Today’s number crunching examines the membership of the board by two categories: are the members employed (directly or indirectly) by a big food company (organic or conventional), and does the member have a history in the organic, conventional or “sustainable” world?
We categorized the board members according to the following rules (see list below); note that you might not agree with my decisions, but in a fashion typical of most economists, we made reasonable (to us) assumptions and are moving ahead. Note that we made contemporaneous classifications: thus Cascadian Farm in 1992 was not considered big food, but once Cascadian became part of General Mills, it moved into the big food category.
- “Big food” is shorthand for corporate agriculture or food, or a company with large market share, or a mainly conventional company;
- Roots in conventional is for members whose work has been for a conventional firm, or for researchers whose research record is not in organic agriculture;
- Roots in organic is used to describe members whose work is primarily in organic, such as organic farmers (but not conventional with some organic acreage), organic processors, and researchers who have devoted a large portion of their careers to organic production or marketing;
- Roots in sustainable is for the members who don’t fit neatly into organic or conventional, including those working to promote low input agriculture, or good food in schools, etc;
- A “good fit” describes someone whose day job is aligned with their role on the board (ie, an organic farmer holds a farmer spot on the board, or an advocate has public interest spot).
|Classification of the NOSB Members: 1992 – 2012|
|“Big food”||Not big food|
|has roots in:||number of board members|
|Good fit for role||10||30|
When considering the share of board members selected for roles that are a good fit with their day jobs, we found no statistical difference between members who are considered big food and those not from big food.
Another neat finding: we have statistically shown that once natural products retailers share of organic food fell below 50 percent, the likelihood of a new member being from a “big food” company increased. This could be the result of several factors, with two possibilities: (1) organic companies are more likely to be big food, or (2) a board member is more likely to work for a big conventional agribusiness company.
You might wonder where the discussion is headed. Eventually, Christina and I hope link this analysis to rulings on synthetic ingredients and natural substances. Note the use of the word “eventually.” Stay tuned.