Not so long ago, I reported on a study that showed organic purchasers really believed that the organic food they were purchasing was somehow better than other conventional choices. They called it the “Organic Label Health Halo.”
It turns out that the organic halo was knowingly designed and accomplished. Yeah, that’s right: the organic industry is trying to scare you on purpose.
Researchers over at Academics Review conducted a review of all organic marketing and industry strategies from 1988 through 2014. What they found was nothing short of an unethical and deceptive campaign to scare consumers into buying organic produce.
The researchers found that organic producers realized quite early on that organic sales were going to be limited if consumers were completely satisfied with their conventional choices. The organic industry realized the market wasn’t going to open up for them unless they did something to make consumers more interested in their products. So, that’s what they did — they started selling fear.
The study found “direct evidence that widespread, collaborative and pervasive industry marketing activities are a primary cause for false and misleading consumer health and safety perceptions about competing conventional foods.”
Our review suggests a widespread organic and natural products industry pattern of research-informed and intentionally-deceptive marketing and advocacy related practices with the implied use and approval of the U.S. government endorsed USDA Organic Seal. Since its formal launch in 2001, the trade association arm of the organic industry has stated that the USDA Organic Seal endorsement has been a critical element in establishing consumer trust in their product offerings.
That’s right – scaring consumers is actually a strategy employed by the organic industry to make a buck. Can you imagine that the only way the organic producers thought they could sell their product was through fear?
And what did the researchers use for data? This:
An extensive review of more than 200 published academic, industry and government research reports into why consumers adopt organic product purchasing behaviors was conducted by Academics Review – a non-profit led by independent academic experts in agriculture and food sciences. This review was then supplemented with an assessment of more than 1,000 news reports, 500 website and social media account evaluations and reviews of hundreds of other marketing materials, advertisements, analyst presentations, speeches and advocacy reports generated between 1988 and 2014. Our findings were reviewed and endorsed by an international panel of independent agricultural science, food science, economic and legal experts from respected international institutions with extensive experience in academic food and agriculture research and publishing.
Enough data for you?
I told you that this is precisely why we can’t all just get along. Until the organic industry stops lying about conventional produce in order to create unnecessary consumer fear, there will be a divide between the production methods. But they won’t do that — because it is working.
Fear is selling.
And just as it is unethical for anti-GMO activists (which no doubt includes plenty of organic adherents) to lie about the falsified dangers of biotechnology, it is also unethical for the organic industry to sell fear. Think about it: this is why moms are so confused when they go to the grocery store, why they’re willing to shell out more money from a tight budget for that organic label, and why some moms feel guilty for buying conventional produce. That, my friends, is unethical. But they’re willing to do it for the almighty dollar.
Unfortunately, the cat is already out of the bag and the organic industry’s fear has transformed it into a billion dollar industry with die hard adherents. But that doesn’t mean that we have to sit back and allow them to continue. Conventional farmers work hard to ensure they are producing high quality, safe food that is available to everyone.
The best thing we can do is show folks that we care and that it matters.