"A Growing Debate: How To Define 'Organic' Food"

"Just over a month ago, the Department of Agriculture announced that it will allow American farmers to plant genetically engineered alfalfa, which is widely used as feed for dairy cows and horses.

Organic food producers opposed the USDA's decision — some more fiercely than others. That split has provoked angry debates within the organics community, with some activists accusing organic businesses of 'surrendering' to the biotech company Monsanto. And it has reopened some old arguments about what's most important in the label 'organic.'

The cause of this dispute is not easily visible, at first, in the rolling pastures of an organic dairy operated by Horizon Organic near Kennedyville, in eastern Maryland. During the summer, the farm's cows graze on hundreds of acres of pasture.

But the grass doesn't grow in wintertime, so on this February day, the cows are eating inside. Farm manager Dudley McHenry explains that the animals eat a mixture of corn silage, clover, alfalfa, corn, soybeans and a grass called triticale. And there's a tiny bit of something in that feed — mainly in the corn — that's provoking the current disagreements among people who all describe themselves as defenders of organic farming."

Dan Charles reports for NPR's All Things Considered March 1, 2011.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011