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View Full Version : Walmart’s latest organic scheme is just part of its plot to take over our food system



Islander
04-26-14, 03:12 PM
Stacy Mitchell
25 Apr 2014

Walmart recently announced that it would stock a selection of lower-cost organic packaged foods. A storm of positive press followed, including two U.S. News columns (here and here) by David Brodwin of the American Sustainable Business Council, who argued that, despite Walmart’s many sins, it was doing good in this case by legitimatizing and mainstreaming sustainable products in the eyes of consumers, investors, the media, and other companies.

I’m a big fan of David’s work, and of ASBC, but I think he’s got this one backward. The story that Walmart created with its announcement was not: Wow, organics have changed. They’ve gone mainstream. (That’s not really news, after all.) Instead, the story was: Wow, Walmart has changed. It’s gone organic. In other words, Walmart is not legitimizing organic foods so much as using organic foods to legitimize its own business model.

Keep reading: http://grist.org/food/walmarts-latest-organic-scheme-is-just-part-of-its-plot-to-take-over-our-food-system/

Islander
04-26-14, 03:35 PM
When this story was posted to my Facebook page it generated a long convoluted discussion that ended up covering just about every angle of the topic. On the positive side was the observation that Walmart was responding to popular demand and doing low income people a favor by making organics affordable. On the other side was the reminder of Walmart's business model which is predatory in the extreme, forcing suppliers to cut all possible corners in order to deliver a cheap product to Walmart. The result may well be the over commodification of organic agriculture. My friend Jim Gerritsen is a Maine organic farmer and president of OSGATA; he just delivered a speech to the United Nations on the future of organic farming worldwide. Here's what he has to say about Walmart's move to embrace organics:

"I believe the point that Stacy is trying to make is that the business model of Walmart is predatory to the core. The effect of Walmat's growth has been decimation of Main Street, collapse of moderate-sized and rural businesses, decline of wages and the Middle Class, increase in government (taxpayer) assistance for their employees, and off-shore sourcing of products (we can expect this off-shore sourcing will also happen in organic's case). Presently, 80% of Walmart suppliers are located in China. Independent American organic farmers paying $100/day labor can't afford to compete with Chinese labor which is a small fraction of American costs. If Walmart succeeds with their plan, the only winners will be Walmart itself and a few concentrated corporations which source offshore to meet Walmart's dictated pricing perameters. This is America and we can do better than this."

Another typical comment from that same thread: "I remember when Kraft stormed Wisconsin in the 1960s and bought up all the little local cheese companies; my mother-in-law worked in one in Mayville, WA -- I remember how angry she was to find they changed all the recipes and started putting in fillers to cut production costs. I know of no example in farm country of where corporate intrusion has not threatened the environment along with the stability of local communities, reduced the quality of the food produced, reduced wages and benefits and even put people out of work. In dairy farming in Wisconsin, corporate intrusion and lobbying broke the industry. I knew of farmers who committed suicide. People have short memories -- city people haven't a clue and now everybody has become citified."

I can sympathize with all these points of view. Certainly there are poor people (including Walmart employees) who could not afford organic at true market prices. At the same time I can see how this movement threatens to marginalize local American organic growers, if not put them out of business entirely. For my part, I will continue to feed myself and others from my own acres. This year I had more demand for both chicken and pigs than I could fulfill, so the interest is certainly growing — at least for those who can afford it.

Pattypans
04-26-14, 07:10 PM
The author makes a very good argument about how this development is only good for Walmart.

Julieanne
04-27-14, 04:58 AM
Neither of our two main competing supermarkets carries much organic produce - hardly any. Talking to organic growers some years ago, none of them were willing to get involved with them, knowing that if they did they would force down prices to growers. It was a wise move on their part.

mellowsong
04-27-14, 10:48 AM
I belong to a local co-op made up of farmers that only raise things without pesticides etc. No, they aren't "certified" organic but I have met every one of them personally and I have been out to several of the farms and I trust them. I have never had a reaction to anything I've bought so that tells me all I need to know. There are some things I do have to buy in the grocery store like celery and lettuce off season, and sweet potatoes. I have 2 choices here, Wal Mart and Publix. I will spend more and buy organic at Publix when the produce isn't rotten but unfortunately, it often is, especially celery. Wal Mart organic produce is much fresher. Anyway, I agree that this is a bad thing for organics overall.

bmc65
04-27-14, 01:10 PM
I wonder how organic it can really be when grow on such a large industrial scale.