Dear Organic Community: We need to be better and act broader if we want to stay relevant and valued.

Created on 2021-10-15 23:24

Published on 2021-10-16 00:18

My comments to the National Organic Standards Board this week:

Our company now operates over 160 health food stores across 20 states west of the Mississippi. We only sell organic produce, and our stores are all certified as organic handlers. We focus on serving nutrition deserts, where people in need of special dietary support and counseling have few options when confronted with the Dollar Store, Wal-Mart, or the conventional supermarket.

Today I want to do a check in with you and our shoppers, who are core buyers of organic products. How do shoppers currently understand organic practices and the USDA organic seal?

Here are three reminders.

FIRST, Organic production systems are a personal health and public health imperative.

The soil biome and the gut biome are one and the same. We can’t conceive, have healthy babies or ensure thriving new generations unless we remove toxic contaminants, including pharmaceutical residues, synthetic materials, and pesticides, from our air, water, soil and food.

 SECOND What we now refer to as “Organic” production systems are most valued by shoppers when they are just, equitable, and inclusive.

The value of organically grown food depends on upholding and communicating true social cost accounting. Lowering costs by avoiding social standards will kill the seal.

THIRD What we call organic production systems are an ancient indigenous practice.

It’s is not owned by anyone and never depended on government sanction and oversight — until larger scale production and trading forced its codification. It has always been inseparable from each community’s culture and was thus conceived as a mutual beneficial exchange of effort and resources that could endure forever.

And yet, we have boxed ourselves into an organic standard that circumvents the discussion of public health, stumbles and fumbles through frameworks of inclusiveness and justice, and to this day often acts as if it has been ordained to evangelize organic practices to the very communities who most fervently developed and protected them long before the Organic Foods Protection Act was passed in 1990. Consider many of the debates over materials and practices during this meeting. I can assure you they sound parochial and self-serving to the average shopper, who must decide whether to buy organic food and how much to pay for it.

Let’s not forget this consumer context. We need to be better and act broader if we want to stay relevant and valued.

Thank you.

#agriculture #publichealth #nutrition #BIPOC #indigenous #Food #organic #NOSB #USDA #regenerative #ecology #soil #soilhealth

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