Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Shopping with blinders

This morning I ran across an article that has a great discussion of the USDA Organic label and the politics of the "official" organic system. Basically, the article details the argument that organic going big - like Earthbound Farms, Horizon Organics, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Stonyfield Farms (a few of the big names in organic food production) - is causing the organic movement to be watered down and unable to stick with the original organic ideals of clean, local, sustainable agriculture. In essence, shopping for food labeled with the USDA Organic label is like shopping with blinders on. I have to issue one disclaimer here - these "big" organics are doing more good than harm. They have taken millions of acres of land out of conventional production and tons of chemicals out of the agricultural system. I just think we can do better.

The arguments outlined in the article I read this morning are similar to the discussion in The Omnivore's Dilemma where the author talks about how producers who are serious about producing high quality food scoff at the USDA Organic label and instead say that they prefer to go "beyond organic." But, there's no label for "beyond organic," which is sort of the point. You have to actually know who you're getting your food from to know the quality of it. If this topic is of interest to you, take a look at this article...I think you might enjoy it. Here's my favorite quote from the article: "The most conscious way to buy food is straight from the farmer," he said. "There's a lot of room for growth in this country for that kind of relationship. Even better than organic is local organic, and that's a niche that the big guy just can't get in on."

Just for a little background, so you don't think I'm some kind of organic freak, you should know that I do not now nor have ever in the past bought exclusively organic anything. In fact, I at one time bought into Dinesh D'Souza's argument that organic agriculture is actually worse for the environment than conventional agriculture, because it uses more water and more land to produce less food. While I no longer accept that argument (because of, among other things, the damage that petroleum-based fertilizers and nasty insecticides do to the land and water) I'm not willing to limit myself to officially-labeled organic food. While I'm not interested in eating food treated with antibiotics or growth hormones, at this point I don't have a problem with my rancher using a synthetic de-wormer on my beef. I'm more concerned with how the steer was raised and how the pasture was treated. And, truthfully, just because a company pays the USDA $1000 to be able to label their food organic doesn't make me any more excited about the food. I guess I have a little Libertarian in me...I don't exactly trust the government or any of its entities and I don't need them to tell me what food is best to eat, thank you very much. I'll figure it out for myself.

Speaking of the government, today is Super Tuesday and Colorado is caucusing tonight. I will not be in attendance at our local caucus for two reasons. First, Brynn has her first night of swim lessons tonight through SwimAmerica and I don't want her to miss it. Second, I am not in agreement on many issues with any of the candidates running so I'm throwing up my hands and sighing. I realize that the media is touting this as the biggest primary in the history of our country, and I'm not one to miss out on historic days, but I can't bring myself to vote tonight...leaving me feeling deflated and quite unpatriotic.

1 comment:

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