organic - naturally confusing!

organic adj 1a of or derived from living organisms b of food, farming, etc: produced or carried out without the aid of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, etc. 2a of or arising in a bodily organ. b affecting the structure of an organism. 3a forming an integral element of a whole. b having systematic coordination of parts. c. resembling or developing in the manner of an organism. 4 containing carbon compounds, esp those occurring in living organisms, or denoting the branch of chemistry dealing with these.

The Penguin Concise English Dictionary
Without a doubt, the green market is established in the retail arena - everyone making anything from washing detergents to home brand tinned tomatoes has an "organic" or "eco" product. No longer a concept derived at a hippy love-in, green marketing is worth big bucks - in Britain, the organic grocery market is estimated to be worth more than £2 billion ($4.2billing) per year according to a recent media report.

But before the bandwagon becomes a runaway train, should we pause to consider what we are buying into? Is the "green revolution" a serious recognition of the dynamic between global economy and ecology, or is it an attempt by global corporations to re-capture the attention of jaded consumers?

I firmly believe that keeping things natural is the way forward. I am a reducer, reuser, recycler from way back. I eat very little processed food, and Al Gore II patrols our house turning off power points he deems not in use (despite whether I hold this opinion or not).

Some days however, I can't help but feel a bemused grin creeping across my face. It can be brought on by a visit to a "growers" market, a market research expedition, reading the papers and perusing the many opinions espoused on the internet.

Take for example "organic tinned tomatoes". Tomatoes are inherently organic; what does the label tell us? I think it's supposed to convey the impression that they are grown and produced in a more natural manner, using non-synthetic growth promoters (fertilisers) or pesticides.

Certified organic tomatoes could mean a scientist examined the molecules of my tomatoes to determine that they are indeed from a growing organism. Do I question whether the omission of certified means that they might not be organic, or tomatoes? And what to the tomatoes that are not identified as organic - are they laboratory conjured?

Consumer groups like Choice lobby the ACCC to provide regulation in labeling products "organic" in order to give consumers a clear understanding of what they are buying. Substantiating claims on products is a good thing, yet I can't help but think that we are getting lost in marketeers playing on words.

Perhaps if our society placed less importance on sporting prowess and entertainment, and promoted vocabulary and independent thinking as important skills our population would be better positioned to recognise marketing hype for what it is.

tautology n (pl -ies) the needless repetition of an idea, statement or word, or an instance of this.
The Penguin Concise English Dictionary

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