The exploitation of the Earth is domestic violence. The Earth is our provider. Our survival, our nourishment, our lives depend on the Earthís health. What rationalization could possibility justify the destruction and poisoning of the organism that makes life possible? It is like feeding your daughter toxic substances as she breastfeeds your grandchild.
Organic agriculture is an active rejection of toxic technology and of an economic system based on the exploitation of our Earth. Growing, processing, retailing and purchasing organic food affirms life and acknowledges the interdependence of the natural world and humans.
Eliminating environmental toxins is in the best interest of the Earth, wildlife and humans. But true change requires that we acknowledge, in our economic relationships, a partnership between the Earth and each of the players in the food system: the land, livestock, processors, food brokers, retailers, producers, and consumers. All deserve a fair return; this is the only way a sustainable agricultural system will take root and flourish.
In the economics of our current food system, according to USDA, a $3.50 box of Wheaties returns three cents to the farmer. If a box of organic breakfast cereal returns three cents to the farmer, then organic is not sustainable. The true cost of food includes its effects on and treatment of the Earth, livestock, workers and wildlife.
Organic agriculture is about right relations. It is about the relationship between farmers, Earth and livestock. It is about the relationship between processors and the food entrusted to them. It is about the relationship between food brokers and retailers and food consumers. It is about the relationship between the food consumer and those who made the food possible, and finally, between food and the consumerís body.
One critical relationship-- that between organic farmers and governments-- has been anything but harmonious and healthy. For half a century, governments and universities have focused their attention and resources on developing toxic-chemical approaches to food production. Even now, the questionable approach of biotechnology dominates their attention at the expense of a sane approach. But progress has been made; there is now a USDA legal definition of organic that reads as follows: Organic production: A production system that is managed in accordance with the Act and regulations in this part to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
This simple definition is a beginning. Once our government becomes fully aware of, and acknowledges, the corruption and destruction of the farm community, the life in the soil, and the air, water and human bodies that its toxin-based farm policies have encouraged, then it will be able to actively encourage and foster organic agriculture. Governments concerned about the health of their people and natural resources should pay the costs of weaning farmers off the toxic inputs that earlier government programs encouraged.
It will take both organic producers and consumers engaged in creative and active political action to bring about a right relationship between organic agriculture and governments. Food production does not have to be based on toxic chemistry. Farmers can lead us back to a biologically based food system once consumers and retailers are willing to become partners with the people that nourish them. If consumers are willing to feed farmers in the form of a fair return for food provided, farmers can feed the soil, themselves and farmworkers and help end the exploitation of the Earth that fifty years of chemical-based agriculture has engendered.
Written by: Brian Leahy, California Certified Organic Farmers
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