Organics, misinformation, and fear-based marketing

I ran across this paper discussing some of the research on consumer preferences for organic, and it delves into the tactics used my marketers of organic products.

The authors conclude:

This review of published research, documented organic and natural produce industry practices and advocacy collaborations shows widespread, collaborative and pervasive industry marketing activities, both transparent and covert, disparaging competing conventional foods and agriculture practices. Further, these activities have contributed to false and misleading consumer health and safety perceptions influencing food purchase decisions. These findings suggest a widespread organic and natural products industry pattern of research-informed and intentionally-deceptive marketing and advocacy related practices that have generated hundreds of billions in revenues.

I agree that much of the marketing (and writing) on organic has led to false beliefs among many consumers.  I've written a lot about that, and I've tried to provide research evidence on the scientific basis (or lack thereof) of such claims.  Thus, I share the author's sentiments.  

But, I personally am much less bothered by marketers.  Isn't this what marketers do?  Why does Nike show LeBron James or Michael Jordan flying through the air wearing their shoes?  What message is Nike trying to send?  It probably has next to nothing to do with how high I'm able to jump or even how well a Nike will fit me should I buy them.  Their commercials are trying to install false beliefs.  

So, I sort of expect those things from marketers and companies trying to sell products (although overt lies and falsehoods expose companies and marketers to legal liability, and for good reason).   What bothers me more is when supposed "objective" journalists or academics spread the same sort of mis-information that flies in the face of scientific evidence.  Moreover, we certainly don't want tax dollars subsidizing false beliefs.  

That's why I found this passage a bit more disconcerting:

As a result, the American taxpayer funded national organic program is playing an ongoing role in misleading consumers into spending billions of dollars in organic purchasing decisions based on false and misleading health, safety and quality claims. Further, U.S. government agencies, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Trade Commission and U.S. Department of Agriculture, which entrusted with the authority to enforce truthful, non-misleading consumer protections against such abuses have either ignored or become complicit in these marketing abuses.