Getting over organic

"Did you know that Wal-Mart is the biggest volume seller of organic produce?" the good-looking guy with the monobrow asked. I hadn't known. "That's a good thing. I'll buy organic from Cub, Wal-Mart, or the co-op," he continued. "It doesn't matter, as long as it's organic." Say what? I was at a meeting of members and community activists working to start up a new co-op in Minneapolis. While I've always been an advocate of organic agriculture, I'm not fond of buying it at anti-union Wal-Mart or Whole Foods. The point was lost on this new co-op's board member. Sustainability? Fair labor practices? Community accountability? Species diversity? Aren't these our values too? Buying organic isn't just about the type of food you consume; it's about the whole system of production.

Botany of Desire author Michael Pollan addresses the issue in the latest issue of Orion. While the plethora of newly organic products and practices--high-fructose corn syrup? organic factory farms?!--means the conversion of thousands of acres of conventional agriculture to more sustainable farming, something has been lost in the process. But, he concludes, the original organic dream is in peril:
In fact, many of the best farmers in this country no longer even use the word organic. The USDA developed a set of rules -- and they got pesticides, hormones, and many drugs out of the system. All wonderful. But if you look at the new rules, that's all they address. There is nothing written about the kind of food that may be called organic, or its distribution. There is no rule against high-fructose corn syrup. Myriad synthetics are allowed in processed organic food. And we find ourselves with an organic transcontinental strawberry: 5 calories of food energy that use 435 calories of fossil-fuel energy to get to a supermarket near you. This is organic food forced through the industrial system, shorn of its holism. What has been lost is that one key insight about organic: that everything is connected. The organic dream has been reduced to a farming method.
Read Pollan's "Getting Over Organic."

ALSO: Don Roberts points out that the US Post Office recently issued a new stamp featuring United Farm Worker founder Cesar Chavez. Buy a few and help promote the man's values.

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