If you've been to an organic grocery store, you've seen a shelf full of Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap. Easily recognizable by the tiny-print labels on every bottle, the soap comes in eight different scents and claims to have over 18 uses, including shampoo, toothpaste, body wash, deodorant, household cleaner, and more.
This month, Dr. Bronner announced its resignation from the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The reason for leaving, according to the company, is that it believes the OTA is not being a leader in the GMO-labeling movement and has moved away from the core principles within the organic industry.
The company says the OTA drifted away from its opposition to Senate Bill 764, what critics labeled the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act, and lent support to it. President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law this summer. Back in August, Dr. Bronner's CEO David Bronner penned a piece for the Huffington Post and described the GMO labeling law as "a gift to the pesticide and food industries who make and sell GMOs."
I reached out to the OTA for comment, and they had this to say:
"Dr. Bronner's announcement to reconnect and recommit to organic is a welcome outcome of the protracted labeling debate. We agree that organic is non-GMO and so much more. It's for these principles that the Organic Trade Association fought hard in the GMO labeling debate and will continue to do so as the law is rolled out by the Department of Agriculture. An important strength of the organic community has always been its diverse and many voices, all dedicated to advancing the organic sector. We respect any company's choice about the best affiliation to further their commitment to organic but believe OTA remains the best positioned organization to advance its members' organic priorities nationally."
I also reached out to members of the mbg community for comment. Adina Grigore, founder of S.W. Basics said, “It's a relief to me that there's at least one company as large and powerful as Dr. Bronner's that cares enough to hold the word and meaning of "organic" to a higher standard. They are true pioneers in the natural space and we need more people to be as gutsy as they are!” And what about brand autonomy? "Brands will be disappointed and less effective if they put the voice of citizenship and public policy on trade organizations and NGO's," said Scott Mackinlay Hahn, Loomstate CEO. "Committed and responsible partnership with supplier networks (farmers, producers, retailers) and customers is more impactful toward positive lasting change. It's important to collaborate and seek counsel in these essential organizations however, know that the weighty decisions are made in terms of every purchase order and ultimately a customers vote of support."
Such a high-profile withdrawal from the OTA is now prompting a timely debate about regenerative and organic agriculture, and ultimately, climate change, and the challenges that are begging us back to our biophilia, our love of nature and of life, and our desire to care for all beings.