La Vida Locavore on GM alfalfa spat
by: Jill Richardson
Thu Feb 03, 2011
| A week or so ago, I wrote about the USDA's recent (but now obsolete) call for coexistence between farmers growing GE, non-GE, and organic crops. This referred to GE alfalfa, and since then the USDA decided to fully deregulate GE alfalfa, tossing aside any previous calls for coexistence. Since then, two major things have happened. One is an outpouring of anger and a desire for activism from the organic community. The other one is a spat between Organic Consumers Association (an organization with which I am affiliated) and "Big Organic" interests - Whole Foods Market (WFM), Organic Trade Association (OTA), Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm. |
It's rare that I'm ever questioned about my affiliation with OCA, but suddenly a few people have come to me asking what's going on. And, so far as I can see it, the "Big Organic" folks named above took a calculated risk, acquiescing to the USDA's call for coexistence, while OCA said "hell no" and then called out the "Big Organic" folks for selling out. (OCA is a lot of things, but subtle is not one of them.) To my mind, this inter-organic fight is now obsolete, as all of us lost. But there are people and egos and tempers within our movement, and of course those who have been offended or publicly called out are not ready to be done with it... and the temptation of juicy gossip has people interested, even if this argument is nothing more than last week's news.
The larger issue of coexistence comes down to a line I hear from the industrial ag industry ALL THE TIME. They say (this is paraphrased) "We need all kinds of agriculture. We can have organic, but we need production [i.e. industrial] agriculture too. We need everybody." They take that a step further asking, "If I'm not telling the organic folks to quit farming organically, then why should they tell me not to farm the way I farm? We need both of us! You shouldn't have a small minority of people telling the other 95% what to do!"
Got that? If someone is treating their animals well, producing healthy food, building up their topsoil, and sequestering carbon, then the industrial ag folks won't tell them not too. So then why should we tell them to quit polluting the groundwater, wasting oil, treating animals and employees cruelly, contributing to the climate crisis, and producing unhealthy food? Come on, live and let live!
That is, of course, ridiculous, but that's what this idea of coexistence comes down to. And hopefully I do not have to explain why it's a BS idea. The predominant version of farming practiced in the U.S. harms the things we all share - the land, the water, the air, the climate and our continued ability to live on earth, and biodiversity. And the way workers and animals are treated is often criminal. THAT is why those of us who want change have a right to call for change. (Note: I am NOT accusing all large or non-organic farms of doing every one of these things. But if you are doing the right thing already, then you have nothing to worry about by the sustainable food movement's calls for reform.)
You wouldn't say "You don't like molesting children, and I do like molesting children, so live and let live. You do your thing and I'll do mine." Or "I don't like robbing banks, and you do like robbing banks, so live and let live. I will work for my money and you can steal yours from the nearest bank." So why would we take the same attitude about wrecking the planet and exploiting workers?