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Walmart Organics


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i just saw a commercial on TFN for "The New Walmart Organics"... does this mean organic growing is really going mainstream?? or has Walmart found some loophole where they can call something "organic"??

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i just saw a commercial on TFN for "The New Walmart Organics"... does this mean organic growing is really going mainstream?? or has Walmart found some loophole where they can call something "organic"??

Yes, sort of.

The "loophole" is a universal one, opened when the USDA developed standards for labeling food as organic. Organic purists (from what I've heard) were unhappy with some of the practices the USDA allowed; those practices (the specifics escape me right now) made large-scale "organic" production more feasible.

The net result is that you are already seeing more products bearing the "USDA Organic" label on your supermarket shelf, and when Del Monte comes out with an organic line of canned tomato products, you can't get too much more mainstream than that.

I think that elsewhere on this forum, there's a discussion of Michael Pollan's latest book, "The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals." One of those four meals gives him the opportunity to look at what he calls "Big Organic" and sift through its paradoxes and contradictions. There is another discussion arising from one chapter in this section--his chapter on Whole Foods Market, whose CEO responded via open letter on his blog, sparking an unusually civilized exchange between the two.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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What's important at this stage and also great news is that consumers are motivating Wal-Mart to offer so-called organic produce. Regardless of the credibility of the USDA's current regulations, Wal-Mart's move can only be a step in the right direction.

You shouldn't eat grouse and woodcock, venison, a quail and dove pate, abalone and oysters, caviar, calf sweetbreads, kidneys, liver, and ducks all during the same week with several cases of wine. That's a health tip.

Jim Harrison from "Off to the Side"

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I agree with Sandy, this is a win.

Every case of Hunt's "organic" tomatoes shipped-- no matter how far from "organic" the purists might find them -- represents a non-trivial (as my economist buddyputs it) decline in the amount of fertilizer and pesticides in our environment.

(I don't have time to google away this morning, but my understanding is that the organic community's main beef (ha ha) with USDA-certified is that it allows genetically modified food and, I believe, food that has been radiation-sterilized to be labeled organic.)

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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A downside to the Walmartization of organic food is that, as when Walmart has inserted its huge clout into other supply chains, it tends to play hob with producers, as well as the independent retailers who had set up arrangements with those producers.

For instance, the current issue of the monthly newsletter from my local food co-op notes that they're already experiencing gaps in their supplies of various organic produce items as their major suppliers re-adjust to Walmart's titanic demand. Hopefully that will settle down at least a little bit, but given that my co-op notes that they're already hunting for other suppliers to fill in, it appears they're anticipating this suplly-chain turbulence to go on for awhile.

My big concern is that Walmart will hoover up so much of the available supply-pipeline volume that, even though there might be an economy-of-scale for Walmart itself, small retailers like my food coop will get marginalized right out of access to that supply chain. Fortunately, my food coop has a hard core of customers philosophically opposed to Walmart models and disposed towards co-operative business, but I fear other indie retailers might not be so lucky--let alone indie producers whose operations simply aren't big enough to fit Walmart's requirements for suppliers, and thus lose access to the big supply-pipeline as the suppliers put all their economic eggs in Walmart's basket.

(But then, these are always some of the big concerns when Walmart moves into a new sector, as far as I've observed...)

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mizducky, I recently heard a news program (probably something related to NPR) that voiced a similar concern. How will Wal-Mart's standard operating procedures apply to organic farmers who may not be used to ramping up for high production capacity? The speaker on the program was basically saying that most organic farms are not prepared for that, and it could cause unintended consequences. Pricing pressure might cause adherence to standards to slip, for example.

I also thought USDA Certified Organic meant you could not use anything genetically modified. In fact, I think I recall signing some web petition some time back that called on the USDA to not relax its standards for certified organic labelling. Am I totally off?

http://www.organicgardening.com/feature/0,...5-20-17,00.html

http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Q&A.html

Posted 1/14/05

Q:  Are food labels stating “GM, GE, or GMO-free” part of the National Organic Standards?

A:  They are not.  Truthful labeling is embodied in the National Organic Standards, as supported by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the agencies with respective jurisdiction over truthful labeling laws.  In the preamble of the National Organic Program final regulations, we stated that organic is not synonymous with “GM-free,” when we said: “These phrases may…be used as additional, eco-labels, provided they are truthful statements…[but] they are not permitted as replacements for the term ‘organic.’”  (See page 80586 of the preamble, under “Labeling—Changes Requested But Not Made: (7) Use of Other Terms as Synonymous for “organic”).

Posted 1/14/05

Q:  Is there a working definition of the word “contamination” within the NOP?  Are all products of genetic modification considered “prohibited substances” as defined in the final regulations?  And, what actions are authorized or required when organic crops or products are found to contain unintended or inadvertent genetically modified hybrids or other genetically modified substances?

A:  There is no definition in the final regulations of the National Organic Standards for the word “contamination.” By our count, “contamination” is mentioned nearly 50 times in the regulations.

All genetically modified practices or products are indeed considered prohibited, as cited in 205.105, the paragraph that describes “excluded methods.”  Please refer back to the above issue when considering the adventitious presence of a genetically modified or genetically-engineered substance.  Such adventitious presence does not affect the status of the certified operation and does not necessarily result in loss of organic status for the organic product, provided it was produced in adherence with all of the organic requirements under 7 CFR 205.

Again, the action regarding the final product’s status in this case is left to the determination by the buyer and seller of the product.  Contamination by a prohibited substance, when mandated by a government body, however, would result in loss of organic status for the product, even when all other regulations had been followed.  In the case of an emergency spray program, for example, if the spray is a prohibited substance but is mandated by a State or Federal program, the crop’s organic status is lost and that crop must be diverted for sale in the conventional market.  Neither the operation nor the land’s organic status is altered by an emergency spray program, however.  (See §205.672 Emergency pest or disease treatment.)

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I was very pleased to see our local Sam's Club offering organic whole chickens a month or so ago. I purchased one, and it was perfectly fine.

After not seeing them my next two visits, I asked the butcher if he had any in the back. He said they were no longer carrying them - no market for them! We're in suburban Philadelphia, home to a bustling Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, all sorts of farmers markets. So that's the end of my one-time meat buying experience at Sam's Club.

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Every case of Hunt's "organic" tomatoes shipped-- no matter how far from "organic" the purists might find them -- represents a non-trivial (as my economist buddyputs it) decline in the amount of fertilizer and pesticides in our environment.

Funny though, Hunt's organic tomatoes are a product of Isreal. They arent even grown in the US. Who is regulating that?

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Nobody neccessarily has to "sell out" in order for somebody else to buy in. 

Market growth isn't a zero sum game.

SB  :wink:

Remember "Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered"?

Toss that into the equation and that's where it becomes "selling out."

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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Folks, this topic has veered away from organics, food distribution, and other on-topic matters toward broader matters that have directly nothing to do with food. If there are more issues to discuss that are substantively food-related, let's hear 'em; if not, we'll wrap this topic up.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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I was under the impression that WalMart was getting it's organic dairy products from Horizon (who have a rep for being decidedly less organic than thou & thus cheaper).

At least in that field I'd guess they're still getting the producs from Horizon & just rebranding...

Do you suffer from Acute Culinary Syndrome? Maybe it's time to get help...

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I can't speak to the food as we only have mini Wal-Mart (yeah right), but I bought a heirloom tomato plant from Wal-Mart last month. It's a pretty generic heirloom variety that I couldn't find last time I was in the city. After a period of quarantine, I deemed it OK to plant in my "Organic" garden, it's doing fine. It wasn't labeled as organic however. The last time I shopped at Super Wal-Mart, that's what they want you call a WM with food, it was too surreal, they had a huge cooler full of pumped and gassed meat, and their produce section looked fake. I can't see their clientele being too impressed with organics, but then again I'm reluctantly part of their clientele.

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Organic food is like nice weather and healthy babies. Nobody is against these things.

Wal-Mart grew into the world's largest retailer by giving people (everywhere) what they want at reasonable prices. Maybe their organic food isn't up to the quality or standards of your local boutique grocery or co-op, but I'd think the fact Wal-Mart offers it at all would be greeted with, at the very least, quiet condescension, rather than snide remarks and hoots of derision.

I live in the middle of Northern Minnesota. Believe me, the addition of a Wal-Mart Super Store to a community of 20,000 was a real boon to the cooking and eating population. Their presence has spurred local supermarkets and grocery stores to expand selections and emphasize quality, and probably to also hold down prices.

Perhaps those living on the coasts, or in progressive enclaves of large cities, may not understand, but organic food has simply not been conveniently available at affordable prices to a majority of the population. I can personally attest to an interest in organic food and healthy eating, especially among families with young children, and Wal-Mart's research apparently noticed the same thing. With their buying and marketing prowness they're able to provide products to less populated and remote areas much sooner than would otherwise be the case.

I can, and do, bemoan the closing of my conveniently located, family-run corner grocery store, replete with resident butcher, Dave, (who used to be a rodeo bull rider and always had a joke to tell), but they were financially strapped even before Wal-Mart came to town.

While I personally dislike large stores and crowds, and have only set foot in a Wal-Mart once, (at 5:30 am), GF, her daughter and 1 8/9ths grandchildren visit the local Super Store nearly every day. I give them a list, and I've been generally pleased with the selection of packaged goods and quality of produce, although the meat admitedly does leave a lot to be desired.

However, a local chain supermarket, sensing opportunity, has recently installed a custom cut meat case, complete with butcher! He's not a colorful or witty as my old butcher Dave, but I still think the town is coming out ahead overall, food-wise? :smile:

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While the USDA's organic guidelines may not be enough for organic "purists" and, also, while Wal-Mart is certainly not my shopping mega-mart of choice, I will welcome the addition of organic foods to the big W's product line. To my mind, anything that will help nudge the people of our country into demanding better-quality, naturally-produced foodstuffs has to be a big plus. Perhaps the next emphasis will be to elminate the genetically-modified and a movement toward the "slow food" trend popular in some areas.

Starwind . Fort Lauderdale

--

There are moments when one feels free from one's own identification with human limitations and inadequacies. At such moments one imagines that one stands on some spot of a small planet, gazing in amazement at the cold yet profoundly moving beauty of the eternal, the unfathomable; life and death flow into one, and there is neither evolution nor destiny; only Being.

-- Albert Einstein

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