I had a hard time deciding what to say in my editor’s note this time around. with the issue focus on food rights, I felt a rant coming on. Why? Food is a topic I love. In fact, I originally began working for LILIPOH as the editor of the biodynamic gardening section of the magazine. I have been a food activist since my early 20s, moving to the land and starting market gardens in Hawaii, and later, settling in to develop a farm in Kentucky where I lived with my family for over 21 years. Now based on Whidbey Island, WA, we participate in a 20-family community garden in the small town where we live. My husband is also launching a market garden inside the city limits. But, after all of these years, here we are, still fighting for our right to ensure access to seeds and food crops grown without the influence of multinational corporations. Most farmers are not able to earn a living wage, and one food dollar can buy 1200 calories worth of potato chips, but only 250 calories worth of broccoli. We are still signing petitions, attending conferences, writing to legislatures, and educating ourselves and others.
At times, making headway feels like listening to a broken record, but it’s clear that our work is not done. Farmers are being arrested for selling raw milk. Visit the blog at www.biodynamics.com to learn about Canadian farmer Michael Schmidt’s arrest, trial and continued effort to sell raw milk to his customers. Cow share owners of cows at the Zinniker family farm also lost a court battle for the right to consume raw milk from the cows they own when Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler ruled that, “no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice.”
In February, a court case was brought by the organic Seed Growers and Trade Association as an attempt to protect organic farmers whose seeds are cross-contaminated by genetically modified seeds owned by Monsanto. The case represented over 300,000 consumers, farmers and farm-based organizations, and was overturned in a federal court ruling when the judge sided with Monsanto. Not only does the genetic contamination ruin small farmers’ opportunities for organic marketing, it also makes them vulnerable to lawsuits filed by Monsanto for patent infringement, as has been the case with many farmers so far.
Despite all of these setbacks, enthusiasm for sustainable agriculture is growing. Consumers continue to speak out. Farmers by their nature are populist, independent, and perhaps anti-establishment. They take risks and are some of the few professionals whose end product is subject to influence by conditions beyond their control, such as insects, rainfall, temperature, wind and soil conditions—braving climate change and a seemingly impossible economic bottom line. If farmers were to earn $20 per hour, plus benefits, one can only imagine what he or she would need to charge for a head of lettuce. However, many research papers show that small- to mid-scale organic farming is the most productive and sustainable farming method. A landmark document on the topic was published last year by the united nations. The report, titled “Agroecology and the Right to Food” states, “today’s scientific evidence demonstrates that agroecological methods out perform the use of chemical fertilizers in boosting food production where the hungry live—especially in unfavorable environments.” The report went on to say that small-scale farmers could double food production in the next 10 years using sustainable farming methods. (www.srfood.org—file this resource so you can have it handy the next time someone tells you small-scale, organic agriculture cannot feed the world.)
One of our authors, Vandana Shiva, also continues to be optimistic about the future of small farms. In a recent interview, she commented on why she continues to work for change, despite the continuing spread of GMOs and corporate opposition to sustainable farming. As a quantum physicist, her response came out of what she learned from studying quantum theory, and is especially relevant to those of us concerned with consciousnesses studies: “The world is a world of interconnection, with both the natural world and the social world...everything is evolving and in potential, in transition, and it’s uncertain where it will be. And I think the reason I am such an optimist in the middle of terrible collapse, disaster everywhere, is because I know there is no linear guarantee that it is going to continue that way. if we do a little more, if we think a little differently, if we are more engaged as citizens with responsibility, we can take it to another place.”