“The choices we make when we buy food are serious choices,” notes celebrity chef Alice Waters in the newly released book Fatal Harvest. “More and more people understand this. We all know that when people choose organic foods and avoid mass-produced and fast foods, they are voting for a sustainable future and against a network of supply and demand that destroys human health, local communities, traditional ways of life, and the environment.”
With that in mind, a smorgasbord of activist groups has launched the Organic and Beyond campaign to reestablish people’s relationship with nature, the farmer, and the land. Led by the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., the national and international campaign aims to convert food “consumers” into “creators” and help them understand that each action they take in deciding which foods to buy, grow, or eat creates a very different future for themselves and for the earth. Specifically, the campaign champions strong organic standards and promotes agriculture that is local, small-scale and family-operated, biologically diverse, humane, and socially just.
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Organic yields are about 20 percent smaller than those from conventional farms, but their ecological benefits more than make up for that, according to a twenty-one-year study by Swiss scientists published in Science magazine. The study, which compared organic and biodynamic farming with two conventional farming methods, found that the organic methods required 34 percent less fertilizer, 53 percent less energy, and 97 percent fewer pesticides. Overall, the organic farms used resources more efficiently and harbored a larger and more diverse community of organisms. “We conclude that organically manured, legume-based crop rotations utilizing organic fertilizers from the farm itself are a realistic alternative to conventional farming systems,” the scientists stated.
Another study, published in Food Additives and Contaminants Journal, found that organic fruits and vegetables contain one-third as many pesticide residues as conventionally grown produce. “This report shows rather convincingly and compellingly that organic foods are much less likely to have any residues; that when they have residues they have fewer, and that the levels of the residues are generally lower,” stated Edward Groth III, a senior scientist at Consumers Union and co-author of the report.