Why Organic Soy Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Articles
June 02, 2009

Why Organic Soy Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Public health messages to eat healthier are unavoidable, and consumers are interested in including healthy foods in their daily diet. This shift is not a transient movement, but is instead a trend that is here to stay. Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, how it was produced- sustainable and environmentally friendly- and are willing to invest a little more cash in brands that they assume, meet these standards. The Soy industry is one of the best examples of this trend, and one of the food industries fastest growing categories. The reason is simple, consumers continue to purchase items that contain soy products with hopes of boosting their health. Some of our go-to soy favorites are now promoting ‘natural’ and have thus abandoned their organic roots in favor of mass production at lower costs (also claiming the US organic soy supply is not adequately meeting demand). A recent investigation by the Cornucopia Institute highlighted both the environmental and health dangers of this switch and the increased abandonment of North American organic farmers for unchecked ‘organic farms’ in China and a growing number (at the cost of rainforests) in Brazil; both of which seem to have blatant deviations from organic principles. Sure it might be difficult to monitor and enforce organic farmers and suppliers across the globe, but this is no excuse for the observable blatant and gross neglect displayed by the USDA’s organic program managers. During a long overdue visit to China in 2007, USDA auditors arrived only to find a long list of worrisome non-compliances. Most notably the fact that Chinese inspectors employed by organic certifying agents were not adequately familiar with USDA organic standards- these are the people certifying Chinese farms to our standards! It should also be noted that in the past decade there has been an increase of over 1000% of ‘so called organic’ soybean farms in China; an estimated 8.5 million acres were thought to be organic in 2006.

Public health messages to eat healthier are unavoidable, and consumers are interested in including healthy foods in their daily diet.  This shift is not a transient movement, but is instead a trend that is here to stay.  Consumers are interested in knowing where their food comes from, how it was produced- sustainable and environmentally friendly- and are willing to invest a little more cash in brands that they assume, meet these standards.

The Soy industry is one of the best examples of this trend, and one of the food industries fastest growing categories. The reason is simple, consumers continue to purchase items that contain soy products with hopes of boosting their health.

Some of our go-to soy favorites are now promoting ‘natural’ and have thus abandoned their organic roots in favor of mass production at lower costs (also claiming the US organic soy supply is not adequately meeting demand).  A recent investigation by the Cornucopia Institute highlighted both the environmental and health dangers of this switch and the increased abandonment of North American organic farmers for unchecked ‘organic farms’ in China and a growing number (at the cost of rainforests) in Brazil; both of which seem to have blatant deviations from organic principles.

Sure it might be difficult to monitor and enforce organic farmers and suppliers across the globe, but this is no excuse for the observable blatant and gross neglect displayed by the USDA’s organic program managers.  During a long overdue visit to China in 2007, USDA auditors arrived only to find a long list of worrisome non-compliances.  Most notably the fact that Chinese inspectors employed by organic certifying agents were not adequately familiar with USDA organic standards- these are the people certifying Chinese farms to our standards!  It should also be noted that in the past decade there has been an increase of over 1000% of ‘so called organic’ soybean farms in China; an estimated 8.5 million acres were thought to be organic in 2006.

And since the USDA does not track the import of organic agricultural products (yes this is hard to believe…but true) some industry insiders estimate that 50% of the so called organic soybeans consumed in this country are imported from China.  The impacts of this are far reaching, and will affect the organic farmers in the US, as well as taint the principles and intentions of the organic movement.

To be sure that you are purchasing and consuming products that follow America’s organic principles look out for the USDA’s green organic stamp as well as choosing products produced in the US.

The full document, Behind the Bean, The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry can be viewed at http://www.cornucopia.org/soysurvey/OrganicSoyReport/behindthebean_color_final.pdf