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Reader clarifies organic profile, says industry growing stronger

It's ironic that editor Harry Cline wrote a commentary bashing organic agriculture just days after CCOF agreed to begin advertising in your fine publication.

We had second thoughts about advertising but decided we should continue to do so since it's obvious, based on Mr. Cline's commentary, that your readers need further education about organic. I'm offended by Mr. Cline's reference to the “earth muffin organic crowd,” of which I guess I'm a member.

Funny, but I thought I was an upper-income, home-owning, working professional baby-boomer from a dual-income family. Calling me names because of what I choose to buy is like damning someone based on what they wear. Childish, isn't it?

Mr. Cline goes on to say, “Don't cry over what you created with your half-truths.” I always tell the truth about organic and explain that the organic label is a production term. We know we can't claim health benefits, but we have no control over what consumers may believe or what certain scientific studies may prove.

Most people with common sense acknowledge that it's healthier not to ingest the chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in non-organic agriculture. In fact, I've heard stories of how non-organic farmers come to that realization and switch to organic farming for the safety of their families, their farm workers and their customers.

Mr. Cline proceeds to chide the organic industry because “…it still represents only about 2 percent of the U.S. food supply.” I challenge you to name any other industry that has grown by 20 percent annually for the last 15 years.

Clearly, organic is going strong with no end in sight. Consumers are making their wishes known with the money they spend at the grocery store and farmers market.

Mr. Cline then proceeds to whine about wine (no pun intended) produced with organic grapes but not processed organically, and cotton that is grown organically but then processed with non-organic chemicals to produce textiles. He seems to have the “all or none” mentality.

Doesn't it make sense that farming with organic inputs is safer for the environment, regardless of what's done with the crop after harvest? Of course, we at CCOF would like to see those organically grown products used in organically, rather than non-organically, processed products.

However, the fact that the end product isn't labeled organic doesn't negate the fact that the ingredients were grown organically, reducing the amount of chemicals released into the environment. Even small steps in organic production can make a big impact.

Mr. Cline ends his rant with, “To put organics in perspective, organics will never feed the world. Organics will never be more than a niche in commercial agriculture, and then only if it turns a profit.”

Remember, just about all agriculture was organic prior to the 1940s when the government urged farmers to use stockpiles of leftover World War II chemicals. Organics did a good job of feeding the world then, and I believe it can now feed the world more efficiently and effectively than non-organic crops. And, organic producers do turn a profit; otherwise, they would get out.

Now, if we could just get past those old stick-in-the-mud people who can't see the benefits in new ways of doing old work.

Peggy Miars,
CCOF Executive Director

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