Is oil-transported food "organic"?
by Jan Lundberg
Organic food is a growing multibillion dollar industry.
Anyone interested in health and good taste, as well as better environmental
practices, prefers organic to what some of us call "corporate schwag."
But upon looking closely under the hood of this industry,
should "organic" food classification be divided into perhaps
"petroleum-assisted" versus "sustainable"?
Organic sometimes means small, local farms and gardens.
It also means huge, distant agribusinessís production of monocrops that
meet the minimum definition of organic. Either way, organic food usually
involves a polluting component: oil-based transport.
Thereís nothing "organic" about petroleum
exhaust coming out of huge trucks, using CFCs in the refrigeration, rolling
down asphalt highways with "organic" food.
To complicate matters, the scientific term
"organic" is supposed to mean "containing molecular
carbon," so, gasoline is therefore "organic." But thatís
not what is at issue. Interestingly, todayís big-business organic food
industry deserves that original definition of petroleum carbon defining
organic. Or is the diesel-fueled delivery of chicken manure to an
"organic" farm not part of the unsustainable petroleum game?
Petroleum (natural gas and oil) is running out soon globally, and is feeding
an unsustainably large population of consumers. Petroleum use causes global
The Sustainable Energy Institute in Arcata, California,
therefore suggests that the misnomer "organic" be rejected in
favor of two groupings: (1) "petroleum-assisted," and for a term
that captures the intent of "organic," we suggest (2)
"sustainable." We are asking organic food associations and the
organic food community to consider these changes in terminology. Maybe
standards could be improved in other ways to arrive at purity for
sustainable food: double the time required for certification from three
years, since using pesticides and natural-gas derived fertilizers, to six.
This proposal for sustainable food may get nowhere
because of the massive amount of money being made, such as by General Mills
which owns Cascadian Farms Organic Foods. So, we know we have to petition
the government agencies to bring about a conversion to more truthful
nomenclature. We will start with the state of California, where it all began
and which has the most prevalent standard used for "organic" food
Pedal Power Produce, in Blue Lake, Humboldt County,
California, which utilizes bike-cart transport, earns the
"sustainable" classification. For the Pacific Northwest, Sail
Transport Network may reestablish renewable-energy based trade that may
include organic produce. Kayaks can at least distribute seed with their
limited space and slowness.
Does your "organic" food on your plate, or in your
petroleum-plastic container, bother you by not being