Since Dean Foods acquired Silk it has ditched support of domestic organic farms.
Even as demand for organic food continues to explode, organic farmers in America are getting thrown under the beet cart they helped build.
The Chinese are taking over market share, especially of vegetables and agricultural commodities like soy, thanks to several American-based multinational food corporations that have hijacked the organic bandwagon they only recently jumped onto.
When megacorporation Dean Foods acquired Silk soy milk the prospects looked good for American organic soy farmers. Silk had always been committed to supporting domestic organic farmers, and with the new might of Dean Foods behind it, Silk would likely grow. Silk did grow, but it also dropped its commitment to domestic soy.
Multiple Midwestern farmers and farmers cooperatives in the heart of American soy country were told by Silk they had to match the rock-bottom cost of Chinese organic soybeans -- a price they simply could not meet. Organic agriculture is labor-intensive, and China's edge comes largely from its abundance of cheap labor.
"Dean Foods had the opportunity to push organic and sustainable agriculture to incredible heights of production by working with North American farmers and traders to get more land in organic production," says Merle Kramer, a marketer for the Midwestern Organic Farmers Cooperative, based in Michigan. "But what they did was pit cheap foreign soybeans against the U.S. organic farmer, taking away any attraction for conventional farmers to make the move into sustainable agriculture."
Silk bought Chinese soybeans for years, building a commanding share of the soy milk market, before substantially decreasing its support of organic agriculture altogether.
Few Silk products are certified organic anymore, and some are processed with hexane, a neurotoxin. The use of hexane poses risks to workers in the plants and possibly the consumers of the product and is listed as an air pollutant by EPA. In Illinois alone, 5 million pounds of hexane are released into the environment by food processors Bunge, Cargill and Arthur Daniels Midland.
While the green "USDA Organic" seal is gone, hexane-processed soymilk can still be labeled "natural," and if it contains organic ingredients, the label "made with organic ingredients" is still used.
A recent USDA report, "Emerging Issues in the U.S. Organic Industry," points out two notable trends in American food: Conventional food corporations are taking over successful independent organic companies, and the corporations are becoming increasingly dependent on imported ingredients.