Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Blinded by Organic: Bio-obfuscation

[In response to: “Let My Consumers Free!”, which was in response to “Eating Food That’s Better for You, Organic or Not”]

Having recently moved to France, where food hovers at a higher strata of the public consciousness, and where there is a greater conservativeness at moving away from age-old ways of doing things (e.g. bans on genetically modified foods), the problem is just as bad here, if not worse. Here the obfuscation is done with the prefix-turned-into-word “bio”, rather than “organic”. Yes, there are some standardized labels (e.g., “AB” of the Agence française pour le développement et la promotion de l'agriculture biologique), but there is a wealth of competing labels, not to mention fake ones invented by corporate marketing departments. Even for the products that are legitimately labeled, there is generally a lack of supply chain verification (as pointed out by a recent investigative report by the television network France 2); critical since, quite often, raw ingredients are sourced from around the world.

I haven’t yet come across any bio Oreos here though! The new trend here seems to be bio cosmetics, which tend to have very low requirements to get official label status, such as 15% verified bio content — which is not at all mentioned on the packaging, and one only can discover by visiting a web site.

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