Today I’d like to share an excerpt from Organic Manifesto.
We can feed the world with organic foods and farming. Despite the propaganda churned out by biotech and chemical companies, organic farming is the only way to feed the world. Transferring our toxic agricultural system to other countries is sure to bring about a global environmental collapse. The energy required, the toxicity of the chemicals, and the degradation to the soil will be fatal. Instead, we need to export the knowledge we have gained about successful modern organic farming and then help others adapt these practices to their climates, regions, and cultures.
Organic is more important than local, but local is also important. Numerous studies have shown that organic is much more critical when it comes to carbon than local. In one study commissioned by PepsiCo, an independent researcher determined that the most significant component of the carbon footprint for Tropicana orange juice (a PepsiCo product) wasn’t transportation or manufacturing, but “the production and application of fertilizer” required to grow oranges.
The local food movement has been very important in revitalizing small farms and communities and bringing fresh, seasonal foods to many more people. However, as a means of saving the planet and improving our health, it only goes so far. Local chemical farming contaminates local communities and actually increases residents’ carbon footprints and energy use. Local organic farming cleans up communities and decreases their carbon footprint and energy use.
Growing organic is not going backward. When I proposed to chemical farmers that they switch to organic methods, they frequently replied, “Do you mean going back to the old way?” No! I believe in applying the best of modern science, technology, and resources to constantly improve our understanding of nature and our ways of growing and producing food. I also believe we cannot let corporations profit from killing us.
International trade is essential. Coffee will always be grown in places other than North America. Cacao, too, which is what chocolate is made from. Are we willing to give those up? No. Nor should we. The glorious and devastating history of our planet is filled with people fulfilling the primal urge to trade, to explore, to exchange—from the Silk Road to Route 66. And in those exchanges we learn. We learn about people who are different from us. Different religions. Different ways of healing. Different foods. Without trade, Italians wouldn’t have pasta, Irish wouldn’t have potatoes, and Americans wouldn’t have pizza or sushi. (Even Alice Waters wouldn’t have become the revolutionary chef without her famous trip to France, where she first tasted real food.)
But we also learn what is the same. We love the same. Our bodies, while they are different shapes and colors, all work the same. We all are born and we all die. And we all like to eat!
Fair trade is the best way to help people in other countries. There are 1.1 billion people around the world who make less than $1 a day and live in desperate poverty. Their best hope for improving their plight is creating organic products to sell to other countries. And frankly, it’s the best and most respectful way we can aid them.
Trade often has negative consequences—intentional and not. Weeds, rodents, diseases, and insects are just as likely to travel as humans. And our culture of fast food and violent entertainment has contaminated countries that were much healthier before we “exposed” them to our poor habits. Melamine and lead contamination have taught us that greed and corruption are universal. And now we are exporting our chemical agriculture addiction. Trying to overcontrol trade—whether food or information—can lead to isolationism and dangerous political climates. Undercontrolling trade can be just as devastating.
Organic farming increases and protects the planet’s biodiversity. If you are an animal lover of any kind, organic is for you. A recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature documents that “life on earth is under serious threat.” The report found that one-third of amphibians, at least one in eight birds, and a quarter of mammals are on the verge of extinction. Half of all plant groups are threatened. Development and logging are responsible, but agriculture is as much, if not more, to blame. As I have explained, the toxic effects of chemicals have reduced all species’ abilities to survive and reproduce.