World's largest retailer 'cheapens organic label'
The Cornucopia Institute, a US organic farming
watchdog, has accused US retail giant Wal-Mart of cheapening the value of the
organic label by sourcing products from industrial-scale factory farms and Third
World countries, such as China.
The Institute recently released a report about Wal-Mart's rollout of
organic products, which it says is aimed at driving down the price of organic
foods by using food from corporate agribusiness, factory farms, and cheap
imports of questionable quality.
announced earlier this year that they would greatly
increase the number of organic products they offered and price them at a target
of 10% above the cost for conventional food.
"We have received scores of press inquiries over the past few months asking
us if Wal-Mart's organic expansion was 'good news or bad news' for the
industry,â€ stated Mark Kastel, of the Cornucopia Institute
. "My stock answer has been: If Wal-Mart
lends their logistical prowess to organic food both farmers and consumers will
be big winners by virtue of a more competitive marketplace. However, if Wal-Mart
applies their standard business model, and in essence Wal-Marts organics, then
everyone will lose."
white paper report
says that consumers may access organic foods (now a
US$16 billion industry) at lower prices as a result of the Wal-Mart rollout, but
that small family farmers will suffer as a consequence.
â€œOrganic family farmers in this country could see their livelihoods
disintegrate the same way so many industrial workers saw their family-supporting
wages evaporate as Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers put the screws to
manufacturersâ€”forcing a production shift to China and other low-wage countries,"
In a letter to Wal-Mart, the Institute wrote: "We are afraid that you are
grossly miscalculating your move into organics and underestimating the knowledge
and commitment of the organic consumer. Those buying organic food are
comfortable paying the historic premiums because they think that part of their
purchase dollar supports a different kind of environmental, animal husbandry,
and economic justice ethic.â€
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