My opinions of ‘organic’ food are skeptical because I don’t believe there is always much good behind the label (see The Green Marketing Façade). Unfortunately, organic food has become a brand in itself, and has been separated from the ideals which inspired its inception. The industrial food machine has adopted organic and driven it to extremes that often contradict its purpose – to reduce environmental damage (see more here). However, the idea behind organic is still alive and kicking in sustainable, polyculture (mixed) farms, which typically don’t require pesticides and fertilisers, as they are self-regulating. This is exactly the kind of agriculture we need right now, on our over-exploited planet. My previous article was a warning against reading too far into buzzwords such as ‘green’, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’, but if they are accurate then they are certainly the right choice for consumers.
A more trustworthy and consistently environmentally friendly source of food is that which is locally produced. The likelihood of that produce coming from huge monocultures is much lower, the food miles clocked up will be drastically fewer and the reputation of the farm will hopefully ensure its sustainability and fair-treatment of its animals. Shouldn’t we all be eating food from farms with open doors, allowing their consumers to see exactly how they practise their trade?
Local, ‘alternative farms’ that grow seasonal produce in a sustainable manner are now filling the role that organic food tried to assume. This is where we must turn as consumers, forcing big, wasteful, industrial agriculture to clean up its act. Otherwise, we’ll continue exploiting and mass-producing until our planet burns up before our very eyes.
There’s no doubt our massive urban populations will continue to require gigantic quantities of food. But our current agricultural systems are vulnerable to collapse, and far too wasteful in light of our ever-diminishing planet. It is time for change.
For more on this topic I highly recommend ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ by Michael Pollen.