Once a year the Organic Trade Association comes together in DC to lobby politicians for laws and policies that promote their interests. This year could not be more important with not only a new administration, but one who ran on an isolationist platform. The organic industry is relying heavily on imports from overseas.
So will the new administration work with industry to promote this agricultural sector? Special assistant to Trump, Ray Starling, told the trade group that the organic label “is a priority for us”.
The problem is that helping the organic industry is tantamount to diverting food away from the 99% and directly into the mouths of the 1%. The movement itself was even founded by a racist, something that should not be a surprise given its “purity” based marketing.
The founder of the American organic movement, J.I. Rodale, had this to say about African Americans:
“…..the Negro is a happy race. True, there is their problem of segregation, but the Negro race being what it is, I think a Negro sings just the same, and is not going to let segregation dampen his spirits as much as a similar problem would do to the white person.”
This quote doesn’t come from the 1800s, or even the 1950s, when a certain amount of racism is almost expected among historical figures. No, this was in 1970.
Writing for the Huffington Post, Freesia McKee, examines this racial and class divide occurring over food.
Foodie-ism and the narrow emphasis on eating organic/local/artisan food was not an act of protest or activism……
This restaurant gentrification shows that racist-classist power dynamics are at play. When we say the only entities that get people excited about sustainable food systems are the ones that attract 30-year-old bankers, we are just replicating the racism/classism our food systems already holds strong.
This problem goes beyond the United States. The reliance on importing organic food can have a significant impact on smallholder farmers in the countries doing the exporting, according to Professor Robert Paarlberg in Starved For Science.
At present nearly all certified organic production in Africa is destined for export, intended for consumers in Europe. Specialty crops such as avocados, coconuts, coffee, tea, fruits, and vegetables are grown organically in Africa, often on highly specialized industrial-scale farms near ports or airports to ensure quick transport to supermarkets in Europe (resembling earlier colonial trade patterns). Africa’s rural poor gain little from such activities; Africa’s smallholder farmers need to productively grow maize, yams, or cowpeas on their own farms, not avocados for somebody else.
Technology and progress in agriculture helped create so much productivity in the United States that not much more is possibly needed, but passing that fear of progress on to developing nations will be disastrous.
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