The Changing Politics of Organic Food in North America

The Changing Politics of Organic Food in North America

Lisa F. Clark

The Changing Politics of Organic Food in North America explores the political dynamics of the remarkable transition of organic food from a ‘fringe fad’ in the 1960s to a multi-billion dollar industry in the 2000s. Taking a multidisciplinary, institutionalist approach that integrates social movement theory, public policy analysis and value chain analysis, it tells the story of how the organic movement responded to the social, economic and political changes brought on by the rise of industrial agriculture in the twentieth century.

Chapter 8: Conclusions – organic limited

Lisa F. Clark

Subjects: environment, biotechnology, environmental governance and regulation


In September 2006, organic food’s longstanding reputation as healthier and safer than conventional food was in jeopardy. Over a hundred people across the US became sick from ingesting bagged organic spinach tainted with E.coli bacteria that originated from Natural Selection’s organic produce operations in California. A 77-year-old woman and a 23-month-old girl died from ingesting the spinach. After being investigated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Natural Selection was cleared of responsibility for the contaminated spinach. Instead, it was found that improper handling somewhere between the field and the plate was to blame for the contamination (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 2006b). Just a month later across Canada and the US, organic carrot juice was pulled off supermarket shelves because of possible botulism contamination. Four Americans became sick from drinking the tainted carrot juice. One of the makers of the carrot juice was Earthbound Farms, which owned Natural Selection at the time (CBC, 2006a). In another instance, a recall was ordered for over 3000 peanut products including organic products in 2009 because of salmonella contamination that originated in a peanut processing plant in Texas. The Peanut Corporation of America was at the centre of the outbreak, and was allowed to keep its organic certification despite not having a valid health certificate. Nine people died and 700 became ill from ingesting the tainted peanut products (Severson and Martin, 2009).

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