Organic food at Wal-Mart

by Caroline Brown

At the Gristmill blog, there's a good article and ongoing discussion about the difference between organic and sustainable agriculture. The genesis of the article is Wal-Mart's pending expansion of its organic food section, which is bound to change the face of organic agriculture (and not for the better.)

Grist refers to the NYT article about Wal-Mart's move:

Some organic food advocates applaud the development, saying Wal-Mart's efforts will help expand the amount of land that is farmed organically and the quantities of organic food available to the public.

God only knows that one of my pet peeves about an organic lifestyle is that it's not available to people with low incomes. Back at the Grist blog, Kif Scheuer shares my agony about the Wal-Mart plan:

I'm torn about this. On one hand, it hints at a possible tipping point whereby agriculture might adopt organics much more widely; on the other, it raises the specter of complete corporate domination of organics. There's an ongoing fight to weaken organic standards, and Wal-Mart's entry may enable agribusiness to erode organic's validity.

I was happy to read in the NYT that Wal-Mart shares my feeling about social justice in the food system! Who would've guessed those sly dogs were really socialists in capitalist drag:

Wal-Mart says it wants to democratize organic food, making products affordable for those who are reluctant to pay premiums of 20 percent to 30 percent. At a recent conference, its chief marketing officer, John Fleming, said the company intended to sell organic products for just 10 percent more than their conventional equivalents.

Democratize the food system, make a gazillion bucks off it, six of one half dozen the other, right? Whatever.

If you're interested in reading more and have the time to read the Grist blog entry about this, do check it out. Very spirited discussion that offers many viewpoints on Wal-Mart's move.

Wal-Mart's move into organic food changes a lot, but it doesn't change this one thing: Organic food is good but organic Big Ag is still Big Ag–she's just wearing a green dress. So you know what the antidote is people….buy and eat local organic food whenever you possibly can!

Evil frowny face courtesy of The High Cost of Low Price


11 Comments to “Organic food at Wal-Mart”

  1. Big, bad Walmart….How I hate that store and for so many reasons!!!! If there is a buck to be made, they will get on the bandwagon.

    Hope all is well, BFN, G:)

  2. I agree whole heartedly, don’t even get me started on how much I hate them. They get none of my money.

  3. I don’t know if Walmart is that bad, there are no Walmarts in Austria, but if they sell organic, if they improve the milage of their trucks and with this new store-design ( maybe it is worth taking a second look…

  4. Judging by some of their track record in Canada….how they treat their employees, vacuuming up the ‘little guys’ (you can jump in any time C.!) etc, etc….Id say they have a long way to go before they are the kind of retailer we want to continue to expand….I know in Nelson BC (which we love) the residents actually tried (and tried again…)to stop Walmart from coming in to their beautiful little city. In the end, Walmart did prevail but on a much smaller scale and away from the historic downtown that the people of Nelson have so lovingly preserved. There’s my rant…. BFN, G.

  5. Hi Gernot you’re lucky to live where there are no Walmarts. I’m certainly glad to see improvements like bringing “organic to the masses,” also using renewable energy. Any little bit helps but its a little bit like an American joke “it’s just lipstick on a pig.” It might be made up but it’s still a pig!

    Geraldine brings up some very good points. When a Walmart comes into town it kills all the little stores because they can’t compete with Walmart prices. Second, they sell cheap cheap stuff made in China, despite their ad claims most of it is not American made. Third, they pay workers only what they have to, and their benefits package is terrible. Most of their employees do not make enough money to afford it. Fourthly, they do not allow their employees to unionize, even though this is illegal but they fire people who try to unionize, claiming that they have bad performance. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something…this is a good place to find more info:

    I don’t know if you have a lot of interest in it Gernot but if so, you can buy the DVD for the movie, they also have a lot to say about it!

  6. Another good point about their cheap merchandise Caroline…here they tout a lot of “pro-Canadian” yada,yada…. but again, that’s not the case, lots of mass-produced, cheap-labour junk stocking their floor to ceiling shelves….they can stuff it!

    Bye again, G.

    PS Your post photo still wonky on my screen, go figure. Thanks for your note, from now on, code word WP rules, Big Bro ain’t gonna get us, right !!!!! They were fooling with my Peace post today, changing font size, moving text…no I haven’t been hitting the catnip. Strange but true.

  7. I should clarify, I am not against stuff made in China except for the fact that it is done at the lowest cost possible, which besides being poor quality, also means that the workers are hideously exploited. And it’s obviously better for American or Canadian workers if the stuff sold here is actually made here as well.

  8. Just a clarification – I don’t want to praise Walmart, but as a matter of fact, here in Austria the organics-market gained strong momentum when a big retail-chain entered the market (in doing so, they forced all other retailers to adopt their own organics-brands) and now Ausria leads in organics-ag within the EU with a share of already over 10%.
    I understand that Walmart is doing a lot of harm, but for organics, I guess it can be very helpful (if they don’t try to delute the organics-standards, which they have to proof)

    Peace out there, Gernot

  9. Hi Gernot, don’t worry I didn’t think you were praising Walmart!

  10. I also have nothing against goods made in China, Japan etc….but too many times its at the cost of decent wages and working conditions for the workers. I do like to ‘buy Canadian and USA’ when possible though. G.

  11. Hi everyone,

    Just wanted to introduce myself. This seems like a nice place and I look forward to hanging out here 🙂


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