Group Presentation on The Omnivore’s Dilemma

After the presenters have posted their statements pro and con and their rebuttals to each other for Debate 8.2and 8.3 (by Sat. 10/12), classmates are required to write a paragraph response by Sat. 10/19. First, before reading the debate, note if you are for or against the statement (before reading the debate, do you agree more with the pro or con position?). Then note if your position changed or remained the same after you read the debate (after reading the debate, do you agree more with the pro or con position?) Give any insights on the debate or debate topic.

Debate 8.2 Group Presentation on The Omnivore’s Dilemma (134-184): Chapter 9 “Big Organic.”

Big organic companies have gone too far in compromising their values in order to be profitable.

PRO

Pollan writes that shopping at Whole Foods and other name brand shops is a “literary experience,” since many of the organic products feature long, extremely wordy labels explaining how the food was produced. Pollan explains that the organic movement began as an effort to provide more information about where food comes from. In contrast to industrial food, which deliberately obscures the chain of production, organic food claims to tell the consumer exactly how their food was produced. Such, Pollan has named these the “Supermarket Pastoral,” a way of buying food on a large and convenient scale that also claims to connect consumers to the land.

As a consumer, you try your hardest to support local organic farms and stores, yet the odds are higher than ever that PepsiCo or another major multinational will be getting your money no matter which product you choose. And in this case, ignorance really is a sort of consumer bliss, because once you go down this rabbit hole- finding that small independent companies just keep getting swallowed up by bigger corporate businesses, you’ll be in the never-ending search for new food from small makers.

“Sweet Earth, which makes vegan bowls, burritos, and sandwiches and aims to be (Links to an external site.)“as natural, organic, and non-GMO as we can be,” was sold to Nestle (Links to an external site.)in September.”Buying a Sweet Earth product however is now in some part, supporting Nestle, which is still contending with slave labor (Links to an external site.)and child labor (Links to an external site.)in its wider supply chains.

Pollan writes,

“The real value of putting organic on an industrial scare, is the sheer amount of acreage it puts under organic management”, The organic market commanding such high prices, fraud is rampant in the imported organic market, the United States imported $1.65 billions of organic foods that are tracked from 87 countries, according to the USDA.”

With that being said, “The same farmer who is applying toxic fumigants to sterilize their soil in one filed is the next field in applying compost to nurture the solid natural fertility, in these industrial organic farms.”Most only care about reading a small label that says, “certified organic”, that does not tell you about their growing process, and distribution process. No one is watching how things are touched, clean, and transported. On a small farm, it is typically the owner and his crew cleaning maintain, and packaging each and every individual item.

When putting that idea into an industrials organic farm, there job isn’t to make sure that those words match up perfectly with its product. Industrial farm wants to make sure they are selling their mass quantity up to the standards from the USDA. Having these small farms be consumed or sold to the mass producing of their organic foods may seem like the easier route and helps provide for the community, but you then are losing the quality of the food, and the integrity of the food

work cited:

-Oelbaum, Jed. “When Small, Healthy Food Companies Get Eaten Up.” Make Change, Make Change, 21 Nov. 2017,

-www.makechange.aspiration.com/articles/when-small-healthy-food-companies-get-eaten-up.

Question:

Can consumers trust the label or does it bear too many flaws to have credibility?

reply from con

Rebuttal and Question:

Rebuttal:

I enjoyed reading your post. While I do agree with you that purchasing from companies such as Sweet Earth may be supporting multinational corporations such as Nestle, I do not see how this supports your stance that Big Organic companies have gone too far in compromising their values for profit. According to a recent interview with the founders of Sweet Earth, the company is still running their business with a focus on providing healthy plant-based proteins. Co-founder Brian Swette mentions that they did not compromise any of their values and continued making products with their mission statement in mind. He even said that when they sold Sweet Earth to Nestle, they did so because they “saw more potential for growth while still holding true to the mission that started it all” (Crawford). In other words, even today, Sweet Earth maintains its mission to “create food that could sustain a healthy body…and honor and sustain the land” (Crawford), meaning that this company did not compromise its values at all.

Also, you mention that Big Organic companies are prone to ignore crucial steps in touching and transporting their products while small, local farmers are maintaining every part of their own procedures. While I do agree with you that it may be harder to regulate each step of large farms, there are so many safety regulations involved in producing food. I would think that these large farms would be subject to more scrutiny by the government as well. Furthermore, I was a little confused about how this relates to the proposition statement that Big Organics companies prioritize profits over their values. Like I mentioned in my own post, many Big Organics companies actually sell products not just from one, big farm, but from many, small, local and regional farms. In other words, Big Organics companies like Whole Foods are also sourcing their produce from the small farms that you mentioned in your post. Thus, I continue to stand firm in my belief that Big Organics companies like the ones Pollan mentions have not gone too far in compromising their values.

Discussion Question: Think about your own, personal experience with purchasing organic foods. Do you think there a difference in quality or taste between organic and conventional products that make organic products so popular, or do you think people just buy organic food because they believe it is healthier?

Works Cited

Crawford, Elizabeth. “Investing in the Future of Food: Sweet Earth Finds Success Balancing Values with Fundraising & Nestle Partnership.” Food Navigator USA. 9 January, 2019.

con:

Proposition: Big organic companies have gone too far in compromising their values in order to be profitable.

Con:

As I read this chapter, I was surprised at how Pollan made wild accusations against organic food companies based on only assumptions rather than solid facts. Human beings are prone to being biased and subjective according to their own personal values, so we must always question what we read. Although Michael Pollan offers a very interesting discussion about how organic food labels are misleading, unforunately, many of his assumptions about Big Organics is just plain wrong. Pollan is particularly mistaken about calling Whole Foods an “Industrialized Organic” and “Big Organic” company throughout Chapter 9. Therefore, it is unfair to make the generalized assumption that all companies Pollan deems “Big Organic” have gone too far in compromising their values to be profitable, especially when it comes to Whole Foods.

John Mackey, who was the CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods at the time, wrote an open letter to Michael Pollan about the false claims he makes in Omnivore’s Dilemma, explaining that Whole Foods has not at all compromised its values just to become profitable. Mackey mentions that it is a shame that Pollan did not make any effort at all to try to contact company leadership, as he “certainly would have enjoyed speaking to [Pollan] in person…and may have been able to clear up some misconceptions before they appeared in print” (Mackey). Specifically, while Pollan writes that Whole Foods has adopted systems that make “supporting small farms impractical” (Pollan 138), actually, during the year Pollan published his book, 79% of all produce products sold in Whole Foods were produced locally or regionally within a few hundred miles away (Mackey). Furthermore, 78% of all of Whole Foods’ suppliers were independent and family farms (Mackey); thus, these numbers reveal that only a very small percentage of the products sold at Whole Foods actually deserves the name “Big Organics.” Mackey’s letter continues to counter many of the points Pollan made in Chapter 9 about the contradictory nature of the term: organic. Thus, because there are so many discrepancies between what Pollan wrote and what is actually true about organic products, it is difficult to say that conclude that all Big Organic companies only care about being profitable.

Furthermore, even Pollan admits that Big Organic companies use specific labels to clearly identify the grade of the food item, and that there are good sides of the organic business. For example, Pollan mentions that aside from the asparagus, “all the other vegetables and greens were much tastier” and “stayed crisp right up to the expiration day” (Pollan 176). He also states that of the organic and conventional tomatoes produced by Greenways Organic, the organic ones not only “earn higher Brix scores” but also were tastier to him as well (176). The fact that organic products being sold taste better than conventional products suggests that there is, in fact, a considerable difference between organic and non-organic products. In other words, it is not fair to say that Big organics companies have compromised their values at all to become profitable, since their products are indeed tastier than their conventional counterparts.

Therefore, it is difficult to simply argue that Big Organics companies have compromised their values to become profitable, as even Pollan would not fully agree with this statement himself. Choosing to shop organic is a choice that shoppers can make, and the fact that Big Organics companies care a lot about the quality, taste, price, and origins of the products they sell cannot be ignored.

Works Cited

Mackey, John. “An Open Letter to Michael Pollan.” Whole Foods Market. 26 May 2006.

Pollan, Michael. “Big Organic.” Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin Group, 2006, p. 134-184.

reply from pro:

I appreciate your position on this argument, but this one argument is on one particular store. The letter does speak highly on clarifying on Whole Foods not being apart of this “industrial organic” bit, but yet at the end of the day Whole Foods is a business and, makes it’s decisions based primarily on profit margin, market share and dollars-per-basket statistics. These profit driven decisions mean that store management and sales are pressed to do whatever is most cost effective which is not often the same thing as doing the right thing when it comes to the food they sell. Whole Foods is a beneficial to anyone who wishes to have choices in the market and vote for their preferred method of production with their dollars. However, Whole Foods is a corporation and by definition their first allegiance is to profit and secondarily to product.

Pollan also explains that when he went to the sample of store, he went as a journalist, not a consumer, and what he observed what what he wrote about it; that there were more signs about how important selling local organic was, but not having as much product on the floor. Lastly, with the growth and support of the organic movement, big businesses like Wal-Mart are being moved by their pocket book, not a mission.

“You write that 45 percent of your suppliers are local, i.e. located within 200 miles of the store – an impressive statistic, but perhaps a misleading one. Given the concentration of organic produce in a tiny handful of corporate hands (with Cal-Organic/Grimmway and Earthbound dominating the market nationally), it’s not surprising that you would have a relatively high number of local suppliers among your vendors – since just two of those vendors could supply the great bulk of your produce sales.” (Pollan Response to WF letter)

Work cited

*** this website would not correctly site, but heres the link.

https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/blog/john-mackeys-blog/michael-pollan’s-response-whole-foods%C2%A0market (Links to an external site.)

Pollan, Michael. “Big Organic.” Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin Group, 2006, p. 134-184.

Debate 8.3 Second Group Presentation on The Omnivore’s Dilemma (134-184): Chapter 9 “Big Organic.”

Big organic food is still better than conventional industrial food

PRO

Organic foods refer to plant and animal food products that have been grown naturally through organic farming techniques. The regulations for organic foods vary from country to country. In the United States, it refers to foods that have been grown without the use of synthetic, sewage sludge-based or petroleum-based fertilizers, chemical herbicides, and synthetic pesticides (Albright). Organic dairy and meat products also have to be fed organic and GMO-free feed, avoid the use of growth hormones, antibiotics and medication for disease control and use animal-friendly farming practices.

Adopting all these farming practices even at a large scale has numerous advantages to consumers and the environment. First, organic foods avoid the use of artificial chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides in crop farming (Robinson, Segal and Segal). Animals also avoid the use of growth hormones and antibiotics which can create antibiotics resistance bacteria. Animal by-products also reduce the risk of mad cow disease.

Organic farming practices help reduces soil erosion, help improve soil fertility, conserve water, reduces water and solid pollution caused by different chemicals and also use less energy. All these benefits can be passed down to the consumer which makes it better for everyone.

Organic foods are healthier and tastier than conventional foods. For instance, organically raised chicken contains more omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally raised chicken. The fact that organic foods do not use pesticides and herbicides makes them even healthier and reduces a wide range of illnesses, disorders, and diseases associated with the excess consumption of these harmful products. Some of the additives used in non-organic foods alter the taste and nutritional composition of their foods. Organic foods contain more healthy minerals and salts that boost their nutrition value and improve their taste (Hirsh). Organic foods have also been found to contain up to 40% more antioxidants which make us healthier and reduces the risk of heart diseases, cancer and stroke.

Even though it is more expensive to purchase organic foods, it becomes cheaper in the long run when you factor in some of the costs avoided by consuming organic foods. One will likely spend less time and money in hospitals.

Big organic farms help bring organic foods to a larger portion of the population who can then enjoy all the benefits associated with organic foods. Even though they might have some minor drawbacks, the overall benefits associated with the consumption of organic foods are more. Over time, big organic foods will leverage on their size to achieve economies of scale, reduce the overall prices of organic foods and make them more affordable to consumers (Chea). They are also expected to improve the overall supply in the market which will further reduce the prices in the market.

Works Cited
Albright, Mary Beth. Organic Foods Are Tastier and Healthier, Study Finds. 14 July 2014. 8 October 2019 .

Chea, Terence. Michael Pollan, Farmers, & OCA Speak Out on ‘Big Organic’. 30 May 2006. 8 October 2019 .

Hirsh, Sophie. Why Is Organic Food More Expensive Than Conventional Food? August 2019. 8 October 2019 .

Robinson, Lawrence, Jeanne Segal and Robert Segal. Organic Foods: What You Need to Know. June 2019. 8 October 2019 .

Reply from con

Rebuttal and Question

Rebuttal

I do agree with you about the benefits of organic foods. Organic farmers don’t use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides on crops and antibiotics and growth hormones on livestock. This makes them safer than conventional foods. However, there has not been conclusive study to show that organic foods have substantial nutritional benefits over conventional foods. For instance, organic milk contains less iodine and selenium that conventional milk.

Your argument is based on the numerous benefits of organic foods and seems to overlook some of the drawbacks big organic has brought into the industry. I agree to some extent that big organic has helped increase the supply of organic foods and make them more available to consumers around the world and helped make them more affordable.

Some of the big organic players like Wal-Mart and Wholefoods have to sour their products form long distances. This makes it difficult for them as a supplier to ascertain the quality of the products they purchase. As Pollan points out, Big organic have been forced to operate their own feedlots even though they are fed organic foods. These animals are not treated any better than in conventional industrial production. As the industry expands, enforcers will have a harder time trying to enforce standards in the industry. Some of the big organic companies have also used organic labels to market their products as healthy which entices consumers to make more purchases.

In my opinion, government agencies should develop mechanisms of closely monitoring the whole supply chain of organic foods to guarantee consumers high-quality products. Big organic should fully adopt organic farming practices, especially in animal rearing.

Question

What are some of the mechanisms government agencies can use to ensure organic imports conform to the standards set in the United States?

con:

Big organic food is still better than conventional industrial food

Con

The debate on whether organic foods are more nutritious and safer to the consumer than conventional foods has been going on among health experts and consumers for a long time (Watson). Even though studies have confirmed that organic foods are safer due to the lack of use of pesticides, insecticides and herbicides in crops and antibiotics, chemical and growth hormones in animals, they have not been confirmed to have any significant nutritional advantage over conventional industrial foods (Smith-Spangler, Pearson and Eschbach). For instance, organic milk has been found to contain less iodine and selenium which is vital for good health.

Organic foods are more labor-intensive than conventional industrial products which increase the cost of production and make the final products more expensive. This makes them out of range to the majority of low-income earners who are then forced to consume fast foods. Organic foods are usually in short supply and have shorter shelf lives than conventional foods. This leads to more wastage.

Big organic farms such as earthbound and whole foods have come up to fill the gap between supply and demand in the organic foods segment. The entrance of retail giants like Wal-Mart into the industry has further shown the level of industrialization of organic foods (Chea). This rapid expansion makes it hard for authorities to enforce quality standards which might compromise the overall quality of the products. Some companies have been forced to source products form farmers abroad with no mechanism in place to ascertain the quality of the foods delivered.

As Pollan, explains, as organic foods industry go mainstream to satisfy the ever-increasing demand in the market, the quality of food goes down (Pollan). This makes the whole movement lose touch with its roots. This trend will most likely make organic foods a commodity whose products are determined by the buyers which will sideline farmers. Big organic is also eroding the environmental benefits associated with organic foods. Large retailers like Wal-Mart and Wholefoods have to source their foods from long distances which use as much fossil fuels as conventional foods (Chea). The products also have to be refrigerated to increase their shelf life which increases the amount of energy used to conserve them.

In my opinion, Big organic is not any better than conventional industrial foods. If one has to consume organic foods, they should purchase the products from the local farmers. This gives them the connection between the food they eat and its source.

Works Cited

Chea, Terence. Michael Pollan, Farmers, & OCA Speak Out on ‘Big Organic’. 30 May 2006. 8 October 2019 .

Pollan, M. The omnivore’s dilemma: A natural history of four meals. Penguin, 2006.

Smith-Spangler, C., Brandeau, M. L., Hunter, G. E., Bavinger, J. C., et al. “Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: a systematic review.” Annals of internal medicine (2012): 346-366.

Watson, Stephanie. Organic food no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. 5 September 2012. 8 October 2019 .

Edited by Shaodi Lin on Oct 13 at 12:59am

reply from pro

Rebuttal and Question
Rebuttal
We are on the same page on the benefits of organic foods. Organic foods have numerous health and environmental benefits. They are friendly to animals and safer to eat. This is the information that informs my argument.
I agree with you that organic foods are more labor-intensive which makes them more expensive than conventional industrial foods. This has made organic foods to be out of reach for many Americans. I think it then logical for industry players to develop mechanisms of reducing the cost of production and increase supply in the market. Big organic can mass-produce organic foods and make the unit prices of organic products cheaper due to economies of scale. This makes it easier for more people to access organic foods and therefore enjoy the benefits that come with it. I don’t think it is beneficial for organic foods to only be available in small quantities and at very high prices.
However, I agree with you that big organic should look for ways of tracking the quality of the products they sell. The government has to ascertain that all the products labeled organic meet some minimum requirements. Such measures can help strike a better balance between the standards in the organic market and the benefits associated with big organic. Without big organic in the market, organic foods would remain a product for the privileged few. Its demand would remain high and supply low which would keep the prices high.
Question
Do you think the benefits associated with organic foods outnumber the drawbacks associated with big organic?

just write two responses for each debate.

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