Does organic food need to be more regulated?
Marion Nestle is a consumer activist, nutritionist, and academic who specializes in the politics of food and dietary choice. Nestle received her BA, PhD, and MPH from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1988, Nestle was appointed Chair of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. She held that position until 2004, when she became the Paulette Goddard Professor in the same department.
Nestle is the author of numerous books, including "Food Politics," which explored the way corporations influence our nutritional choices, and "What to Eat," an survey of how to navigate the modern American supermarket. Aside from her books and teaching, Nestle writes a popular blog for the Atlantic Food Channel.
Marion Nestle: I think there do need to be tighter regulations because organics are more expensive than conventionally grown foods. And the only reason that consumers are willing to pay more for them are . . . is that they believe that organic foods are better – either better for the environment, better for people, better for everybody. And so it’s extremely important that the integrity of the organic standards be maintained. And they are under enormous pressure and under constant attack, because as large . . . Because they make so much money; because larger . . . larger and larger companies have started going into organics; and when large food producers go into organics, they’re used to a system in which you look for the lowest common denominator. You try to cut corners and cut the costs as much as you can, in every way that you can so that you can sell the product at the lowest price possible and still make money. And with these large producers coming in, they would like to weaken the standards. They would like to make it possible to have a larger collection of pesticides on the list of allowed pesticides for example. Or if the cost of organic feed becomes more than twice the cost of non-organic feed, it’s okay to feed organic animals non-organic food. That kind of thing. And those kinds of pressures have been put forward by the companies, by the Department of Agriculture. And in at least one case Congress has overridden the Department of Agriculture’s Organic Standards Board in saying that things need to be allowed that the Board prefer not be allowed. That’s not a good idea.
If you charge more for organic food, the quality should match the price.