Farm Aid’s Strange Agribusiness Bedfellows: Concert Sponsor Investigated for Organic Labeling ImproprietiesFriday, September 16th, 2016
Another Farm Aid Misstep: Partnering with Corporate Agribusiness While Purporting to Support Family Farmers
Top Sponsor “Indicted” for Misrepresenting Itself as Organic
CORNUCOPIA, WI: On the eve of the annual Farm Aid concert, Saturday in Bristow, Virginia, The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, has filed a formal legal complaint against Farm Aid’s marquee sponsor, Bonterra Organic Vineyards, alleging it misrepresents its products as “organic.”
This is not the first time Cornucopia has attempted to bring serious ethical concerns to the attention of Farm Aid’s Board of Directors and management.
At past concerts Farm Aid has showcased their sponsor Silk, the leading brand of plant-based beverages, then owned by the giant dairy conglomerate Dean Foods (a.k.a. WhiteWave). Cornucopia supplied Farm Aid officials with information concerning Silk abandoning U.S. farmers to purchase organic soybeans from China at cheaper prices. Another past marquee Farm Aid sponsor, also owned by Dean/WhiteWave, was the Horizon Organic dairy brand, with a considerable amount of their milk production coming from giant “factory farms” with a history of violating the organic federal standards.
“Quite frankly,” said the Cornucopia Institute’s Codirector Mark Kastel, “we don’t really mind if Farm Aid raises money from corporate agribusinesses, and then launders it by making small grants to nonprofits that help family farmers. But we do mind them greenwashing some of the brands owned by ‘bad actors’ in the organic industry.”
The current dustup alleges Bonterra, a brand owned by the giant Chilean conglomerate Concha y Toro, and operated under its Fetzer subsidiary in California, as misrepresenting its wine as organic. Their website clearly states that, “all of our award-winning wines are certified organic by CCOF.” The company also touts its “organic collection” on their e-commerce portal. Based on Cornucopia’s initial investigation, none of the company’s wine is actually certified organic.
It appears that only the grapes are organic. Wine producers that add sulfur dioxide, a synthetic preservative, cannot legally qualify to represent their products as organic. Preservatives, including sulfur dioxide (or sulfites) are explicitly banned in U.S. organic food and wine production.
“There is nothing improper about labeling your wine ‘made with organic grapes’ and then adding sulfites,” said Kastel. “However, look at the preponderance of the Bonterra marketing campaign: the patently illegal and misleading verbiage on their website, the logo of the largest organic certifier in the country on their primary label, and their subterfuge in terms of corporate ownership. It’s a shame that Farm Aid didn’t choose one of the high-integrity, certified organic vintners that they could proudly stand with.” Read Full Article »