Is there safety in numbers?
There is safety in numbers. As human being we naturally feel more secure if there are other people doing what we are doing, it leads us to think our behaviour is ok. If you ever smoked you will know what I mean; because we were all doing it, it was ok.
“The wisdom of crowds is matched by the madness of mobs”
As an organic producer/consumer it is easy to feel you are going against the grain. We are producing food in one way, while 99% of the world is producing it in another way and when times are tough you ask yourself, am I crazy? Does this make sense?
So have we as organic producers got it wrong?
Detractors say “organic farming cannot feed the world”. Why then if the global conventional food production system is so efficient are 795 million people living without enough food? Is conventional farming feeding the world or is the system of production so uneven that even though there is enough food, those starving are not getting access to it. What would one climatic shock do to our global food production system?
In 2010-11, a heat wave in Russia led to the country's worst drought in 40 years decimating the grain harvest and leading indirectly, to food riots in North African countries as prices of bread rose rapidly.
Encouraging small scale local production of food in countries torn apart by famine and hunger works, and is infinitely more sustainable than relying on mass produced cheap imports.
If you truly believe in ethical and sustainable food production you can feel like “one insane voice in a sane world”
But passionate and biased advocates aside, the facts for organic farming if you look a little deeper do stack up.
It is possible to extract more food per acre from intensive organic production than from large scale conventional monoculture. Organic farming produces more nutritionally dense food (see latest research from Newcastle University). Then there are all the other benefits, absence of the use of chemicals, protection of biodiversity. But often overlooked and maybe the most important aspect of organic agriculture is the protection of the soil. Have a look at this little video on what we are doing to protect the soil on our farm.
Our whole way of life is dependent on this valuable and finite resource that allows us to produce food. Is it not relevant then, that the way the soil is treated has everything to do with the quality of the food and the sustainability of our food production? The great American dustbowl of the 1940’s is a testament to what happens when production is driven without consideration for the producer and the production medium.
In conventional agriculture we see chemicals being used that are leading to the destruction of global bee populations (neonicotinoids). We see carcinogenic chemicals being applied to food prior to harvest (roundup).
Fundamentally a conventional production system has been developed that forces farmers to produce at ever increasing intensities. A sales system has been engineered that devalues fresh healthy produce, and champions cheap processed food. It is a system that profits immensely from the use of chemicals; it is a system that controls more of our food chain now than ever before. This is industrial food production. Huge portions of our seed bank are owned by large corporations, they have patented rights to GMO crops and are controlling farmers growing habits and locking them into contracts.
Why should migrant Africans be paid very little and abused to produce cheap food for rich westerns? What right do we have to eat at the expense of others? We need to advert our eyes from such truths to feel good about what we eat.
The end result is large profit for a few, sold on the premise of cheap food for the masses. The caveat is you get what you pay for; cheap food can only be cheap for a very good reason.
Organic production is a system, a well regulated and managed system. As an organic farmer, I believe deep down in a way of producing food that is not reliant on chemicals, and is fundamentally respectful of all involved in the food production process, from the tiny flea beetle to our great team of people to you as the consumer.
Organic production is for me and for us at Green Earth Organics more than the absence of chemicals in growing the food it is about a whole system based on respect.
The world isn’t perfect, it takes time and more importantly will and discipline to change. Can we be the change we want to see in the world?
Here’s to ethical and sustainable eating.