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State Run Food Programs Don’t Allow Organic Products

Posted Nov 20 2009 10:04pm

toril-fisher-100x100 Written By: Toril Fisher

The State of Michigan along with many other states, does not allow WIC mothers to purchase any organic products. See WIC Card here.

The Woman, Infant and Children Supplemental Food Program (WIC) is set up to help safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, and children up to age five who are at nutritional risks by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating and referrals to healthcare. This is one of the most successful government feeding programs with many notable successes.

Pregnant and postpartum women and children (under 5 years of age) participating in WIC receive food coupons for milk, cheese, eggs, cereals, peanut butter or dried beans or peas, and fruit or vegetable juices. Women who exclusively breastfeed their babies may also receive extra food, including carrots and canned tuna fish. Not one of these products can be ORGANIC.
Special formulas or nutritional supplements are also available to participating women and children who have certain medical conditions.

Sample Food Package for a child for one month:
4 gallons of milk
1 pound of cheese
2 dozen eggs
36 ounces of cereal
16 ounces of dry beans or 18 ounces of peanut butter
4 cans of juice

When the Michigan Department of Community Health was questioned as to why they disallow the purchase of organic products in the WIC program the answers were astounding.

Excerpts from letter below ( in italics ):
“Should consumers buy organic?  This question has no definite answer to date. While more organic products are available on store shelves, experts are not in agreement about the benefits of organic foods.

The American Dietetic Association spokeswoman, Dr. Keecha Harris, says that there is no evidence that organic food is superior to traditional food products. She goes on to mention that multinational companies sell some of the foods labeled organic, and they are trucked across the country, giving them a negative environmental impact because of the use of gas and packaging to make them transportable.

Dr. Harris says that experts agree that consumers should eat a diet with many fruits and vegetables in it. The health benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables will outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.  The USDA makes no claims that organic foods are safer, healthier or more nutritious than foods that have not been grown organically.  The government does limit the amount of pesticides in food for infants and children.

Should WIC provide food that is labeled organic in the WIC food package?

Organic food may cost 20% to 100% more than food that is not organic. In order to provide organic food in the WIC food package, Michigan would be serving as many 100,000 less participants a month depending on what products were approved.”

So let’s break this down point by point. We are being told the following……
1- The health benefits of organic are not recognized.
2- Organic products are trucked too far, giving them a negative environmental impact.
3- The USDA makes no claims that organic foods are safer, healthier or more nutritious.
4- Organic food is too expensive.

1- The health benefits of organic are not recognized.
If avoiding “known or probable carcinogens” (things that cause cancer), “suspected hormone disruptors” (things that mess with normal development), “neurotoxins” (things that are poisonous to our brains or nervous systems), or “developmental or reproductive toxicants” (things that are poisonous to mothers and their babies) could be called a health benefit then, Yes; there are health benefits to eating organic. [Quotation marks in this previous sentence refer to phrases and terms chosen by the United States Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program.] (Please visit www.whatsonmyfood.org for more information.) Organic foods are free of, or at least negligible in the presence of, any of these chemical substances. Most of these chemical substances are the result of pesticide use, which are, of course, applied to plants in the attempt to ward off pests and diseases. Any toxic substances present in organic foods are the result of air and water pollution as opposed to intentional application.

2- Organic products are trucked too far, giving them a negative environmental impact.
Are you kidding me? Wow! We have brand name, large food manufacturers now producing organic cereals with the same amount of food miles as their non-organic counterparts. Additionally, the audacity of this statement in somehow reasoning that organic foods have more of a negative environmental impact than non-organic foods is almost laughable. Organic chemicals used in conventional farming spread far beyond the fields where they are applied and have unintended consequences. Many synthetic pesticides have been linked to developmental and neurological problems. Organics eliminate synthetic pesticides and the damage they do to farmers, land, and drinking water.

3- The USDA makes no claims that organic foods are safer, healthier or more nutritious.
While this is still an issue of hot debate, you can still argue organic products are less processed, which means they may contain fewer chemically adulterated ingredients (think hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives). Many of these processes are under scrutiny for their contributions to obesity and type 2 diabetes. Let’s take one of WIC approved cereals. Frosted Mini Wheats.- first 3 ingredients include:
Whole Grain Wheat, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup.  (Please visit www.labelwatch.com for more information on your favorite foods.)

4- Organic food is too expensive.
Because organic foods are not the lowest priced foods available in grocery stores; because the government wants its WIC card users to buy as much of the cheapest foods as possible in order to make the WIC dollars go the farthest. But what kinds of foods are the lowest priced foods at the super market? Are they the most nutritious? The freshest? The healthiest?

Yes, organic is still viewed by many in the USDA as an expensive, niche market. However, I argue basic economics 101. We all know that in our economy it takes market demand to drive prices lower. With that argument, couldn’t the purchasing power of a government program as large as WIC assist in making this a reality? What if government programs started to recognize organics not as a niche or alternative, but just as normal option or even perhaps more beneficial than chemically laden processed foods? WIC programs could drive up the demand for organics and therefore, drive down the prices for everyone. Perhaps, the government could begin to subsidize the organic farmers, not just the large industrial size farms.

Bottom line, much of the scientific and political forces in our country are still arguing the benefits or lack of, organic foods. Let me ask this one question. If I was to take you out for dinner tonight and offer to buy your meal, does that mean, because I’m funding your meal, that I should be able to dictate what you can and cannot order? Perhaps you are a strict vegan. Well, I’m buying this dinner, and I’m telling you that you can ONLY order the quiche that is made with white eggs from a caged hen and for you to ask for a choice is just way out of line!!! You can’t buy this stuff… not on my dime! We can do better than this! We can demand that regardless of income, regardless of assistance for food, that YOU can choose whatever foods you want. You can buy brown eggs if you want them. You are an adult and if you choose to purchase organic foods because YOU believe that they are better for you and your infant, your local economy and environment….. YOU should not be denied!

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