Quick news: Swedish media seem very silent on the topic (EDIT: it appears I was just fast – several news pieces have come since), as court rules grocery chain Coop is forbidden from continued use of its marketing video “The Organic Effect” launched 2015, or the arguments from that campaign, including lines like ‘we’re eating pesticides’ and ‘chemicals removed from my kids bodies’ or ‘organic food is grown without chemical pesticides’. If they use the arguments or the video, but continue to fail to provide evidence for such claims, they are threatened by a fine of whooping one million krona (about 100 000 Euro / almost 120 000 US dollars). In addition, they must cover the claimant’s court costs.
Earlier coverage of the suit by Kavin Senapathy at Forbes:
the hyped results of the poorly-designed experiment showed exactly what we’d expect when dropping conventionally grown food: the level of pesticides used in conventional farming practically disappeared from the family’s urine. But the kicker? Most people don’t realize that organic agriculture uses pesticides too, albeit different ones. And the experiment didn’t test for pesticides used in organic agriculture.
The lab that performed the tests for Coop clearly stated in their report that the residues found were considerably lower than the safety limits set by any number of food safety authorities, Swedish or otherwise.
Not only did Coop’s video blow risks from pesticides residues out of proportion, and keep quiet about not testing organic pesticide residues, they also simply left out conflicting evidence from their own small test sample, covered by Debunking Denialism in the piece Coop Sued for misleading ‘organic effect’ marketing campaign:
The video also hid data that did not support the pro-organic position. According to the study, the father had increased amounts of some conventional pesticides during the organic weeks compared with before. This was never shown in the video.
Important note: court rulings are not evidence. Based on my knowledge and writings on the topic, I am merely glad to see that the courts have, in my view, appropriately considered the evidence in this case.
Sadly, most of the harm has already been done, since the two years when this misleading marketing campaign was launched, and Coop has helped make people believe they should be afraid of their food, that they are ‘eating poison’ etc.
For those interested, the court ruling is available for anyone at request, in Swedish, all they need to do is email the Swedish Patent- och marknadsdomstolen. Sample of the document below. For instance, on page 17, the claimant states that Coop’s claims constitute:
…scare-tactics and misappropriation of food from conventional farming. The claims affect or are likely to significantly affect the recipient’s ability to make an informed business decision […] and is therefore unfair.
There is no organic effect. There is no support for the claims in the studies. In addition, the studies are rigged and inadequate (see above under claim 1.1). The measured levels relate to residues of pesticides at very low levels, which are completely harmless to a person.
These specific claims were accepted by the court as valid on page 65 – in fact the claims made by Swedish Crop Protection were confirmed by the ruling on all accounts. It remains to be seen whether Coop will seek to appeal the ruling.
More of my articles on the the topic of Environment and Agriculture. If you would like to have a discussion in the comments below, please take note of my Commenting policy. Sometimes it may take some time before I find the time to sort through and accept comments, especially if they make long arguments without evidence. In a nutshell:
- Be respectful.
- Back up your claims with evidence.