Alan Ismond wrote:
Do you have scientific proof to show that the present methods of ag are
unsafe, or that the methods for organics are more safe? Do we really
get into this kind of debate? Will the ag industry be happy with
approved regs that run contrary to their existing practices?
BM: I think there is plenty of evidence out there that the extensive use of
synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are unsafe. I think the fact that IPM is
so popular, even within industrial ag circles, speaks to the fact that
current practices are not sustainable, ie. that we must find other
Sure, from a food safety perspective, the scientific jury is still out on the
harmfulness of pesticide residues. The EPA is currently grappling with
how to deal with this, as it awaits public comment on its soon to be
published pamphlet which discusses this matter.
I don't thing the ag industry would be happy with government approved
regs which run contrary to their own practices. But I also think that this
is the greatest obstacle which the organic movement faces - it needs
govenment support in order to reach a wider audience (both in terms of
farmers and consumers), but it cannot get that support as long as the
government predominantly supports the industrial farmers point of view.
Grace Gershuny wrote:
Mr. Ismond's comment is very well considered, and illustrates exactly
why the National Organic Program is NOT being represented or treated
within USDA as a food safety program. It is still up to consumers to
decide, based on an accurate understanding of how a product was
produced, which ones they have greater confidence in.
BM: I think the greatest irony of the whole National Organic Program is
that it is being overseen by the USDA, without at least some level of
oversight by an independent body which should stand to protect the
"agreed upon tenents" of organic agriculture. USDA has a vested
interest in the current world agriculture system. They have invested
billions of dollars in research and promotion of current practices and
inputs. This is not to mention the "alleged" revolving door which allows
agri-chemical executives unlimited access to the USDA, and influence
upon national agricultural policy.
I think, barring any definitive evidence regarding food safety, organic
agriculture should at the very least promote:
* holistic land stewardship, which includes protecting water resources
and eliminating the use of synthetic inputs.
* community based food systems, which will serve to help people have a
better understanding of where their food comes from, and in turn, help
communities and individuals become more self sufficient in regards to
* small and family farms, which are being lost at an alarming rate due to
the continued industrialization of our agriculture.
I believe the scientific jury is still out on the safety of irradiation, biosolids
and gmo's, (when I say safety, I refer not only to human health that may
be affected by consuming products affected by such processes, but the
possibility of harming the natural environment and its supporting systems,
which we all know make it possible for us to grow our food), yet these
are being forced down the throats of consumers. I think at the very least
people should have the choice of whether they want to contribute to the
continued use of such technologies in agriculture, by being able to
differentiate such products in the marketplace. Isn't that one of the major
aims of organic agriculture?
I think the USDA is doing a great injustice to the organic movement and at
the same time insulting the intelligence of the American people by not
allowing into the discussion of organic agriculture, the benefits it offers
to help improve land stewardship, and promte change in the other areas I
discussed above. I am sure that other SANET'ers will have much to add
to my list.
I support wholeheartedly USDA - NRCS's efforts to improve land
stewardship, but I lament the fact that they do not want to elist the
support of organic farmers by recognizing their efforts in improving land
stewardship, by offering technical support specifically for organic
I honestly feel that because our industrial agricultural system is
supported by our own government, it will be an ongoing uphill battle to
improve land stewardship in this country. With the focus on
environmental quality in this country, and the amount of $ the government
is putting towards this effort, one would think they would take the most
efficient road towards improving environmental quality.
I am fairly new in the sustainable ag field, but it is something I feel very
passionate (I know, passion often gets in the way, but it also helps
people persevere in the face of hypocrisy and utter ridiculousness)
about. I welcome fellow SANET'ers comments and criticisms.
In no way are my comments intended to represent the views of the EPA.
My comments are my thoughts, and mine alone.
Sea Grant Fellow
EPA Wetlands Division
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