New Report: Many Organic Soy Food Brands Importing Beans from China

For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 
Contact: 

Mark Kastel, 608-625-2042

New Report: Many Organic Soy Food Brands Importing Beans from China

We no longer trust these imports to feed our pets They have no place in organics

CORNUCOPIA, Wisconsin - Tremendous
growth in the organic soy foods industry has occurred over the last two decades
as consumers seek healthy dietary alternative sources of protein.  Many
companies touting their "natural" or "organic" soy brands
have found favor in the supermarket.  A new report, released this week by
The Cornucopia Institute, lifts the veil on some of these companies, exposing
widespread importation of soybeans from China and the use of toxic chemicals to
process soy foods labeled as "natural."

The
report, Beyond the Bean: The Heroes and Charlatans of the Natural and
Organic Soy Foods Industry, and an accompanying ratings scorecard of
organic brands, separates industry heroes—who have gone out of their way
to connect with domestic farmers—from agribusinesses that are exploiting
the trust of consumers.

Part of
the meteoric rise in organic food sales has been built on the expectation from
consumers that organic foods support a more environmentally sound form of
agriculture and one that financially rewards family farmers through their
patronage.  "Importing Chinese soybeans or contributing to the loss
of rain forests by shipping in commodities from Brazil just flat-out
contradicts the working definition of organic agriculture," said Mark
Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute.

Through
a nationwide survey of the industry, onsite farm, and processor visits, plus
reviews of import data, Cornucopia assembled a rating system aimed at
empowering consumers and wholesale buyers with the knowledge necessary to
support brands that respect the fundamental tenets of organics.

"The
good news in this report is that consumers can easily find, normally without
paying any premium, organic soy foods that truly meet their expectations,"
said Charlotte Vallaeys, a researcher at Cornucopia and the primary author of
the report.

One
company that had an excellent opportunity to meet consumer expectations by
supporting the growth of organic acreage in North America was Dean Foods,
makers of the industry's leading soymilk, Silk.  Instead, after
buying the Silk brand, Dean Foods quit purchasing most of their soybeans from
American family farmers and switched their primary sourcing to China. 
This cost-cutting move helped them build their commanding soy milk market share
using soybeans of questionable organic certification from China. 

“White
Wave (the operating division of Dean Foods that markets Silk and Horizon
organic milk) had the opportunity to push organic and sustainable agriculture
to incredible heights of production by working with North American farmers and
traders to get more land in organic production, but what they did was pit cheap
foreign soybeans against the U.S. organic farmer, taking away any attraction
for conventional farmers to make the move into sustainable agriculture,”
said Merle Kramer, a marketer for the Midwestern Organic Farmers Cooperative.

And now
Dean, the $11 billion agribusiness behemoth and the nation's largest dairy
concern, has quietly abandoned organic soybeans in most of the Silk product
line, switching to even cheaper conventional soybeans without changing UPC
codes for retailers or lowering pricing to consumers.

After
reports from cooperative and independent natural foods retailers around the
country Cornucopia visited a Whole Foods store in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin
and found only one of 25 Silk soymilk products was organic.  "This is
a radical departure by a brand that was widely viewed as an organic market
pioneer," lamented Kastel.

Cornucopia's
Vallaeys warned:  "Health conscious shoppers should no longer
associate Silk with organic, and should seek the green USDA Certified
Organic seal when purchasing soy products.”

"As
a vegetarian, for health and ethical reasons, I am appalled that some large
corporations are profiteering on my trust in their brand," said Joan
Levin, a Chicago consumer who says she is fiercely committed to organics.

Meanwhile,
highly committed companies like Eden Foods, one of the country's largest
organic soy foods producers, Small Planet Tofu, and Vermont Soy work directly
with North American organic farmers. 

“Small Planet Tofu has bought
organic soybeans from me and other farmers I work with for the past 17
years,” said Phil Lewis, an organic farmer in Kansas.  “This
relationship is priceless, because I know that I can count on them even if I
have a bad year with droughts or floods,” Lewis added.

“The
top-rated companies that nurture relationships with American organic farmers
should be rewarded in the marketplace.  We hope that organic consumers
will use Cornucopia’s soy scorecard when deciding which organic soy foods
to buy,” said Kastel.

A free and independent press is essential to the health of a functioning democracy

Some soy
food makers that did not participate in the scorecard study may have been
hesitant to share their sourcing information because they also buy organic
soybeans from China.  “Their reluctance to disclose their sourcing
information makes sense, given the USDA’s weak oversight of certifying
agents working in China,” noted Kastel.

The USDA waited five years before sending auditors to China
to examine the practices of that country’s certifying agents.  And
even when in China, the USDA’s auditors visited only two farms in the
entire country.  On these two farms, they found multiple noncompliances with U.S. organic standards.  USDA
auditors also discovered that Chinese-based organic certifying agents did not
always provide a translated copy of the U.S. standards to clients who apply for
organic certification. 

The Chinese findings support concerns that American farmers
have raised for years, which is that organic imports from China may not always
be held to the same strict standards as American crops.  They also raise
serious questions about whether Chinese farmers are adequately informed about
the USDA organic standards and requirements.

“If
the reputation of organic food is impugned through illegal and fraudulent
activities in China, and an incompetent level of oversight by the USDA, it will
be the domestic farmers and entrepreneurs that built this industry who will be
harmed,” added Kastel.

Hexane:
The Dirty Little Secret of the Natural Soy Foods Industry

Behind
the Bean also
exposes the natural soy industry’s “dirty little
secret”:  its widespread use of the chemical solvent hexane. 
Hexane is used to process nearly all conventional soy protein ingredients and
edible oils and is prohibited when processing organic foods.

Soybeans
are bathed in hexane by food processors seeking to separate soy oil from the
protein and fiber of the beans.  It is a cost-effective and highly
efficient method for concentrating high-protein isolates.  But hexane is
also a neurotoxic chemical that poses serious occupational hazards to workers,
is an environmental air pollutant, and can contaminate food.

Residue
tests reveal that small amounts of hexane can and do appear in ingredients
processed with the toxic chemical.  The government does not require that
companies test for hexane residues before selling foods to consumers, including
soy-based infant formula.

"Consumers
who are concerned with the purity and healthfulness of their food should
continue to seek out organic alternatives as part of their diet and support the
many high-integrity brands outlined in our study," Vallaeys stated.

The full
Cornucopia Institute report, or an executive summary, including the scorecard
of organic soy brands, can be found at www.cornucopia.org

###

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.  

 

Share This Article

More in: