Organic vs Conventional Farming and The Right to Food Labeling

Hot on the news this week is the Stanford study, which reportedly finds little evidence of health benefits from organic foods over conventional foods. This study is a wonderful example of the way both it and the media can twist information to rile up public opinion. The most important reason for choosing organic produce isn’t about nutrients. It’s about choice. It doesn’t matter whether a person chooses organic foods for psychological, ecological, philosophical, spiritual, or health reasons. The fact is that we all should have the right to choose whether to eat organically or conventionally or some combination of the two modes.

  The Stanford report will likely be used to justify not labeling foods GMO (Genetically Modified Organism). Because people refuse to buy GMO labeled food in Europe, the US agribusiness corporations have a vested interest in pouring  millions into their drive to prevent labeling of GMO foods here in the US.

 Organic farms do vary, depending on the quality of compost and amendments they add to their soil and seed choices. Conventional farms also vary, depending on how intensively they use chemicals, antibiotics, hormones, and GMO seed. There are many combinations and variations on the spectrum between organic and conventional. Farmer’s markets include many choices, but give us the advantage of talking with the farmers about their practices and exercising our right to choose. 

The Stanford report did show that germs from nonorganic meats had a 33% higher risk of being resistant to multiple antibiotics, clearly a health challenge. Also, Organic products had a 30% lower risk of containing pesticides. The testing periods for study subjects were from 2 weeks to 2 years (not exactly rigorous research.) While the report stated that researchers did not use any outside funding for the study, this report would go a long way toward preventing future research that justifies food labeling.

 Our university science departments currently receive tremendous sums for buildings and research from private agribusiness corporations with silencer strings attached to any research outcomes. The main string is the clause that says no report can be published without approval of whatever corporation is doing the funding. University researchers who want to study farming practices find themselves restricted to study only what supports Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, or some other corporate interest.

 Unfortunately, research discouraging food labeling coming from our land grant universities cites prohibitive costs in regulating food production practices. That is, costs for practices that have artfully proliferated when there was scant governmental support of research to prevent them in the first place. As far back as 1935, congress was alerted to the potential harm of long term additions of chemicals to the soil, and chose not to pursue the problem that has mushroomed out of control today. 

After years of watching common citizens rallying for their rights in other countries, US citizens are now regularly seen in the World News rallying for our rights. In California, following a well organized grassroots campaign, voters have put the choice for food labeling on their November ballot.

 What’s different about today is the realization that we are so interconnected with the rest of the world. We all have basic human rights that are being compromised and we have the responsibility to rally to put those rights in place.



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