Opinion/Editorial Archive

Busting the “Organic Is Expensive” Myth

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

The Cost of Organic Food Is Worth It and—Surprise—It’s Not Always Higher

By Charlotte Vallaeys

Sons Kai and Liam shopping with Charlotte 2

Sons Kai and Liam shopping with Charlotte

“Organic food is too expensive.” It’s a complaint we, as organic farmers and advocates, hear all too often. And we’ve practiced and often repeated our defense of organic food’s higher price tag: it’s worth every extra penny in terms of a long-term investment in our health and in protecting the environment.

When people complain of the high price of organic foods, farmer Joel Salatin likes to respond: “Have you priced cancer lately?”

But we shouldn’t stop at countering the myth that organic food is “too expensive”; we must also examine the assumption that organic food actually is more expensive than conventional food. It’s simply not as black-and-white as many people assume.

Yes, I readily admit that in any supermarket that offers organic strawberries, they will be pricier than the conventional. And a box of organic cereal will definitely carry a higher price tag than the cheap conventional store-brand version.

But it is also entirely possible, without much effort, to fill a shopping cart with a week’s worth of conventional foods and pay more than you would for a week’s worth of organic food.

With two young sons (Liam is 5 and Kai is 3), I buy only organic food for my family. I shop with an organic gatekeeper: Liam sits in the cart and checks every incoming item for the USDA Organic seal. Anything without it he sends back to the shelf. Read Full Article »

10 Things to Know About Food on World Food Day

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Huffington Post
By Lester R. Brown


Image source:
squirrel_cottage, Wikimedia

October 16 is World Food Day. It offers the opportunity to strengthen national and international solidarity in the fight to end hunger, malnutrition and poverty. With falling water tables, eroding soils and rising temperatures making it difficult to feed growing populations, control of arable land and water resources is moving to center stage in the global struggle for food security. Here are some facts to consider:

    1. There will be 219,000 people at the dinner table tonight who were not there last night — many of them with empty plates.
      Ensuring adequate food supplies was once a rather simple matter, the sole responsibility of the ministry of agriculture. When governments wanted to accelerate growth in the grain harvest, they simply raised the support price paid to farmers. Now that is changing. Securing future food supplies has become incredibly complex. It may now depend more on policies in the ministry of health and family planning or of energy than in the ministry of agriculture itself.
    2. Today, with incomes rising fast in emerging economies, there are at least three billion people moving up the food chain, consuming more grain-intensive livestock and poultry products.
      Today, the growth in world grain consumption is concentrated in China. It is adding over eight million people per year, but the big driver is the rising affluence of its nearly 1.4 billion people. As incomes go up, people tend to eat more meat. China’s meat consumption per person is still only half that of the United States, leaving a huge potential for future demand growth.
    3. In India some 190 million people are being fed with grain produced by overpumping groundwater. For China, there are 130 million in the same boat.
      Aquifer depletion now threatens harvests in the big three grain producers — China, India and the United States — that together produce half of the world’s grain. The question is not whether water shortages will affect future harvests in these countries, but rather when they will do so. Read Full Article »

    Is Organic Liberal or Conservative? — Yes!

    Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

    Although some of the conservative think tanks and their agribusiness patrons might want to paint organic food as “elitist” — and even a “socialist” plot — the facts tell a different story. The organic movement is truly non-partisan.

    By Mark A. Kastel

    Kastel_tractor.squareThe organic farming movement was initially fueled by a loving collaboration between family farmers dedicated to producing food in consort with nature, shunning toxic agrichemicals and genetic engineering, and a growing subset of committed consumers who want the very best nutrition and safest possible food for their families.

    As the organic “community” blossomed and grew into the $30+ billion industry that it is today, a number of conservative think tanks, many with direct funding from Monsanto, DuPont and other interests in agrichemicals and biotechnology, challenged the propriety, and even the safety, of organic food.

    For over a decade, the Hudson Institute’s father-and-son team of Dennis and Alex Avery kept up a constant barrage. Hudson listed many agribusiness funders as their donors during these attacks.

    Last year some researchers at Stanford University published a study suggesting that organic wasn’t worth the premium price. Their findings contradicted studies by the USDA, Consumers Union (publisher of Consumer Reports magazine), and countless university researchers, internationally, who have found measurable benefits from eating organic rather than conventional foods.

    At the time, Stanford (the home of the Hoover Institution, also with a history of attacking organics) firmly stated that the study was funded “internally” rather than by agricultural or biotechnology interests. What they didn’t tell the world was that their internal funders included — you guessed it — agricultural and biotechnology interests. Read Full Article »

    How to Bring Farmers Markets to the Urban Poor

    Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

    Washington Post
    by Michael Lipsky

    Image courtesy of Tammy Farrugia

    Image source:
    Tammy Farrugia, Wikimedia

    For almost 20 years, I’ve sold tomatoes, basil, lettuce, kale and other vegetables at the Takoma Park Farmers Market on Sundays during the summer season. It’s one of several markets my wife helped start at the dawn of the farmers market movement.

    Last month, I spent a day selling for the first time at another market in Takoma Park, Md. — the Crossroads Farmers Market, open on Wednesdays. Though Crossroads is just two miles from the Sunday market, the customers couldn’t be more different. Crossroads is in the poorest of Takoma Park’s four neighborhoods and also serves Langley Park and other low-income areas nearby.

    Here, people speak mostly Spanish. Customers can find kabocha squash, chipilin and other staples of Central American kitchens, as well as pupusas, tostadas and other prepared foods. I saw fewer white faces at Crossroads. I heard fewer questions about whether produce was sprayed with chemicals and many more about how much everything cost. At Crossroads, shoppers measure every dollar against an unforgiving budget. Many go home with potatoes or onions, but not both. Read Full Article »

    Satish Kumar: The Link Between Soil, Soul and Society

    Monday, September 30th, 2013

    We are losing connection with the soil. Satish Kumar wants us to understand the connection between soil, soul and society and drop ego in favour of eco

    The Guardian
    Satish Kumar


    Image source:
    M Tullottes, Wikimedia Commons

    Many historical movements in the world have three key words that express their spirit. During the French Revolution the words were “liberté, égalité, fraternité”, in the American Declaration of Independence they were “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

    The implication of both phrases is very similar. It is human life, human liberty, human equality and human happiness. Even the words adopted by the New Age movement – “mind, body, spirit” – refer to the human mind, human body and human spirit. It’s an anthropocentric worldview – the view that human beings are at the centre of the universe.

    This worldview is no longer valid – we are utterly dependent on other species and we have to take care of them. We are members of one Earth community and need a new trinity that is holistic and inclusive, that embraces the entire planet and all species upon it. So I propose a new trinity of soil, soul, society. Soil represents the entire natural world. Without soil there is no food and without food there is no life, trees, forests, animals or people. Read Full Article »