What’s Organic about Organic?
Produced by Shelley Rogers and Emily Triantaphylli
Available at http://whatsorganicmovie.com/store/
During World War II a lot of chemical weapons were produced. Then the war ended and it seemed a shame to let all that great chemical technology go to waste. So we declared war on the insect world and weeds and happily found a never-ending use for those chemicals. Nowadays many farmers don’t believe you can farm without engaging in chemical warfare. If any of that made sense to you then I would take that as further evidence that the human race is circling the drain.
This video presents a brief history of organic agriculture in the U.S. By way of comparison, in industrial factory farming we see the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers and arsenic in chicken feed. A manager of a factory farm demonstrates that the cows are allowed to go anywhere they want to go—except outside.
In contrast, the precepts of organic agriculture encourage cows to be outdoors and discourage chemical weapons. There are many scenes of small farms with cows grazing on diverse pastures. The weeds other farmers try to kill are quite valuable to the cows. While all that probably looks good to most people, there are always questions about why organic food is more expensive. These concerns are addressed by looking at the bigger picture. When you look at the price tags on conventional and organic food, do the conventional food price tags include the cost of destruction from chemical runoff into the Gulf of Mexico or the Chesapeake Bay? Do those costs include treating and caring for a cancer-riddled population? The environmental and health costs are estimated to be at least nine billion dollars, but that cost has been cleverly separated from the numbers you see on the price tag.
Some doubt that organic farming is productive enough to feed the world. That is mostly based on outdated and very poorly done science. The United Nations has actually come out and said organic farming can feed the world without increasing the agricultural land base. I would also say that industrial farming is not feeding the world now and will continue to fall further behind. There is little debate that organic agriculture is better for the environment.
To be fair, there are problems with USDA organic standards. Mark Kastel, of Cornucopia Institute, along with others points to inadequate standards and lack of enforcement. Organic should be local. In the United States, how does anything from Chile, Argentina or China qualify as organic? It is estimated that around 10 percent of organic food comes from factory farms. I would especially like to hear a USDA official explain that.
The film provides a good explanation of why true organic almost has to be small or family-farm based. It is always cheaper in the short run to extract and exploit than to renew and regenerate. Corporations will always look at the short term. They will look at what is cheapest and will make the most money. They don’t see externalized costs as their problem so they don’t care. Given those realities, they will never see true organic as the best answer. Some smaller operators may have the same problems but we see many examples of those who are doing things right. The thumb is UP for this video.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2011.