You Got Your Corporation in My Organic!

Phil Howard, assistant professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation, and Resource Studies at Michigan State University, maintains a chart showing which megacorporation owns your favorite organic brand. Recently, Good Magazine published an edited version of Howard’s chart, and Boing Boing linked to it, leading to an interesting discussion of whether it’s a good or bad thing that General Mills owns Cascadian, Heinz owns Arrowhead Mills, Santa Cruz Organic falls under the Smucker brand, and Horizon milk is made by mega-dairy-corp Dean Foods.

If we want organic food to be more affordable, and more available to more people, the “pro” argument goes, isn’t it good that it’s being mass-produced? And even if the agribusiness producing it operates a huge, monocrop outfit, don’t we still get the environmental and health benefits of organic versus nonorganic processing?

Commenter Rexrhino at Boing Boing says yes: “If you are truly concerned about the environment, and you truly believe that organic food is positive for the environment, then you wouldn’t have any problem with the mass-marketification of organic foods,” Rexrhino writes. “Of course, if you are purchasing organic foods as a way to boost your social status and ‘green cred’ with other shallow urban hipsters and/or crunchy types, then you are probably pretty pissed off.”

On the other hand, notes Rawfoodrox, once organic companies are bought out by profit-oriented corporations, “the standards (sometimes) become lowered because they are in the business to make money.”

It seems inevitable that corporations will continue to snap up small organic companies, fair-trade companies, or even local food outfits, as these kinds of products become more popular and profitable. Michael Pollan has addressed the possible outcomes for our food supply repeatedly, and, with things like the buyout of Honest Tea by Coca-Cola happening almost monthly, the conversation is far from over.

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