Expert>>> Caren Wilcox
Executive director and CEO, Organic Trade Association,
Washington, D.C. (www.ota.com)
Organic is the only process that is 'farm to table' in terms of having a system of certification and control. So if the consumers see the organic label, then they know how food has been produced. That's quite different from some of the other labels that people see, which may discuss how the product was produced at the very end of the process. Local is fine if it came from your neighbor. But if you haven't been on your neighbor's farm, you really don't know what you're getting. If you get a certified-organic product, you know how it was grown; you know what seed was used to grow it, what process it went through to get to you.
Organic has consumers' attention. We know they want to buy organic food and beverages. We're about 3 percent of total food and beverage revenues now; $17 billion in sales. I hope in a few years we'll be at 10 percent, but in the long term, it would be wonderful to be way over that. We know from the Economic Research Service that organic represents just one-half of 1 percent of pastureland and one-half of 1 percent of cropland in the United States. So we are very concentrated on enhancing domestic production.
We have to maintain confidence in the standard and maintain the standard at a very high level while we grow. And, of course, that means that we are trying to support the National Organic Program and the USDA so that they have enough people to enforce the certification standards.My ideal would be that, if you want to, you can buy your whole meal, your whole family's food supply, from an organic supplier. I would like to see us have a wide distribution and have choice for all of our population.