Steve Groff wrote:
>> Organic agriculture is simply a phase in a larger process that's far
>> from over. It's been an important phase but may be close to having
>> served it's purpose (if the world is now ready for the next and more
>> comprehensive phase).
>now that's a thought....I'm ready to move on!
I think there is a real danger in this attitude of making a fatal strategic
Much of what we are involved in here is a struggle for *meaning*, a
struggle for the hearts and minds of consumers, as one food industry CEO
put it, about the meaning of such concepts as 'food quality' and 'organic'.
The important thing about 'organic' is that it does have a meaning for
consumers, now to the tune of 6 billion a year in the US and $10 billion in
Europe. This has been a hard won battle in which thousands of farmers from
all over the world have contributed at great sacrifice and for many years
(The world has 7.5 million hectares of certified organic farmland, only
900,000 of them are in the US).
It is true that there is now a food industry assault on the meaning of
organic, lead by the USDA. This is inevitable. For years, the goal of many
people in the organic farming community was to make organics the
'mainstream' method of farming. As that goal becomes imaginable, struggles
over what the word means are bound to occur. Laws and regulations are
inevitable. Compromises will be necessary. The important thing is to *be
there* to contest the meaning of organic and make sure the compromises are
acceptable--not throw in the towel! If we abandon the organic concept to
industry, the bureaucrats and unscrupulous marketeers we are abandoning our
most valuable allies: the consumers who support organic farmers. Not only
is this unethical, I think it would be stupid.
I think you attitude is unrealistic, Steve. With industry aggressively
pedalling their version of 'organic' nobody is going to hear you talking
about "locally grown and sustainable". People will ask you, "but is it
organic?" and they will want hear a yes or no answer. You can bet that
"micro-farming", or even "sustainable" will never be significant food
product labels nor have any meaning for consumers. (locally grown, maybe).
These are academic and politcal concepts bantied about among a tiny group
of specialists in places like this list and at UN meetings.
Organic, on the other hand, is now part of our public vocabulary throughout
the world. The important thing now is to *defend what it means*.
This has to be with a focus on responsible ecological farming and
processing as the basis for organic certification, I agree that the natural
vs synthetic distinction is a problem organic farmers and certifiers have
avoided facing too long. No one has wanted to open the pandora's box that
would require us to define criteria by which practices are acceptable or
not. It's easier just to say, "that material is synthetic so its out".
But that is what we have to do. Can hydroponics be acceptable for
terrestrial crops, even if the chemicals used are 'natural? Does applying
excessive amounts of chicken manure compost to a field, causing runoff and
soil microbiology problems, be classified as organic? We have to have
agroecological and farmings system criteria to answer these questions
unambiguously and we have to insist on thrm as the meaing behind *certified
If the US fails to adequately define organic, it will simply be left behind
by Europe and the rest of the world as it is being left behind with the GMOs.
I admit, the battle looks pretty heavilay stacked against us. But if we
run away from the struggle to define the meaning of organic then they'll
just mop us up, one by one.
Mexico, D.F. & San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas
Tel. y FAX 525-666-73-66 (DF)
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at:
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Apr 05 2000 - 20:00:34 EDT