News update:Oct 9, 2006

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.
Wal-Mart 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,” 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."
The Institute's 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.
“Organic 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 manufacturers—forcing a production shift to China and other low-wage countries," Kastel added.
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.”

Editor WorldPoultry

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