Organic is safer and healthier, right?

And if the label says so, it’s got to be so — right? Not so fast; hold the kale.

The film, “In Organic We Trust: Change from the Soil Up,” which screens Sunday in Portland, digs deep into the culture from which the organic food industry springs.

The “Food Inc.”-style documentary by filmmaker Kip Pastor unpacks the term and investigates the corporate industry that bends to buzzwords and branding. In man-on-the-street interviews with people across the country — he queries a busker in Times Square, middle aged women and 20-somethings — the results net widespread confusion.

“Pesticide free,” “no chemicals” and a quizzical answer of “oysters, because they are from the ground” are hazy definitions for organic.

“There is a lot that’s confusing about the organic label these days,” says Molly Thompson, director of marketing for the Portland-based Rosemont Market, who sponsors the food film series called Foraged. Maine College of Art and Cultivating Community, a Maine organization working to help immigrants grow their own food and change public policy on healthy eating, are partners.

Thompson says “knowing your farmer” and where your food comes from are more important than labels. “The three words that have been so overused are local, organic and natural,” she said.

But corporate America is turning organics, once the bastion of grassroot growers, into a $30 billion dollar business, the film declares. This includes so-called “greenwashing” — is it spin or substance?

Pastor asks scientists, farmers, chefs, nutritionists and green grocers to break down the term and examine its impact.

Just because certain foods, such as store-bought ice cream cones or gummy bears, are labeled organic does not automatically mean they are healthy. Big corporations, the film posits, increasingly are using organic U.S. Department of Agriculture certification to game the system and move product.

How did organic leap from a local food movement staple to a Wall Street cash cow?

With more and more Americans eating organic, it’s big business.

“There is a lot of myths and misinformation floating around,” Thompson said. Rosemont focuses on buying fruits and vegetables from local farms instead of stocking shelves with certified organic goods. “Our goal is to get high quality first.”

Stay for a discussion after the film facilitated by Craig Lapine, executive director of Cultivating Community. Rosemont popup chef Brad Messier will prepare refreshments that, chances are, will be local and delicious.

“In Organic We Trust” will be shown 4 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at Osher Hall, 522 Congress St., Maine College of Art. The event is free.

Kathleen Pierce

A lifelong journalist with a deep curiosity for what's next. Interested in food, culture, trends and the thrill of a good scoop. BDN features reporter based in Portland since 2013.