Wednesday, November 09, 2005

what's up with organics?

i try to buy organic dairy. it's widely available, and therefore requires no extra effort, only slightly more money. organic veggies are harder to come by, and organic meat, unless you're cooking for yourself, is pretty hard to procure. i feel strongly about eating organic, and yet my daily practice is less than stellar. it's similar to the distance between my attitude and my practice on the issue of vegetarianism. i have been known not to practice what i preach (along those lines: while waiting for my indian takeout tonight, i picked up a tatterred old issue of "real simple," april 2005 and read a great piece by jonathan safran foer about his ever-changing relationship to food, vegetarianism, and identity. it reminded me of my own feelings, and was beautifully written).

the usda recently passed some new guidelines on the definitions of what is technically to be considered organic, only to have it overturned immediately by the organic trade association. there's been lots of resulting buzz about organic food in the media lately, and i have felt the need to become more informed.

last weekend i attended a baum forum event called "what's up with organics?" i attended an earlier symposium of theirs, last winter, on susatinable agriculture. hilary baum routinely gathers those people who are at the heart of these issues and creates panels that, in their diversity, look at issue from many sides. she includes scientists, farmers, administrators, educators, and business people.

i learned an incredible amount this past weekend. rather than boring you with details i will give you a few highlights:

1. the pesticides found in conventional foods present "unknown health risks." whereas this is slightly more heartening than hearing that they are directly connected to cancer, the word "unknown" is scary to me. and just because something has not ben proven yet, does not mean that the results found someday will not be terrifyingly huge and profound.

2. if given the choice, buy organic valley instead of horizon. horizon, like many other organic brands, is owned by giant agribusiness company dean foods. organic valley is an independently owned farmers' coop.

3. along the same vein: boca is owned by kraft, odwalla is owned by coca cola, stonyfield by danone, kashi by morningstar, etc etc etc. this was a real eye-opener for me.

4. many farmers are angered by the usda's regualtion of organics, and are repelled by the notion that you could call something "organic" and still have 5% synthetics in it. as a result, some farmers have rejected the term organic entirely.

i could go on and on. and i plan to. not go on ranting to you, but go on educating myself, and furthering my commitments, and lessening the gap between what i believe and say, and what i do.

p.s. i bought a mac. and now the settings on here are all screwy. hence the cessation of uniform type, color, style etc.

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