Is there a swing away from genetically modified crops?

Ian, who sent in the news from the San Francisco Chronicle, comments: “Americans are waking up to the fact that over in Europe conventional (non GMO) and organic are the norm … so why would anybody bother growing GM crops which, increasingly, consumers do not want?”

California farmers and food processors have seen the organic market grow to a $29 billion business in the United States, nearly quadrupling in the past decade and experts are predicting that Walmart’s decision to stock organic processed foods will induce the largest farm state in the nation, to increase its organic production.

whole food wild oats logoStacy Finz reports in the San Francisco Chronicle that Wild Oats, a well-known organic brand, will supply Walmart with a range of staples – from olive oil and spices to spaghetti sauce and canned vegetables. About 90% of the products will be U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic and will sell for about 25% less than other national organic labels.

Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt said: “We think shoppers should be able to put good food on the table for an affordable price,” adding that Walmart already sells 1,600 organic products, including produce and name-brand dairy products.

The vast majority of food in California is still grown conventionally and farmers have been reluctant to convert, letting their fields fallow for three years to meet the organic certification requirements. As supply is limited Walmart will stock Wild Oats products in 2,000 of its 4,000 food stores.

A good move?

“But this changes the entire agricultural landscape for organic foods,” said Helen Bulwik, of the Newport Board Group, a retail and consumer consulting  firm. She sees the Walmart deal as a game-changer: “There will be a total reversal. Once it’s accessible and inexpensive, everyone is going to want it.”

don cameron us farm gm non gmDon Cameron, of Terranova Ranch, a large-scale processing tomato grower near Fresno, has increased his organic acreage from 30 acres in 1993 to 550 acres, rotating from tomatoes to crops such as bell peppers, onions and kale. He produces about 20,000 tons of organic tomatoes a year, much of which is sold to Amy’s, a Bay Area natural and organic food company. Interviewed by an industry journalist, he asserted that with careful management conventional/organic and biotech crops can co-exist . . .

There is, however, concern that if Walmart were to incentivise large-scale organic production, industrial organic practices would become more widespread. Farmers would adhere to the bare minimum of organic standards and end up depleting soil health.

Stacy Finz, San Francisco Chronicle : sfinz@sfchronicle.com

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