It’s no surprise to anyone who’s read this blog regularly that I strongly support organic foods, especially locally-grown organics. Aside from the fears about pesticides, herbicides and genetic modification, I hate what big industry has done to the families who are still trying to hang onto small family farms. I realize that not all vegetarians are organic vegetarians and I don’t mean to alienate anyone; but this blog is about living a healthy vegetarian lifestyle and I do believe local, organic produce should be a part of that lifestyle whenever possible.
I’ve been thrilled to see the rise in popularity of organic farming, organic stalls at local farmer’s markets and the number of organic foods that are available in regular supermarkets.
But an article this week on OrganicGardening.com really left me worried about the furure of true organic foods.
The article, called “The Real Story of ‘O‘”, is by Joan Dye Gussow, who is considered one of the pioneers of home organic gardening and of the organic lifestyle. She had some things to say about where “organic” is going today that I found very disturbing. Specifically, she’s worried that the same big food companies that provide all of the substandard food are now going into the business of organics.
More alarmingly, given the entry into the industry of some of the largest multinational food companies, organics seems to be becoming what some of us hoped it would be an alternative to—another industrial food system that ships raw materials from wherever on the planet they can be most cheaply grown to factories producing everything from “organic” TV dinners to “organic” soft drinks.”
As Gussow explains, these huge conglomerates are finding organics a great new source of revenue, but they operate counter to some of the most important principles of the organic lifestyle, chiefly supporting local agriculture.
Small-scale organic operations, they declare, will inevitably lose out to what has been called the organic-industrial complex. Its output will be delivered to high-volume superstores, where locally grown carrots will be undersold by mass-produced “organic” carrots.”
This certainly isn’t what I set out to support and I doubt that putting more money into the hands of the huge food companies is what most people who eat organic are hoping for, either.
So what can organic vegetarians do to support local organic agriculture?
Buy as much fresh produce as you can from your local farmer’s markets, CSA farms or other organic farms in your region. Avoid buying out of season produce when you can. Let your supermarket’s home office know that you want local organics.
Not too long ago, it was impossible to find organic produce at the supermarket. Now every market has an organic section and many also feature local produce. It’s not too far out there to imagine that a few consumers can make a difference.