Organic Beer – Another Green Washed Product?

Hops, the green flowers that brewers use to give beer the bitter taste and signature aroma are mainly grown in Washington and Oregon in the United States.  Some of the largest producers have fields of approximately 2,000 acres and the smaller producers have 75-100 acres.  Growing hops is a labour intensive process and requires a large trellis system for the vines to develop.

The newest development is that some breweries are looking for producers of organic hops because there are very few growers who operate organically due to the threat of devastating diseases such as downy and powdery mildew.    Growers would have to use an aggressive spray program using copper based fungicides in order to control the diseases.  A social worker in Oregon has quit his job and decided to grow hops full time in order to support this niche market.  New Zealand is currently the only large scale producer of organic hops due to the fact that disease and pests are currently not a large problem.

Now, correct me if I am out of line, but this seems to be a bit of a stretch to me.  Finding organic products for a beverage that is certainly not beneficial to our bodies seems a little overkill and it also seems to be following the trend of ‘green washing’ products.  I have found, as I’m sure others have, that over the last few years many products are advertising their products to be “green” or organically produced, without having legitimate certifications to back their advertising.  There are many organic certifications that are legitimate and regulated by the USDA, but some labels appear to be similar, but not regulated by the USDA and can fool consumers into thinking that they are buying something environmentally friendly or ‘green’.  This has been a topic of discussion in many of my other classes this semester, and arguments about even the Energy star certification are being questioned, because yes, those products may be very energy efficient once you get them home.  But that certification has nothing to do with how the appliances are made and how energy inefficient the production  process might be.  This same arugement could be made for the breweries.  They may be incorporating organic products into their brew, but does the process that those products have to go through still make the product overall more sustainable than other brands?

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