Vicky Uhland, Lynn Ginsburg, Hilary OliverAt its most elemental level, the word “organic” means “alive.” The following people, through their vision, sweat, passion and persistence, brought life to the organics industry. They have dedicated their lives to improving ours, and they are alive with the spirit of organics.
President of Blobaum & Associates, a Washington, D.C. based natural products consulting firm.
Years in the industry: 32. Blobaum began as an editorial consultant to Rodale Press and spent six years on the organic steering committee of the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture. He’s been a board member of the International Organic Accreditation Service, the Organic Farming Research Foundation, the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute and the Organic Alliance.
How have you influenced the organics industry? “My attempts … have focused on broadening the base of the organic community by mobilizing support for organic food and farming by consumer, environmental, animal protection and other public interest sectors. The combination of organic farmers and the organic industry is still a tiny economic sector, [which] needs allies to be effective in the political and regulatory arenas, and lacks the resources and political clout to go it alone.”
Do you think the mainstreaming of organics has been good for the industry? “For the most part, [it’s] a necessary and positive development. This seems obvious when the number of certified organic farmers, after 40 years of development, is still less than 9,000; only 0.3 percent of U.S. crop and pasture land is under organic management; and organics sales account for less than 1 percent of what consumers spend for food. Mainstreaming will assure organic sector growth in the long run, however, only if it can be accomplished without compromising organic integrity, failing to meet consumer expectations, eroding public confidence in the organic label, or making marketing claims that cannot be verified.”
What do you think is the future of organic regulations? “Overall, I believe [they] will become increasingly politicized and globalized and that the influence of organic farmers, independent organic companies, consumers, environmentalists and animal protection advocates will be diminished. We see this already in the performance of the National Organic Program, which is undermining public confidence in the government-based regulatory/enforcement approach and is raising serious concerns about the ability of government regulators to guarantee organic integrity. Legislation to update and improve the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act would appear to be an obvious solution. But this has been resisted due to mistrust of the political system that would be called on to change the law. Trends [such as erosion of farmer and consumer input and disappearance of pioneer organic companies through mergers and acquisitions by international food companies] will be exacerbated if the outdated and flawed organic law remains unchanged and current attempts to weaken international organic norms and diminish the influence of private certification and accreditation alternatives continue.”
What do you think will be the next hot category in the organic marketplace? Will any category or product fade? “If the growing trend toward factory-farm practices on organic farms can be reversed, I believe the marketing of organically produced meat, milk and other livestock products is a huge, unrealized … opportunity.”
Read about the 24 others honored by the Natural Foods Merchandiser.