 11, ranging between 4 and 17. Most of the participants (62%) had residues of 10-14 different pesticides in the blood.
The study found a strong correlation between exposure to vinclozolin and malformation rates in spermatozoa.
The study also found that exposure to organochloride compounds significantly affects semen quality and should not be disregarded in any epidemiologic study aimed at evaluting the influence of environmental factors.
The University of Granada researcher concludes that, to reduce or withdraw as many pesticide residues as possible from food “it is very important to wash food with water and soap, as it cuts the surface greasy film of these products, which is the part containing more residues”.
Keywords: organochloride, pesticides, reproduction, health
March 22nd, 2011
Gary Hirshberg, “CE-Yo” of organic yogurt maker Stonyfield Farm gave a positive forecast for the future of organically certified milk in two appearances at Middlebury College this week.
Following Monday’s screening of the film “Food, Inc.,” Hirshberg weighed in on the organic dairy industry, which, he said, has picked up again in the wake of the recent economic downturn.
Stonyfield Farm’s demand for milk, which comes from the Organic Valley dairy cooperative, has once again increased in line with demand for the company’s yogurt.
In fact, he said, “we’re predicting a shortage of organic milk.”
The shortage, he said, will come from the fact that increased demand for organic milk is outpacing the number of dairy farmers who can make the switch to organic, since it is a three-year transition process.
“We’re never going to reduce the price to our farmers,” he said.
In Hirshberg’s Tuesday talk, titled “Why organic is a better national policy than genetic modification,” the organic yogurt producer spoke to the debate surrounding genetically engineered (GE) crops, which, he said, pose problems from a freedom of choice perspective.
“I’m not anti-technology,” he said, citing his position as a large-scale organic producer who is constantly seeking new technology to enhance production.
But currently, he said, genetic engineering exists only for the advantage of large companies, which develop and hold patents on the seeds.
If GE seeds are found in the crop of a farmer who did not purchase the seeds from the company, that farmer not only becomes ineligible to certify his or her crops as organic, the farmer can also be taken to court for patent violation.
“We need freedom and diversity of choice,” said Hirshberg.
As an example, he pointed to Roundup Ready seeds sold by the giant agribusiness company Monsanto. The seeds allow farmers to spray Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup on fields filled with the herbicide-resistant GE crops – weeds die and the crops grow.
The problem, said Hirshberg, is that Monsanto is the sole producer of both seed and herbicide, and prohibits farmers from saving seeds from year to year. Thus, he said, Monsanto is guaranteed a consistent profit year after year, and farmers cannot control escalating production costs by saving their seeds.
Roundup, added Hirshberg, is only a short-term solution. He cited the Roundup-resistant weeds that are beginning to grow in some agricultural areas of the country.
While Hirshberg spoke at length about the health benefits of organic, and about the advantages of limiting produce grown with potentially harmful chemicals, he said that his is not an argument to exclude conventional growers — all he wants, he said, is to keep access to non-GE, organically farmed produce for those who want it.
“Food, Inc.” cites those subsidies as the main reasons for the presence of corn products in many processed foods found on supermarket shelves today, as well as the proliferation of corn as feed for livestock.
Paul Stone, founder of Orwell’s Stonewood Farm and former state Secretary of Agriculture, stood up on Monday evening to speak about his experiences with subsidies. He said the subsidies originally made sense, but the large companies that are reaping profits by growing heavily subsidized crops means that the system no longer works.
“As a corn farmer forced out of the business (by low prices), food subsidies had a good reason,” he said. “But I am the last supporter of these big corporations.”
And Hirshberg said subsidies to conventional growers of produce means that that fruits and vegetables can be sold at an artificially low price, resulting in an a large price disparity between conventional and organic on the supermarket shelves.
“We’re arguing just to level the playing field,” said Hirshberg.
In Monday’s talk, Hirshberg also spoke to the corporatization of small, socially conscious companies like Tom’s of Maine (bought by Colgate), Kashi (bought by Kellogg’s) and his own Stonyfield Farm (bought by Groupe Danone).
He said that ownership by a corporation with which a consumer may disagree is no reason to boycott those smaller companies. In fact, it’s all the more reason to buy their products.
“We’ve got to match this kind of power with power on the other side,” he said. “To show companies that we want these products.”
During both talks, Hirshberg was open about the fact that he represents a large company owned by an even larger conglomerate. And in “Food, Inc.,” he describes his struggle to create change as a sustainable foods advocate, and his ultimate realization that in order to spread his message and effect widespread change, he would have to grow bigger, to the point where Stonyfield Farm was visible right alongside those corporate interests that he was denouncing.
To Hirshberg, bringing Stonyfield Farm yogurt to Wal-Mart isn’t just a move that will help the giant retailer to polish its much-reviled image — it’s a sign that the company is listening to consumers who are demanding more sustainable, healthy food choices. And each purchase of Stonyfield Farm yogurt is another vote for healthy, sustainable food that Wal-Mart sees.
Hirshberg said that the long and short of it is that consumers must make informed decisions.
“I don’t believe it’s all about organic,” he said. “When I’m asked what’s more important, organic or local, I say ‘yes.’”
Keywords: Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm, organic farming, organic dairy, organic yogurt, GMO, farm subsidies
March 22nd, 2011
Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery has expanded its line of nationally available, all-natural gluten-free products to now include hamburger buns, hot dog rolls and pizza crusts.
According to a release, Rudi’s executives made the announcement at the Natural Products Expo West trade show in Anaheim, Calif. Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery, launched by Rudi’s Organic Bakery in 2010.
“Consumers had told us for years that they were highly dissatisfied with gluten-free bread and bakery products,” said Doug Radi, vice president of marketing for Rudi’s Organic Bakery. “Our gluten-free breads addressed this problem by delivering a taste and look just like real bread. We’re excited to add our new hamburger buns, hot dog rolls and pizza crusts to our gluten-free line, creating more healthy and wholesome options the whole family can enjoy.”
Rudi’s Organic Bakery also announced the addition of three new products to its organic line, Organic Harvest Seeded Bread, Organic Harvest Seeded Muffins and Organic Potato Slider Buns.
New products from Rudi’s Gluten-Free and Organic Bakery will hit shelves nationally starting this May at natural foods stores and supermarkets, and for direct purchase at rudisbakery.com.
Rudi’s Organic Bakery is a nationally available brand offering a full line of certified organic bread and baked goods.
Rudi’s Organic is part of Charter Baking Company, a portfolio company of Charterhouse Group.
Keywords: organic bread, organic product, launch, business
March 16th, 2011
A group of people from northern Minnesota wants foods grown locally to be as accessible as foods commonly found in larger grocery stores.
To make this happen, the group plans to build a commercial kitchen in Bemidji, one that is FDA-approved. The intention is to make the kitchen available for use by individuals to mass-produce locally grown food products, such as spaghetti sauce, jelly, pickles and salsa.
The project has been spearheaded by the Headwaters Food Sovereignty Council (HFSC), which serves the counties of Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Hubbard, Itasca, Mahnomen, Pennington, Polk and Red Lake, as well as Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth reservations.
Ryan Zemek, a development specialist with the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, has provided Harmony Foods with some economics-related information for the feasibility study. But Zemek is also starting a larger initiative involving local foods. He is in the beginning stages of studying the regional and local economy.
Zemek said there are environmental and economic benefits to eating foods grown locally. He said research suggests local foods have more taste and money spent locally stays in the community.
“One of the challenges is how do you build a system where you can start getting local foods into not just the farmers market,” Zemek said. “I don’t know if there will be a tool to get local vegetables into the hospitals because of distribution.”
While Zemek does not know if a locally grown food distribution center could be developed in Bemidji in the near future, he said he has seen a shift in more people becoming interested in where their food comes from.
“Fifty years ago I think a lot more of the meat, vegetables, milk and cheese were coming from local sources,” Zemek said. “As we built up larger industrial food system, there was less need for these growers.”
Today, especially with gas prices around $3.50 a gallon, Zemek said it is making more sense to people to depend on local facilities.
“Even a 15 percent shift in more local goods would cause some industries to start up again,” he said. “Then some of that money could circulate through local economy.”
Keywords: community kitchen, Minnesota local food, local food
March 8th, 2011
California dominates the nation in organic production of agricultural commodities, according to a nationwide survey of organic producers that was analyzed by a UC Davis agricultural economist.
The survey found that California leads the United States in the number of organic farms, the amount of land in organic production and in organic sales. It also showed that the state is home to 19 percent of the nation’s organic farms and accounts for 36 percent of the country’s organic sales.
The survey analysis was conducted by Karen Klonsky, a UC Cooperative Extension economist in UC Davis’ Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Klonsky noted that, in terms of organic production, the state is most prominent in fruits, vegetables, nuts and berries, with lettuce and grapes being the highest-revenue organic crops. In fact, California leads the nation in all major crop categories except field crops. (Field crops include corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans and rice.)
The survey also revealed that California produces more than 90 percent of all U.S. organic sales for 14 different commodities, including 99 percent of the nation’s organic walnuts, lemons, figs and artichokes and 100 percent of its organic almonds and dates.
California is also the top producer of organic livestock and livestock products, with broiler chickens and milk from cows the most important livestock commodities.
Klonsky’s analysis examined data from the 2008 Organic Production Survey, the first nationwide survey of organic agriculture in the United States. It was administered by the National Agricultural Statistics Service as a follow-up to the 2007 Census of Agriculture.
“About one-third of the farms classified themselves as mixed operations with both organic and conventional production,” said Klonsky. “This implies that the organic market is an important opportunity for diversification for many conventional farms.”
She noted that the vast majority of survey respondents said they planned to maintain or expand their organic production, indicating that this subsector of agricultural remained financially healthy despite the nation’s economic downturn. There was no indication, however, that many producers who had both organic and conventional operations had plans to become entirely organic.
“This is an indication that organic continues to be a niche market, albeit a profitable one,” Klonsky said.
Her analysis can be downloaded from ARE Update, Vol. 14 No. 2 at: http://agecon.ucdavis.edu/extension/update/.
Keywords: Production, study, business, industry
March 8th, 2011
Liberal members of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee recently tabled a motion calling for a moratorium on the approval of genetically modified (GM) alfalfa in Canada.
“I’m pleased to see Members of Parliament have listened and are prepared to take action to protect farmers” said Arnold Taylor, a Saskatchewan organic grain farmer who spoke before the Committee on February 17th on behalf of the Canadian Organic Growers. “I hope that the Committee will vote for this moratorium and make it a reality so we don’t end up with the same kind of contamination in alfalfa that hit organic canola farmers and damaged Canadian flax export markets.”
Maggie Mumm, an organic alfalfa seed producer and co-owner of Mumm’s Sprouting Seeds said, “Farmers don’t want or need Monsanto’s herbicide tolerant alfalfa. Conventional and organic alfalfa growers agree that GM alfalfa would be a disaster for our markets.”
The motion before the Agriculture Committee asks the government to place a moratorium on approving the herbicide tolerant Roundup Ready alfalfa until the Government completes public research: “(a) into Canada’s ability to ensure the genetic integrity, production and preservation of a diversity of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), non-GMO and organic alfalfa production; (b) the ability of Canada’s handling and transportation system to ensure segregation of forage seeds and detection of genetic co-mingling in alfalfa seeds and hay; (c) the development of industry-led, third party audit and verification systems;”
The Agriculture Committee should vote on the motion Thursday March 10th and if passed, it will be referred to the House of Commons for a vote.
Keywords: GMO, genetically modified organisms, Canada
March 7th, 2011
Honest Tea and The Coca-Cola Company announced that The Coca-Cola Company has exercised its option to acquire the remaining portion of Honest Tea.
In a release dated March 1, the Company said the move completes a transaction which began three years ago when Coca-Cola, led by the Venturing and Emerging Brands unit of Coca-Cola North America, purchased a minority stake in the company. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Honest Tea, an organic bottled tea company, will continue to be based out of Bethesda, Md. In order to retain its entrepreneurial culture, it will operate as a stand-alone business under current TeaEO Seth Goldman, his management team, and current Honest Tea employees. Goldman and VEB have developed an operating model that allows Honest Tea autonomy to continue to run its day-to-day operations while accessing the scale benefits of the Coca-Cola system in various areas, including manufacturing and distribution. As part of the VEB team, Honest Tea will also begin to sell current VEB brands to the natural channel.
Under an arrangement with The Coca-Cola Company, Goldman has chosen to reinvest most of his proceeds from the sale back into Honest Tea. Goldman’s co-founder, Barry Nalebuff and Gary Hirshberg, CE-YO of Stonyfield Farm, will continue to provide informal guidance to Honest Tea as part of the Advisory Council.
“We started Honest Tea 13 years ago with an ambitious mission to create a delicious, healthy beverage alternative produced with the health of our planet and our consumers in mind,” said Seth Goldman, co-founder, President and TeaEO of Honest Tea. “Over the past three years, it has been exciting to see the reach and impact of our mission expand as a result of our partnership with The Coca-Cola Company.”
Since receiving an investment from Coca-Cola, Honest Tea has made progress in a variety of areas, including the expansion of Honest Tea distribution from approximately 15,000 outlets in 2008 to more than 75,000 today, the introduction of an Honest Tea plastic bottle that uses 22 percent less material, and doubling the number of offerings as well as the sales of organic, zero-calorie drinks. Additionally, Honest Tea has committed to transitioning its entire tea line of Honest Teas to Fair Trade Certified by the end of March 2011.
“When we made the investment in Honest Tea, we did so because we saw that it had great potential to be a significant brand of the future. Three years after, the brand truly reflects where consumer demand is today and we are excited about being on the verge of still more growth,” said Deryck van Rensburg, President and General Manager, Venturing and Emerging Brands, Coca-Cola North America. “Beyond growth, having the unique vantage point of a minority investee and watching Honest Tea has helped our company in many other ways, from encouraging Coca-Cola to obtain organic certification at three of our facilities, to establishing a state of the art tea brewing and filtration system at a bottling plant. Additionally, it enabled us to participate with Honest in a number of sustainability initiatives on recycling. All of these efforts reflect why VEB has chosen to invest in entrepreneurs like the team at Honest – they provide a source of innovative ideas and energy that enhance our own efforts.”
“This is our chance to bring organic beverages to the mainstream,” said Goldman. “Consumers will discover that they can have it all – great taste, fewer calories, and organic. Honest.”
Keywords: Coca-Cola, Honest Tea, acquisition
March 4th, 2011
A new report analyzing the global organic food, beverages, and supplements markets expects the organic industry to grow from $57.2 billion in 2010 to $104.5 billion in 2015 at an estimated compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.8%.
Some of the key findings from the Markets&Markets report:
North America is expected to witness a CAGR of 11.9% from 2010 to 2015. The rest of the World (ROW) segment (which includes Latin America, Australasia, and others) is expected to witness the highest CAGR of 16.2%.
In 2010, Europe had the largest share in the global organic food and beverages market with revenue of $27.8 billion. Germany is the biggest consumer in Europe with a share of 32% of organic food and beverages in the region.
The Asian organic food market is expected to grow at an estimated CAGR of 20.6% from 2010 to 2015. Japan leads the Asian countries in terms of organic food consumption with nearly 54% of the share in 2010.
Fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) are the highest selling organic food categories with 37% of the organic foods segment in terms of revenue while organic supplements are the fastest growing segments in the organic industry with an estimated CAGR of 22.3% from 2010 to 2015; with Europe expected to continue its dominance in the segment for the same period.
The report found that demand for organic food and beverages was increasing in conventional food supply stores due to development of private labels and increasing interest of large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Tesco, and Safeway in selling organic products.
The organic food and beverages market is also expected to benefit from subsidies, financial aids, and R&D programs conducted by different government and non-government organizations such as FiBL (Switzerland), APEDA (India), and USDA (U.S.) to support conventional farmers in switching to organic farming.
Keywords: organic industry, growth, economic outlook