Organically Grown

In a time not too long ago, using organic methods was the only option. With the industrial age and the following “Green revolution” of the 20th century, heavy petroleum dependency became common practice. Pesticides, herbicides and mechanized labor promised to end world hunger, to bring the developing world to par and to expand the small economies of the globe. Although initially successful in feeding more and boosting economy, the revolution has backlashed. Farmers who were subsidized by large businesses in order to purchase the infrastructure needed to farm tremendous areas of land now find themselves in a cycle of debt. In order to try and repay their growing debt, the farmers continue to practice mono cropping, or the growing of just one type of crop. With acres and acres of one species, vulnerability to disease and pests increases dramatically and when a crop failure does strike, the farmer is pushed further and further into debt. Mechanization of agriculture has also removed large amounts of labor from the fields, pushing out many who need the work for their families’ livelihood.

Organic food has become scarce in our society but is making a comeback.

Organic food has become scarce in our society but is making a comeback. Photo used by Fair Use.

Aside from the political and economic impacts, the environmental destruction caused by pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers is of an unbelievable scale. These chemicals, which end up in local waterways due to runoff caused by precipitation, ultimately enter and pollute the oceans via the water cycle. These chemicals can alter surrounding wildlife through hormonal disruption, poisoning or creating an uninhabitable environment. Often the chemicals used are toxic to all forms of life, humans included. Due to the lack of safety equipment, either from lack of funds, lack of education or commonly both, the farm workers and surrounding community are often harmed by the wide, unregulated use of toxins. Cancers, endocrine disruption and mutations are some of the more serious illnesses that can be caused by pesticide use.

However, there may still be hope! A new study by the Worldwatch Institute showed that global land farmed organically has increased more than threefold to a total of 37 million hectares. Currently, the areas with the most organically managed land include Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. Following suit are Europe and Latin America. The United States has, not surprisingly, been slow to convert conventional farmland to organic methods. Despite this, when comparing sales of organic products sold in the United States, the organic industry is one of the fastest growing with $31.5 billion in sales. The slow conversion could be due to the possible interest at stake. With many billion dollar international companies being heavily invested in conventional agriculture, both produce and livestock, there is much to lose. However, these companies know that a new wave is approaching and plan to ride it all the way to the bottom of our wallets. Many of the largest businesses in support of heavy development and petroleum usage are now offering organic brands to cash in on the best of both worlds. In fact, many of these corporations voted against Proposition 37 in California, which would have made it mandatory to label products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO and chemical usage often go hand in hand).

In the age of information, people are often coaxed to let business make our daily choices for them. People must arm themselves with the appropriate knowledge for it is all they can do. The coming revolution cannot be fought with violence and hate but must be peaceful and based on the power of the people. People are expected to believe everything they see and hear. Eat our brand to be healthy and young, try this product to be truly beautiful, wear this to have friends and love. Remove the curtains and view behind the scenes because only you can make the right choice!

 

– Dylan Ruckel

 

References:

http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/human.htm

http://www.enn.com/ecosystems/article/45468

Honeybees and Ice Cream

EC File Photo

EC File Photo

What does eating ice cream and a recent crisis involving a lack of honey bees have in common? A lot!

Many businesses may overlook their reliance on wildlife and nature to support production, marketing, and creation of consumer products.   It’s a little known fact that up to 80% of food in the US relies on pollination at some point in its life cycle, and that honey bees are directly responsible for the pollination of up to 30% of food crops.  Foods that are reliant upon honeybees range from alfalfa (used as feed for beef), oranges, grapes, almonds, blueberries, watermelon, squash, cherries, cucumbers, pears, peanuts, strawberries, ginger, hazelnuts, raspberries, mangoes, coconuts, peppermint,  and of course honey, just to name a few.  This free source of labor allows for cheaper prices and greater availability of all-natural food sources.

Over the past 3 years, nearly one-third of America’s once-thriving honey bee colonies have suddenly collapsed.  The phenomenon, named Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), is only just beginning to be understood by scientists, but its effects on businesses and consumers have been felt strongly.  It’s estimated that honey bees contribute $15 billion worth of value to U.S. farmers, and in their absence, these costs have been absorbed by consumers and producers resulting in lower production and higher prices of foods reliant on honey bee pollination.

One company that has taken a pro-active stance to this crisis is Häagen-Dazs, the gourmet and all natural ice cream producers from New York.  Häagen-Dazs has recognized their strong dependence on the free work of honey bees to provide large harvests of many of their main ingredients and spearheaded a campaign to educate and promote awareness on the issue.  They even launched a new flavor in honor of the honeybees, “Vanilla Honey Bee.”

In a worst case scenario, the honeybee population diminishes to the point to where businesses like Häagen-Dazs must resort to artificial pollination- a very expensive procedure- and the variety and abundance of naturally growing fruit and nut trees is significantly reduced.  Häagen-Dazs’s Brand Director, Katty Pien , said in February 2008 interview with CNN that she hopes scientists get a breakthough in the CCD mystery soon, or the company may be forced to reduce the varieties of flavors, or increase the retail prices of their ice cream products.  With the $20 million per year of funding from the US Department of Agriculture, and a growing recognition of honeybees’ hard work on behalf of businesses like Häagen-Dazs as well as from consumers, causes of CCD, hopefully, will be identified, and the honeybee population restored.  And the little known heroes of the business world will continue to bring us benefits.

-Elizabeth Stone

To learn more about this topic and to learn how you can help check out these links,

http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1843823,00.html

http://www.helpthehoneybees.com/#buzz

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1918282,00.html

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1552024-2,00.html

http://money.cnn.com/2008/02/17/news/companies/bees_icecream/index.htm?postversion=2008021712

http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/blogs/bees/almonds-55021301