Wal-Mart in Trouble Again Over Organic Marketing Practices

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042

Wal-Mart in Trouble Again Over Organic Marketing Practices

Home Pesticide Manufacturer Misrepresenting Products as Certified "Organic"

CORNUCOPIA, Wis. - The
Cornucopia Institute, a
Wisconsin-based public interest group that focuses on food and
agriculture,
today filed legal complaints with the USDA alleging that Wal-Mart,
and a North Carolina-based company, HOMS LLC,
are violating the USDA organic standards by using conventional
agricultural
oils, and other ingredients, in pest control products that bear the word
organic and the green
"USDA
organic" seal.  The pest control products in question are marketed
under the Bio Block label (see front
of bottle, back
of bottle, and company webpage product screenshot).

A debate has been raging for
years whether
non-food products, such as pet food and personal care products, are
included in
the strict regulations that determine the use of the word "organic"
on packaging.  Most of those products at least had organic ingredients
involved in their manufacture, whereas Bio Block pest control products
contain
not a single organically produced ingredient.

However, there has never been any
question
that the green "USDA Organic"
seal can be used only by producers that follow the rigorous standards
mandated
by Congress and administered by the USDA's National Organic
Program. 

In addition to using the word
organic
prominently on its label, HOMS
uses the USDA seal on at least one of its Bio Block products without
specifying
that organic ingredients were used, and without disclosing the identity
of the
organic certifying agent, which is also required by federal organic
regulations.

"This amounts to, allegedly,
illegally usurping the value of the organic label," says Mark Kastel,
Senior Farm Policy Analyst at
Cornucopia.  "The USDA Organic seal is meaningful to consumers and
should not be used frivolously.  This places ethical industry
participants
at a competitive disadvantage."

The Bio Block products that
appear to
violate the organic standards were discovered on the shelves of Wal-Mart
stores, resurfacing concerns long held by The Cornucopia Institute, and
others
in the organic industry, that the giant corporation has failed to take
the
organic standards seriously.

For years, Cornucopia has
criticized
Wal-Mart for inventing a "new" organic-food from corporate
agribusiness, factory farms, and cheap Chinese imports of questionable
authenticity. 

Wal-Mart's store brand organic
milk,
for example, comes from Aurora Dairy in Boulder,
Colorado.  In 2007, federal
investigators found that Aurora
had "willfully" violated 14 tenets of the organic standards,
including confining their cattle to feedlots, instead of grazing, and
bringing
thousands of illegal conventional cows into their organic operation.

Inside Wal-Mart stores,
Cornucopia
researchers at the time discovered that the company was mislabeling
conventional foods as organic, including yogurt, sugar, rice milk, soy
milk and
produce.  Cornucopia notified Wal-Mart's CEO of the problems with
in-store signage, but the corporation ignored these concerns until
officials of
the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection
and the
USDA took enforcement actions against Wal-Mart in 2007. 

"These instances of mislabeling
are
emblematic of the company's lack of investment in knowledgeable staff,
its
inexperience, and its questionable commitment to organics," says Kastel.

While Wal-Mart vowed to solve its
false and
misleading in-store signage problems, Cornucopia says it has failed to
ensure
that its store brand organic milk, and some of its other product
offerings,
come from ethical family farmer following the spirit and letter of the
organic
law. 

Now the organic industry watchdog
alleges
Wal-Mart is once again marketing organic products fraudulently.

Cornucopia contends that it is
not only up
to farmers, food processors and certifiers to ensure that foods labeled
"organic" are truly organic, but that retailers play an important
role as well. 

Retailers can and do invest in
the
resources necessary to ensure organic integrity in their stores.  The
Wedge, a member-owned cooperative grocer in Minneapolis,
handled Bio Block pesticides very differently from Wal-Mart when
recently
approached by one of HOMS'
distributors.

Since the Wedge has invested
years in
recruiting, hiring and training qualified staff, it came as no surprise
that
one of their buyers questioned the legality of Bio Block's labels.

The Wedge is one of about 275
cooperative
grocers in the country, which collectively helped pioneer the growth in
the
organic industry.  The Wedge was one of the first certified organic
retailers in the country and has a full-time Organic Certification and
Sustainability
Coordinator, Susan Stewart.

"We take the confidence our
members
and shoppers have in The Wedge very seriously," said Stewart. 
"Our job is to protect the integrity of the organic label and the
authenticity of the food and products we offer in our store."

Cornucopia states that this
collaboration
between farmers, organic processors and retailers, in partnership with
the
USDA, makes the organic label the gold standard in helping consumers
choose
safe and ethically produced food.

"As an organic industry watchdog,
we
make sure that stakeholders in the organic community, like The Wedge,
are not
placed at a competitive disadvantage by outfits like Wal-Mart that are
attempting to profiteer from the trust consumers have in the organic
label," stated Cornucopia's Kastel.

The full Cornucopia news release
can be
viewed at:

http://www.cornucopia.org/2010/03/wal-mart-in-trouble-again-over-organic-marketing-practices/

###

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based nonprofit farm policy research group, is dedicated to the fight for economic justice for the family-scale farming community.  Their Organic Integrity Project acts as a corporate and governmental watchdog assuring that no compromises to the credibility of organic farming methods and the food it produces are made in the pursuit of profit.  Their web page can be viewed at www.cornucopia.org.  

 

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