Here they go again. Congress is once again considering “fast track” approval of the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Fast track means no public hearings, no floor debate, no amendments — no civic engagement whatsoever.
The stakes are high. The TPP would be the largest trade deal in history, covering 792 million people and about 40% of the world’s economy. If fast track is approved, rules affecting food and farming — among many other sectors — will be negotiated completely behind closed doors.
When more than 3,000 sustainable and organic farmers get together in one place, amazing things can happen.
I spent last weekend at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service conference — aka MOSES. From its quiet beginnings in 1990, the MOSES event has grown into the largest organic farming conference in the country. The annual gathering in La Crosse, Wisconsin has become a mainstay of Midwest sustainable ag innovation, skill-sharing and community-building.
Organic farmers who use agroecological practices build healthy soil, conserve water, protect pollinators and keep the air and water clear of harmful pesticides. We owe them thanks for this. They also produce bountiful crops.
Yesterday, these hard-working farmers received an important boost of recognition from the scientific community with the release of findings from a major new study comparing the productivity of organic and conventional farming.
Food safety matters to us all, and we all play a role in keeping food safe — from farm to fork. With the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalizing new food safety rules, it's critical for farmers and eaters alike to speak up and ensure the agency gets these rules right.
As our friends from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) point out, provisions in the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) — if done wrong — run the risk of "putting farmers out of business, limiting consumer choice, and increasing the use of chemicals rather than natural fertilizers."
Before we move fully into the busy end-of-year season, it seems useful to take a moment to step back, take a breath and take stock of where we landed after the mid-term elections. Some surprisingly heartening lessons emerge.
We're all familiar with the high-level analysis by now — the very big impact of big money, ascension of climate-deniers to Senate leadership, polarization of politics, etc. But as you dig a bit deeper, a more optimistic picture comes into focus. From community pushback of corporate control to a rekindled conversation about national food policy, some very real, very hopeful shifts are in motion.
At my Thanksgiving meal with family and friends, we’ll be talking about what we’re thankful for. I'm very thankful to live in the resource-rich state of California, the topmost producer of fruits and vegetables in the country. And I'm thankful for the hard, often dangerous work that thousands of farmworkers do across the state to help bring nature’s bounty to our table.
I'm also thankful for the growing awareness that food choices matter. People in California — and across the country — are beginning to see that choosing food grown without chemical pesticides is not only healthier for their own families, but can help protect the health of farmers and farmworkers, families in rural communities and children everywhere. This is real and exciting progress.
Today is World Food Day and around the world communities are taking a stand against hunger. But the solutions put forward differ dramatically depending on what one understands the “food problem” to be. For many, every day is World Food Day and presents both the necessity and opportunity to fight for farm and food justice; for them it is a matter of integrity and survival.
Walking past the ancient Roman Coliseum on my way to the recent International Symposium on Agroecology, the surprising twists of history were on my mind. Even a few years ago, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization — host of the symposium — would never have organized such a meeting. “Agroecology” was considered far too radical and dangerous a concept to many in FAO who had dedicated long careers to exporting the chemical-intensive “Green Revolution” model of agriculture around the world.
Yet there I was, along with 400 other scientists, agri-food system researchers, farmers and social movement leaders, commencing an intensive two-day exchange of agroecological knowledge, science and practice in the heart of Rome.
One morning a few weeks ago, I received an email from the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC), announcing the makeup of a provisional committee of experts that has been tasked with carrying out a comprehensive new study of GE crops. This study is supposed to assess the history of GE crops around the world, the diverse experiences of farmers in different countries and a wide range of “purported” negative and positive impacts of GE seeds and their associated technologies (for example, pesticides).
Done right, this could be an illuminating investigation, right? But as I looked over the bios provided on NRC’s webpage, I quickly realized that the Council appears to have a pretty poor idea of how to carry out such a challenging, complex and multi-faceted study. In fact, this week 67 scientists and researchers publicly rebuked the NRC for failing, right at the outset, to put together a slate of experts equipped for the task (full letter here).