Opinion/Editorial Archive

Hydroponic’s Organic Label is All Wet

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Washington Post
By Barbara Damrosch

zinnia hydroponicsHydroponic gardening could not be more different from organic gardening if it tried. Maybe you’ve seen a hydroponic greenhouse operation, or a home gardener’s kit, in which plant roots are bathed in a solution of chemical fertilizers but never come into contact with any soil. It is a clever and useful system that can be used in places where the soil is contaminated, or one where a living soil does not exist, such as Mars.

Organic gardening, on the other hand, is a practice in which we participate in a natural system already in place, and it is complex beyond our ability to know. The living interactions of microbes, animals and plants in the soil are what created Earth’s atmosphere and keep it livable. If we don’t disrupt them, they give us healthful food with all the nutritional subtleties we’ve evolved to need.

According to James W. Brown, writing on the Web site of CropKing, a company that sells greenhouses and hydroponic equipment, the word hydroponic suffers from an image problem that the word “organic” might correct. By using a system whereby certain bacteria digest organic matter to create nutrients in a separate location, which are then “delivered to the plant via solution,” growers can “market their produce as being organic because that will command a premium price.” The process, says Brown, is “certifiable under the guidelines of the National Organic Program” (NOP).

But that’s just because the NOP is dragging its feet. Read Full Article »

Abundance Doesn’t Mean Health

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The New York Times
by Mark Bittman

grocery-store-pick-upThe relatively new notion that around a third or more of the world’s population is badly (“mal”) nourished conflates hunger and diet-spawned illnesses like diabetes, both of which are preventable.

Both result from a lack of access to quality food, which in turn can result from a lack of money. No one with money starves, and the obesity-diabetes epidemic afflicts predominantly people on the low end of the income scale. With money comes good food, food that creates health and not “illth,” to use John Ruskin’s word. With a lack of money comes either not enough food or so-called empty calories, calories that put on pounds but do not nourish. Read Full Article »

Crop Flops: GMOs Lead Ag Down the Wrong Path

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

by Tom Philpott

Before I respond to Nathanael Johnson’s assertion that the “stakes are so low” in the debate over GMOs, I want to address a smaller point. “The debate isn’t about actual genetically modified organisms — if it was we’d be debating the individual plants, not GMOs as a whole,” Johnson writes.

crop_dusterThat’s a good place to start: actually existing GMOs. What traits are on the market today, in use by farmers? First, I’ll note that there’s no shortage of land devoted to GMOs. Since the novel seeds hit the market in 1996, global GM crop acreage has expanded dramatically, reaching 420 million acres by 2012, reports the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. That’s a combined landmass more than four times larger than California. The pro-GMO ISAAA hails this expansion as “fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture.”

Yet, for all of that land devoted to GMOs, there are just two traits in wide use: herbicide resistance and pest resistance (Bt). Note, in the below ISAAA chart, the “<1″ at the bottom. That represents the percentage of all global GMO acres planted in crops that aren’t either herbicide- or pesticide-tolerant: that is to say, less than 1 percent. Read Full Article »

Action Needed NOW on Organic Certification Cost Share in the Farm Bill

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

National Organic Coalition

US_Capitol_DomeNational Organic Certification Cost Share (NOCCS) is a top item for Farm Bill Conference.   The House Bill repeals Certification Cost Share and the Senate Bill fully funds the program.

If you live or work in any of the States/Districts listed below, please call your conference member (see below)
and ask them to:

“Support the National Organic Certification Cost Share program”

Find the Fact Sheet HERE for more information about the NOCCS .

The organic community is united in support of the organic certification cost share Program.  During the past year, certification cost share has been unavailable to organic handlers in all states and organic farmers in 34 states, because the National Organic Certification Cost Share Program (NOCCSP) has been suspended.

The time is now for the House and Senate to restore this funding
in the 2014 Farm Bill.

Organic Certification Cost Share Helps: Read Full Article »

The F.D.A.’s Not-Really-Such-Good-News

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

New York Times
By Mark Bittman

NRCSAZ02094_feedlotThat “good” news you may have read last week about the Food and Drug Administration’s curbing antibiotics in animal feed may not be so good after all. In fact, it appears that the F.D.A. has once again refused to do all it could to protect public health.

For those who missed it, the agency requested (and “requested” is the right word) that the pharmaceutical industry make a labeling change that, the F.D.A. says, will reduce the routine use of antibiotics in animal production. I’d happily be proven wrong, but I don’t think it will. Rather, I think we’re looking at an industry-friendly response to the public health emergency of diseases caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, resistance that is bred in industrially raised animals.

You may know that around 80 percent of antibiotics in the United States are given (fed, mostly) to animals. Why? Because the terrible conditions in which most of our animals are grown foster illness; give them antibiotics and illness is less likely. There is also a belief that “subtherapeutic” doses of antibiotics help animals grow faster. So most “farmers” who raise animals by the tens or hundreds of thousands find it easier to feed them antibiotics than to raise them in ways that allow antibiotics to be reserved for actual illness. (And yes, there are alternatives, even in industrial settings. Denmark raises as many hogs as Iowa and does it with far fewer antibiotics.) Read Full Article »