Organic for the Sake of Farm Workers

The Washington Post hosted an event entitled “The Future of Food” last week at Georgetown University. Speakers included all the big names in sustainable ag – Eric Schlosser (who just published an article defending “foodies” from calls of elitism), Wendell Berry, Marion Nestle, Vandana Shiva, and… the Prince of Wales?! (who knew? And fresh from his son’s wedding). I watched part of a panel that included Wes Jackson and some businessmen that felt a bit scattered. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition noted that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack stuck to his script when pressed on his organization’s decision to deregulate genetically engineered alfalfa earlier this year. I like this exchange:

Likening conventional agriculture and sustainable agriculture to two sons, Vilsack asserted that he loves both of his sons equally. “One of your sons is a bully,” Koons Garcia responded, noting that GE crops can contaminate non-GE crops, but that contamination is not a concern in the other direction.

Also check out Schlosser’s piece about how pesticides affect more than just consumers and the environment:

After I wrote this post, I called the Safeway customer service line to request that they stock organic bread in my local store (where there currently don’t carry any). The CSR was a friendly guy from Oklahoma who, coincidentally, grew up on a wheat farm. He didn’t know much about organic food though and I filled him in. He said his old farm didn’t use pesticides (there wasn’t much need to), but they did use petroleum-based fertilizer. It was an interesting conversation.

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