Author critical of ‘shameless’ organic marketing

Organic food is the product of a shameless branding scheme from start to finish.

So says Mischa Popoff, a former organic inspector and author of Is It Organic, a 2008 book that criticizes the organic movement.

Speaking at the Lethbridge College Tiffin lecture March 10, Popoff gave faint praise to organic food, comparing it to other products with good marketing campaigns and claims to quality.

“I liken (organic farming) to 15-year-old scotch or Cuban cigars or fine wine,” he said in an interview after his presentation.

“You should be able to measure it. And unlike 15-year-old scotch, which is purely subjective … you should be able to measure the purity.”

Popoff is an outspoken critic of the organic industry and what he considers to be its failure to implement credible inspection and random testing.

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However, he reserved the bulk of his criticism in Lethbridge for organic activists and those he said have made organics a political issue.

“Most organic farmers here in Canada are honest, and I’ve inspected 500 of them, so I’m speaking from personal gut experience,” he said in his presentation.

“The organic movement of today is completely political … and is run by a largely urban crowd of post-modern luddites. Why is it that they believe, in a nutshell, that we need to go backwards in order to go forwards?”

For example, he said urban activists’ ideas on compost are unworkable and many of their theories are based on faulty data. Many reject science and technological developments that have improved agricultural production and seek a return to older farming methods.

“There’s no glory or benefit in using outmoded means of production.”

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In the early days of the organic movement, Popoff said Canadian farmers supplied 100 percent of the organic market.

Now they supply 20 percent. The rest is supplied by countries where levels of inspection and attention to organic principles are unknown or nonexistent.

“Overseas is just a total free-for-all and overseas suppliers fill 80 percent of the organic market,” Popoff said.

He doesn’t see a significant role for organic food.

“If you’ve got the money and you want that, go ahead and get it. It will never be an asset, but it could be a luxury item. There’s no basis for it to be a staple item.”

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