Call it a perfect storm. Since the advent of organics in the marketplace in the mid-to-late 90’s, there has not been a confluence of events and media reports that has done more to challenge the industrial food paradigm than what we have seen in recent weeks. I was asked to speak on a panel of entrepreneurs this past week at a breakfast held in Seattle by my alma mater, University of Puget Sound, and these were a few of the stories I highlighted:
- Superweeds: A story from last Tuesday in The New York Times revealed what plant scientists and geneticists have known for years: spray enough Round-Up – the herbicide used on Monsanto’s Round-Up ready cotton, soybeans and corn – and pretty soon nature will develop Round-Up resistant strains of common weeds, known as Superweeds. Bigger and badder than the common weeds Round-Up was designed to kill, the new weeds are so strong and persistent that the only thing that can kill them is more toxic herbicides, and more applications of those herbicides. And what’s the logical extension of this treatment? You guessed it: another round of Superweeds and even greater dependence on fossil-fuel based herbicides.
- Deepwater Horizon tragedy: The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico, and the resultant environmental catastrophe, has all but ensured that off-shore drilling for oil in this country will be in slow decline over the next several decades as old wells dry up and government will be unwilling to issue new permits. The herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and other toxins relied upon by the industrial ag industry are all derived from fossil fuels. The bottom line is that organic is less dependent on oil; and as oil prices increase with ever-diminishing supplies, local (and renewable energy) will win out economically as well as environmentally.
- Mission: Readiness, Healthcare Overhaul and Food Revolution!: What does a group of retired, senior military officials, a British reality TV star and the largest piece of legislation this country has seen in a generation have in common? They’re all fighting for greater national health. The legislation prevents insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition (diabetes, heart disease); Jamie Oliver educates kids about nutrition in an effort to “save America’s cooking skills and improve school food,” while the retired generals are concerned about the relatively large percentage of our youth that would fail basic fitness tests necessary for military service and, thus, our national security is at risk (obesity).
- Cancer and Chemicals: The President’s Cancer Panel released a 200-page report last week that represents an acknowledgment by the medical establishment that chemicals found in our environment are causing cancer. They actually recommend eating organic food. “Only a few hundred of the more than 80,000 chemicals in use in the United States have been tested for safety,” the report says. (Really?!)
We seek validation everyday that what we are doing is worthwhile and that we are making the right choices. It’s good when the data that is out there is consistent with our beliefs. Together, we are making a difference.