Hi Dale, Sal et. al.,
Friday, March 17, 2000, 11:25:45 AM, Dale wrote:
WD> Recourse ["Reference" is a better choice of words] to "Science" is
WD> [often] a political power play because science has [been assumed to
WD> have] credibility. This is as common in discourse on Sanet as it
WD> is in the industry.
I hope you don't exclude Dale Wilson in that sense.
WD> Appeal to "Science" in this sense is appeal to the authority of
WD> powerful individuals. But the actual *practice* of science
WD> involves immersion in nature, and the routine challenging of
Science is also very dependent on the coherence and comprehensiveness
of the overview (breadth, grasp, assumptions) of those "doing" it.
>> Wide gulfs between theory and practice, between regulations and
>> enforcement, one term after another legally defined in ways completely
>> counter to the expectations that a reasonable person should be able to
All of it is subject to perfection - the principle problems occur
when that process is blocked by interest groups whose interests are
limited to their own benefit, excluding those of many if not most
WD> These are the nuances of power. ... Such behavior isn't planned,
WD> but results from the group-identity instincts of humans.
Unconscious or less than fully conscious (i.e. racist or superficial
life style preference related) behavior is not precisely instinctual.
WD> ... you'll be alright, ... if ... You're one of the guys! ... You
WD> could be in trouble if the inspector is a lot different from you
WD> in any way!
WD> It is unfair to blame government policy, which at it's root seeks
WD> to protect the consumer and enforce honest labeling, for the
WD> political bullshit that humans generate at all levels.
This last statement is inconsistent with what was stated previously.
While government policy *ostensibly* seeks to "protect the consumer
and enforce honest labeling"; in practice, the same human foibles,
shortcomings, and prejudices you yourself mentioned come into play.
This is particularly true when persons end up in positions of
authority who are unfamiliar with the concepts involved. If they're
authorities, they attempt to behave as such. In practice, this leads
to actions primarily designed to occult their ignorance and shallow
grasp of the field and instead appear knowledgeable. It also leads to
the comedy of errors witnessed by all since the attempt to develop a
comprehensive federal legislation in the area of organic agriculture
The difficulty was compounded in this case by the multidisciplinary
nature of the problematic situation Sal refers to - focused around but
not limited to OFPA - since the areas of science, agriculture,
commerce and jurisprudence are all both pertinent and important to the
The real, basic issue is the amount of funding dedicated to research
dealing with ecosystems and agriculture, in precise terms that take
into account any and all repercussions related to human health and the
true cost to the environment, associated with various alternative and
conventional agricultural production systems. Then and only then (and
these by nature *must* be long term studies), would any legislation be
in order; and that legislation will help mark the path that
agriculture in general will follow.
At present, as Sal and others point out, subsidies are being given to
those polluting while the costs are increased for those who don't (or
do it less), leaving the unpaid bill for the current burden to the
environment for future generations to pay, while the quality of life
is either degraded or less than it could be.
As for defining a consistent and philosophically congruent set organic
standards the national level, the most that could have been
accomplished on that score was to offer a creditable "USDA Certified
Organic" certification option that stood on it's own merit (like
anything else in a free market such as exists in the US).
But no - the people involved (by virtue of being in government or
motivated by their own shortsighted assumptions, delusions of
omniscience or hidden personal agendas), felt they were above that;
and decided that OFPA was to be like a state owned shoe store where
one size fits all, in a land where nobody else's shoes can be sold
except theirs (hence the idea of certifying the pre-existing
certifying organisms, and thus keep the bizness all in "the family")..
>> Trustworthiness is a property of the entire system, of the weakest
>> link in the chain, just as with any other system. The best hope is
>> to make the chain as short as possible. Making federal these local
>> standards CAN ONLY serve to lengthen the chain.
Judging from the results to date, it can only serve to weaken the
chain, for the reasons already expressed. This is not to say that a
proper job could not have been done, nor that the goal of doing so is
not a worthy one.
First of all, the legislation's goals were not clearly defined, or
were defined in such a way that the various elements involved were in
conflict with each other. An attempt was made to accommodate too many
conflicting agendas that were in many cases based in a short sighted
and incomplete vision. Persons with the necessary multidisciplinary
skills were not grouped together as a team.
Instead, the process was seen as kind of "sweetheart" law to satisfy a
"constituency" (or two, or more), and NO effort was made to link the
goals of "organic" with those of alternative (sustainable) agriculture
in general or to derive significance from this in terms of where
agriculture in the US should be heading, in terms of the greater
This is what Sal is saying, as I understand it. And he is totally
WD> The problem is that the links in the chain are humans, and they
WD> (we) are subject to spontaneous social behavior that facilitates
WD> the agglomeration of power by certain groups and individuals.
True but not helpful (it simply repeats the problem, which will remain
until resolved in an intelligent manner). And the problem IS
>> Technology happens faster than science.
WD> That is a profound statement.
WD> Technology is power over nature.
That last statement presumptuous - it fails to recognize that he who
weakens the foundation of his house may soon (relatively speaking)
find the roof falling in on him (when is less important than the fact
that it's inexorable. However, when the house is a collective
dwelling, other tenants may intervene, as is now the case with GMOs).
WD> The real actor here is power. It is not fair to blame science
WD> (that is, the practice of science). People exercise power over
WD> each other and over nature, using knowledge generated by science,
WD> as a tool.
Intelligent people work *with* each other and nature (and recognize
those unable or unwilling to do that).
WD> Sal wrote:
>>> $5000 as a small farm is a joke and this law will
>>> burden small growers .
WD> The bureaucracy has a common interest with the big players.
I would call that a bad bureaucracy, one that may soon find itself out
of office (to the degree that people become conscious of the issues,
are provided with real alternatives and vote accordingly).
WD> ... The big players are probably not too unhappy if farmer
WD> Joe down the street can't afford certification. I can see why this
WD> is so distasteful to you small growers out there!
The ball game is not yet over.
WD> Loren wrote:
>> It sure as hell will. And undermine local growers for the purpose of
>> subsidizing long distance food transport. And undermine consumer
>> confidence in organic ag., and depress and disgust practically
>> everybody who actually cares.
Transport / energy is but one (albeit significant) issue, that's
contingent on the food involved and the sources for it. It's difficult
to maintain that only local food should be eaten in all cases
(although this IS what I myself normally do). It obviously depends on
where you are and what you want to eat. Greater support for the small
farmer is certainly in order, and small farmers must organize to
defend their interests collectively, along with consumers.
WD> PS: It would be interesting to do a market survey and see what is
WD> really going on in the minds of organic consumers. Maybe this has
WD> been done!
That's too dependent on who does the survey and the choices given.
What's more important is to get more and better options out there and
available to consumers.
If OFPA takes effect as written (with USDA certification mandatory for
products labeled organic), there will be a plethora of new "green"
labels on the market before long. Mercenaries (and the governments
that cater to them) generally fail to understand that markets are
dynamic, or why they go where they go. They're hunters, not growers).
By the time many "natural" attractions are fully exploited (be it food
or a beautiful bay with a clean sandy beach), the natural quality
desired has often been deteriorated. In terms of food, better and more
efficient (and direct) distributions chains are needed, as well as new
There IS still much to be done in terms of food handling and
packaging, for the express purpose of preserving the original, life
giving quality of natural food. (Value added is in many cases a bald
faced lie, since the value added is in the sellers bank account, not
in the food - or the seed, for that matter).
Douglas Hinds - CeDeCoR, A.C.
Centro para el Desarrollo Comunitario y Rural, Asociacion Civil
(Center for Rural and Community Development,
a Mexican non-profit organization)
Cordoba, Veracruz; Cd. Guzman, Jalisco; Loma Bonita. Oaxaca
& Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico
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