The invaluable Grist provides the following information:
Green and red and unfair all over.
When you go to the supermarket and buy produce or packaged goods that carry the organic label, you can feel confident that the food was grown under rigorous environmental standards. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's organic seal, which debuted in 2002, is a guarantee that your fruits and vegetables were cultivated without petroleum-based fertilizers or (with rare exceptions) synthetic chemicals, and that they aren't genetically modified.
The organic label, however, goes only so far. While the seal covers a range of environmental practices, it says nothing about labor conditions. Although comprehensive studies of conditions on organic farms are hard to find, complaints like Ortiz's are not uncommon. For example, Willamette River Organics, one of Oregon's largest organic operations, has been hit with several lawsuits charging violations of minimum-wage laws.
A Human Rights Watch report on the exploitation of adolescent workers said the atmosphere at Arizona's organic Pavich Farms was "hostile, suspicious," with laborers apparently not permitted to speak to inspectors. Threemile Canyon, a large organic dairy and potato farm in Oregon, faces accusations of sexual discrimination in its hiring practices.
Workers get no consolation in the form of higher wages or better benefits, either. According to a report published last year by researchers at UC-Davis, a majority of 188 California organic farms surveyed do not pay a living wage or provide medical or retirement plans. In fact, most organic workers earn the same as those in conventional fields -- less (adjusted for inflation) than they were making in the 1970s, when the famous UFW boycotts occurred. "The exploitative conditions that farmworkers face in the U.S. are abysmal -- it's a human-rights crisis," said Richard Mandelbaum, policy analyst at the Farmworker Support Committee. "In terms of wages and labor rights, there's really no difference between organic and conventional (farms)."