One of the things that stood out for me most about Standing Rock was that the indigenous people were adamant that they were not protesting, they were protecting. They were protecting the water, the Earth, their homes, and their future. With a new administration coming into Washington, the future of food, organic, and farming is a bit of a mystery. At this point it’s not clear what, if anything, there is to protest about. But there definitely is something to protect: the USDA organic standards.
A new study by the Pew Research Center found that 55% of Americans believe organic food is healthier, but 41% don’t think there is a difference between organic and conventionally grown produce. And I’d really love to know who makes up the 3% of people in the study who believe that conventionally grown produce is better…
But a big takeaway for me was that “fully three-quarters of these Americans (75%) are convinced that organic foods are healthier than conventionally grown foods.” As the article on the study underscores, American eating habits have been changing over the past couple of decades, with substantial implications for how foods are produced, marketed, and consumed. What does that mean? It means that while the American population represents an array of (often divided) viewpoints about our food system and what constitutes healthy eating, our individual belief systems shape our eating habits and ultimately change what and how we eat. And increasingly, Americans are prioritizing healthy eating and choosing organic.
Related: What’s Your Healthy Alternative?
I know it’s a post-fact world and the popular vote doesn’t matter as much as we would like it to. But this is an important moment: We as consumers hold a lot of power. When the USDA organic standards were first created, the label was not allowed to stand for “health,” thanks to lobbying by the chemical companies. It was only allowed to represent a “marketing claim” – but it was recognized that the label was created because consumers really wanted it. In the ensuing decades, study after study have shown (and then been vigorously challenged by the chemical industry) that agricultural chemicals cause harm to people, the environment, and the soil, which without its abundant life cannot do the job of absorbing and storing carbon. As chemical usage rapidly increased over the following decades (due to the use of Roundup-resistant GMOs), overall health concerns have increased, not declined. And for the first time in decades, the life span of Americans is decreasing, not increasing.
Organic may not be the answer to every question or problem that we face in these uncertain times, but the USDA organic label is certainly something worth protecting. People of all persuasions—political, religious, sexual, and philosophical—are demanding organic. And it’s not just the affluent: We are seeing organic urban gardens feed hungry people and regenerate communities. Returning veterans are learning how to be organic farmers at the Rodale Institute and not just finding a way to reenter society, but also to heal their souls. People who have faced health crises have found health and healing by eliminating toxins and eating organic food.
We love our families. We want to be healthy. We love nature and want to be able to enjoy it for a long, long time to come, so together we must #protectorganic. With this blog post I am making a call to action. Realize the power you have as a consumer to #protectorganic, and to protect the USDA organic label, by voting with your purchases. Seek out the label when you shop at your local supermarket. Share the health and happiness you and your family experience when eating organic – with your friends, on social media, and with your grocers. Please join me. #protectorganic.