And in response to big power lobbying, Senate and House Republicans on the Agriculture appropriations inserted a provision in 2005 into the department's budget, which would allow the use of certain artificial ingredients in organic foods. Many players in the organic industry today also argue that they are willing to use some synthetics in producing organic food. Joseph Mendelson and other advocates of strict organic standards argue that these provisions will open a "Pandora's box," allowing big organic food producers to lobby for further loosening of the USDA standards (Warner).
The downsides of big food producers going organic is well-illustrated by the experience of Whole Foods Market. It grew out of a small vegetarian store opened by Mackay and his girlfriend in 1978 in a garage in Austin, Texas. In 1992, the company went nationwide, opening stores in several cities. Now, the company owns more than two hundred stores across the nation and in 2007 it opened a whopping ninety-nine-thousand-square-foot supercenter in London. It should be acknowledged that Mackey and his company promoted the ethics of food processing to American consumers, introducing the concept of "organic" to many Americans who have long forgotten it. "You can't argue with one thing," a vegetable organic farmer told a reporter, "if it wasn't for Whole Foods we'd still be handing out leaflets telling folk what organic is" (Renton). In other words, organic food became mainstream and popular, due partly to the efforts of Mackay and his company.
But the Whole Foods Market, in the opinions of many farmers who have worked with them, is no longer an ethical organics company. As Alex Renton argues, "Whole Foods Market is in most ways an ordinary capitalist empire, geared to the market and its mania for growth. . . . In the view of many American green campaigners, Whole Foods took an anti-big-shop movement, assimilated its virtues, did away with its annoyances, and made another big shop out of the result." Joan Gundermann, a Texas organic vegetable farmer, explained her disillusionment with the company in the following way: "At the beginning Whole Foods loved us and took care of us, but then it went all greedy. When they got bigger they got just like all the other big boys. Suddenly you couldn't sell directly to the stores but you had to go through their centralized distribution scheme" (Renton). By becoming a typical nationwide food company, Whole Foods betrayed its own principle of supplying consumers with locally grown natural products. The transformation of Whole Foods Market is a testament to the fact that the capitalist system may eventually corrupt the concept of organic food.
Given these developments in the organic food industry, it might be pertinent to ask: what is the future of organic food stores? Will conventional grocery stores become organic in the future? Considering that there is a growing public concern for food safety, it is likely that the organic food industry will grow, there will be more organic grocery stores opened, and conventional grocery stores will also focus more on organic products. However, it is also likely that the public disillusionment with the latest organic products will also grow and many consumers may stop buying products labeled "organic," because, as discussed in this paper, the distinction between organic and nonorganic food is being blurred through the use of unethical marketing strategies, while people's taste for organic products is being manipulated by large food suppliers. The entrance of big players is also going to complicate the situation further since powerful interest groups may use their leverage in Congress and corrupt the concept of "organic," as defined by USDA. The future of organic food industry, therefore, remains uncertain.
Cloud, John. "Eating Better Than Organic." Time Magazine. 2 March 2007. Web. 22 March 2011.
"It's Easy Being Green: Organic vs. Conventional Foods -- the Gloves Come Off. Center for American Progress. 10 September 2008. Web. 22 March 2011.
"Organic Foods: Are They Safe? More Nutritious?" MayoClinic. Web. 22 March 2011.
"Organic Food Sales See Healthy Growth: Mainstream Food Companies Promote Natural Brands" MSNBC. 3 December 2004. Web. 22 March 2011.
Renton, Alex. "Ripe Target." The Guardian. 27 March 2007. Web. 22 March 2011.