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Joel Salatin: Communicating Ecological Eating

This article first appeared in the February 2016 issue of Acres U.S.A.

Six Key Messages for Consumer Outreach


by Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin believes ecological farmers must constantly teach consumers ecological eating.As farmers, we enjoy conversations about soil, water, animal husbandry, horticulture and every other kind of production nuance. That’s as it should be. But all of this production is meaningless without someone to use it.

Obviously the industrial food system has a lot of users. Whether those users are lazy, ignorant, evil or just plain unconscious is anybody’s guess. But if we’re ever going to get ecological farming more widely practiced, we obviously need more ecological eaters.

How do we move ecological farming forward fastest? Is it by converting farmers, or converting people who buy our stuff? Certainly both need attention, but I’ll submit that we don’t put enough responsibility on customers. While we farmers shoulder the brunt of accusations regarding depleted soils, tasteless food, animal abuse and pathogen-laden fare, by and large consumers escape with excuses. Continue Reading →

Interview: Scientist, Author, Activist Vandana Shiva Leads Movement to Restore Sovereignty to Farmers

Acres U.S.A. is North America’s monthly magazine of ecological agriculture. Each month we conduct an in-depth interview with a thought leader. The following interview appeared in our January 2016 issue and was too important not to share widely.

Vandana ShivaAmericans who visit India often come back more or less overwhelmed by its vast size and complexity, and if they are not stunned into silence they are at least much less willing to engage in generalities. Timeless beauty, explosive economic growth, persistent poverty and about a billion people all make for an intense experience if you’re used to the predictable movements of cars and shoppers. One thing that does emerge from the ancient nation’s recent history, though, is the way societies that seem chaotic and disorganized to outsiders actually offer opportunities for their citizens who are willing to act with boldness, imagination and fierce resolve. Gandhi was one such actor, and Vandana Shiva may well be another. Increasingly well-known here as an author and lecturer, her popularity makes her a pain in the neck to proponents of industrial agriculture. (Corporate ag apologist Michael Specter recently honored her with an attack in The New Yorker.) It’s a whole other story back in India, however — there Shiva is a force for change not only among the commentariat but also on the ground. She agitates for legislation and political change at one end of society while leading a movement to empower farmers at the other. Shiva is that rarity in modern life, an intellectual who sees possibilities for action in the world outside her study and moves to set them in motion, working with fellow sojourners to build and sustain a counterforce opposing the corporate status quo over the long haul. On a recent trip to California, Shiva spoke with Acres U.S.A., covering an amazing amount of ground. Readers who need a little context are advised to consult Wikipedia on the Bhopal disaster — a 9/11-scale tragedy linked to agricultural chemicals — in particular and modern Indian history in general.

Vandan Shiva interviewed in Acres U.S.A. magazine

Read the interview here (PDF).

Opinion: Growing Doubt on Genetic Engineering, GMOs

by Jonathan R. Latham, Ph.D.

By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my Ph.D. Into these plants we were putting DNA from various foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria.

I was not, at the outset, concerned about the possible effects of GM plants on human health or the environment. One reason for this lack of concern was that I was still a very young scientist, feeling my way in the complex world of biology and of scientific research. Another reason was that we hardly imagined that GMOs like ours would be grown or eaten. So far as I was concerned, all GMOs were for research purposes only. Gradually, however, it became clear that certain companies thought differently. Some of my older colleagues shared their skepticism with me that commercial interests were running far ahead of scientific knowledge. I listened carefully, and I didn’t disagree. Today, more than 20 years later, GMO crops, especially soybeans, corn, papaya, canola and cotton, are commercially grown in numerous parts of the world. Continue Reading →

Got Allergies? Question GMOs.

Got allergies? Question GMOs.

On the eve of the Federal government shutting the door on ever labeling foods made with genetically modified materials, it’s important to restate the science which shows problems with this grandest-ever of experiments with our health.

The engineering of genetic material is not the surgical process we are led to believe. Genetic code is carried in on the backs of metals, viruses and bacterium causing “genetic debris” to exist. The body reacts to foreign material with an immune response. Rampant, chronic inflammation and inflammatory diseases are more prevalent than ever.

We won’t reiterate every fact, but urge readers to check out some of the informative links following this message. The precautionary principle is a bedrock of public health policy. The uninformed legislators voting on a bill they do not understand, the corporate puppets cashing paychecks to promote the death of transparency and disclosure, and the self-serving makers of this experimental technology all should be ashamed. But alas, shame is a rare commodity in this era of the self-serving lout.

http://responsibletechnology.org/gmo-education/health-risks/

http://www.biointegrity.org/

http://gmoinside.org/faqs/

 

View from the Country: “Borrowing Dulls the Edge of Husbandry”

acres-usa-manBen Franklin, a favorite founder around this office as he was a writer, a publisher and a printer, is often quoted as saying “neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

He did speak this wisdom, but didn’t coin the phrase. He was quoting Shakespeare who wrote these words as fatherly advice dispensed in Hamlet. The full quote is, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”

We were digging around the quote bin because the thought came to us of another major divide — between the goals and actions of modern eco-agriculture and what has become conventional farming. Eco-farming seeks to remain debt-free, giving back to the soil what it consumes, or more, and not foisting hazardous wastes onto others. Continue Reading →

Organic Agriculture Continues to Garner Validation

usda-organic-seal

There are many ways to measure the progress of organic agriculture. We can tally the number of farmers who adopt organic practices, the acreage, crops and livestock they steward or the value of their sales. These numbers matter but by themselves are one dimensional and can’t convey the transformative effect which organic agriculture has over life and landscape. Taking a fuller measure of organic agriculture requires the comprehensive investigation and analysis we call scientific research — establishing what we know, hypothesizing about what we don’t and working assiduously to shorten the distance between the two.

Thankfully, organic agriculture has transcended the second class status to which it was once relegated and become a vital focus of research on land grant campuses and agricultural experiment stations nationwide. The early fruits of this evolution are evident in a new publication entitled Organic Agriculture in Wisconsin: 2014 UW-Madison Research Report. The University’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, which has promoted multiple forms of eco-agriculture for 25 years, and the similarly supportive Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade and Consumer Protection jointly drafted the report.

What I find especially exciting about the report is its confirmation that the emergent organic research in Wisconsin is consistent with the closed system and renewable resource foundation of organic agriculture itself. Organic agriculture cannot be achieved through an input substitution approach which simultaneously embraces organic certification’s disregard for energy requirements, scale of production and proximity to markets. True organic agriculture must be decentralized, functional at the family farm scale and driven by renewable resources, especially solar energy. By focusing on locally adapted seed varieties, rotational grazing and other practices which optimize pasture and season extension through high tunnel systems and multi-cropping, the research in Wisconsin is reducing farmers’ dependence on non-renewable inputs and contributing to regional food systems. Continue Reading →