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Look Closely – Your Tofu and Soy Milk May Not Be Organic

In news that may make supermarket label readers and organic consumers even more wary, a recent report raised serious questions about many brands of soy products.

The investigation by The Cornucopia Institute included a survey, in person visits to farm and processing facilities, and a review of import data from over 60 soy product companies.Β  The report included a scorecard of each company as well as a comprehensive 54 page report outlining their findings of the overall industry.

Some of their more disturbing findings include:

  • White Wave and Silk soy products (owned by industry giant Dean Foods) currently source most of their soybeans from China, not the United States.
  • Organic certification in China is questionable at best.Β  The USDA only recently visited China for the first time to survey organic soy farms, but on the trip only visited 2 farms, and found rampant and systemic non-compliance with US organic certification standards on those 2 farms.
  • Widespread use of the chemical hexane (a neurotoxin) during production.Β  The chemical is used by non-organic producers as a cheap method to separate the soy oil from the protein and fiber.

The good news is that the study found several companies that were and continue to be strongly committed to organic and local soy products.Β  Among the companies in the study – Eden Foods, Small Planet Tofu, and Vermont Soy scored very highly and received accolades from the report authors for their insistence on dealing directly with American organic farmers.

“The top-rated companies that nurture relationships with American organic farmers should be rewarded in the marketplace.Β  We hope that organic consumers will use Cornucopia’s soy scorecard when deciding which organic soy foods to buy,” said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute.

As part of their study, The Cornucopia Institute created an Organic Soy Scorecard which is a terrific summary of the dozens of producers of soy products, their market area, and an overall rating.Β  The rating is based on attributes of each company such as whether they purchase organic soy beans, if they purchase GMO soy beans, where their inputs are grown and manufactured, the ownership structure of the company, and if they are certified by a reputable organization.

You can read the full report from The Cornucopia Institute entitled – Behind the Bean: The Heros and Charlatans of the Natural and Organic Soy Foods Industry.

Image credit: cathykid at Wikipedia under a Creative Commons License.

3 comments
  1. Sara Loveday

    As an employee of Silk, I wanted to address some of the misinformation within this article. We source all of our beans from North America. Silk does not source beans from China. In the past, we have sourced a small portion of certified organic beans from China. Silk stopped contracting for soybeans from China at the end of 2006.

    While we did not participate in the survey, we are absolutely committed to sharing information about our products, how they are made and where they come from.
    Last year, we embarked on a multi-year partnership with Conservation International. We developed a Soybean Sourcing Production Program to reinforce our values and commitment to sourcing soybeans that are produced in a sustainable, socially responsible and ethical manner. Silk has a long history of doing business in a way that sustains and improves our environment and the communities in which we do business. Our business practices allow us to provide our consumers with the highest-quality, best-tasting soymilk, while maintaining our position as a company built on responsibility and sustainability.

    If you’re interested, I hope you’ll visit http://www.silksoymilk.com/SourcingProgram.aspx for more information.

  2. Nathan

    Sara, I’m curious to know —
    * why has Silk decided to not participate in The Cornucopia Institute study?

    * if you are sourcing 100% of ingredients from USA, then why not encourage a third-party like Cornucopia to verify your claim?

    FYI- The link you have provided to Silk’s Sourcing Program appears to not work at this time.

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