GROWING DIVIDE

Last month's congressional approval of a rider restoring limited use of some synthetic ingredients in USDA-certified organic foods raised a divergent set of concerns about where this period of rollicking growth will lead the organics industry, as larger farmers, manufacturers and retailers move in to answer booming mainstream demand."The presence of large farms and large businesses is always a concern

Last month's congressional approval of a rider restoring limited use of some synthetic ingredients in USDA-certified organic foods raised a divergent set of concerns about where this period of rollicking growth will lead the organics industry, as larger farmers, manufacturers and retailers move in to answer booming mainstream demand.

"The presence of large farms and large businesses is always a concern to those that prefer the industry to be a certain scale, and there's always an easy target," the Organic Trade Association's executive director, Katherine DiMatteo said.

The OTA argues that rapid mainstream growth will ultimately result in more organic farmland, more stable supplies of organic crops, and more knowledge and innovation with regard to both organic farming and clean food processing.

Other groups sharply disagree.

"Big food-processing companies are killing the goose that laid the golden egg," said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, arguing that if standards are diluted, mainstream consumers will begin questioning the value of organic brands.

The OTA, which fought hard for the rider, chose to exclude OCA from congressional negotiations due to the two organizations' history of opposing views on the Harvey vs. Veneman case, which threw out manufacturers' abilities to use syntethics like pectin and baking soda.

OCA, meanwhile, has said it is marshaling the opposition to create a new seal reflecting stricter, synthetic-free standards.

This debate will continue.