Is The Organic Movement a Democracy?

shutterstock_283999568It has been an interesting few months. The national election hasn’t been the only campaign I’ve been engaged in. Seems that when I ask questions that aren’t perfectly in accord with the views of others, a cascade of misinformation is scattered about the internet. I ask you to consider the idea of an organic Democracy where free speech can create vigorous healthy dialogue.

When I write, I write for the entire community, not just one side. Sometimes I reiterate concerns or points of view that others have expressed. The vision of my blog is to stimulate dialogue and to bring forth the issues of the day so they can be discussed and carefully weighed.

In a recent blog, I posed questions that have been asked by organic seed breeders and other informed stakeholders. The concern they have voiced is that the NOSB may ban some seed breeding methods before we can understand their possible benefits and risks. If you take a moment to carefully read the Organic Matters blog post, you’ll note that I state that these GMO technologies “need more investigation and discussion,” that they “must be explored and challenged” and that “they do not belong in organic production.”

Yet the headlines declared:

“Now Gene Editing Techniques are Being Promoted to be Included in Organic Standards by OTA / UNFI” 

“OTA board member and UNFI lobbyist Melody Meyer wrote about allowing “gene editing” – a new form of genetic engineering – into organic standards – a clear sign that the OTA and the corporate paymasters at UNFI want to include these new techniques over the objections of virtually all organic farmers and consumers.”

Asking questions is not an indication of support. Sometimes difficult conversations need to be had, and it is because of public suppression that many in our community are afraid to speak up.

I hope the organic community can become comfortable with individuals initiating these complex conversations in the future.

Here is what you need to know regarding the latest kerfuffle:

  • UNFI is unequivocally opposed to GMOs in organic, and we are not advocating for new gene-editing or any other GMO technologies to be allowed in organic.
  • We interpret the organic regulations to prohibit gene editing as an excluded method.
  • Most of these new techniques are not in the NOP regulations definition which is creating uncertainty and discussion in the organic business community.
  • The work of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is important, and our comments to the NOSB must be focused on getting clarification to remove the uncertainty in the marketplace.

After 40 years of working hard and serving the organic movement, I care deeply about organic. This is the very reason I am willing to be the one who serves forth some of the most difficult subjects.

Elaborating on a point of view should not automatically make the author a turncoat, or one who embraces that specific point of view. A thoughtful author only intends to stimulate stakeholders to weigh the opportunities and risks so that the right outcomes are achieved.

Once again, dear reader, I ask you tough questions:

What kind of movement do we have if no one can bring forward controversial subjects?

Do we tolerate an environment where differing voices are censored??

Would the organic community be better served by ceasing the internal firing and instead take aim at conventional toxic-laden agriculture?

Should we as a community agree to sometimes disagree and work towards a solution?

How do we move forward as a democratic movement that includes free speech, innovation and sometimes dissenting voices?

Putting those questions aside I pledge to you – I will not be dissuaded from unearthing thorny topics. I will not cease to give voice to those who are afraid to be heard. I promise to always serve the organic community with all its intricacies and foibles.

What burning questions do you have about organic food and farming that you want to explore? Let’s lean in together and make this a safe place for civic discourse.

Speak up

If You Care About Organic, Show up for Organic

GrassrootsOnce again I find myself in the air racking up miles and enjoying the white cotton-ball clouds festooning my flight path. I cross the continent yet again to have meetings and presentations at Expo East. While my body is hurtling towards the delectable food, illuminating conferences and critical connections to come, my thoughts are set on the future of organic and the NOSB meetings in November. I want to make sure everyone who cares about organic shows up for organic in a meaningful way. Continue reading

Ruminations on Seeds and Weeds… The Battle in our Fields

Indigenous Seeds

Down on the farm, there is simultaneously an explosion of super weeds and a decline of seeds, a waxing and a waning, the yin and yang of Big Ag. These concurrent phenomena are (not coincidentally) caused by the same companies who are striving to control and harness agriculture. They hope to force every last bushel of productivity out of every single acre, achieving yields well beyond those imagined even a few years ago.
Continue reading