Recent changes to funding options for organic producers look likely to shake up the industry. The Organic and Regenerative Farming Investment Co-operative, a Victorian based funding concern is but one example of the possibly seismic shifts rippling through the Organic Sector.
To quote Sue Neales in the Australian:
A new model for funding organic farming is set to expand the boom sector, as wealthy local investors and superannuation funds move to grab a stake in the organic food industry and its meaty profits.
What are the implications? For producers, access to capital funds represents a chance to grow their business, to expand their marketing and to implement their plans.
How about the effect of all this growth on the organic ethos? To this observer, the point of the organic movement is its local-ness. Feeding people nearby, reducing food kilometres and removing transport costs, both dollars and carbon from the food chain. The Organic Sector is in danger of becoming the beast it set out to disrupt. A $10 million enterprise is not going to sustain its own weight by selling through local farmer’s markets. Certainly not into a city of 40,000 persons or less. The only answer is to join the global food system. Now that’s fine if that’s your business model.
Maintaining “Organic-ness” through long supply chains is difficult. World Organic News reported back in 2015 that in the North American context, organic grains contained almost as much glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup) as conventional grains. The problem appears to be the ubiquity of glyphosate in the environment. The longer the supply chain, the greater the possibility of contamination.
The nature of the transport system is that the same truck can be moving chemically laden grains one day and organic the next. The standards of cleaning required are not too well explained by organic certifiers. Similarly in a flour mill. Unless there is a dedicated organic production line then cross contamination is not just likely but inevitable. Indeed, unless the whole mill is organic there is the possibility of chemical transfer throughout the building.
I have been unable to find any studies on the “stickiness” of glyphosate on metal surfaces or any other surface for that matter. So we don’t know if the chemical reacts with materials and then contaminates whatever else passes over that surface. If we don’t test, we can’t know. To ensure organic “purity”dedicated harvesting implements, trucks, mills, processing facilities and probably other things too are required. That’s if the organic producer is going to join the industrial food system. There is a reason organic producers are often smallholders.
So, as consumers, what can we do? I think the suggestion by Michael Pollan: “avoid food products containing ingredients that are… …more than five in number.” would be a good place to start. Organic foods that have travelled any distance are likely to be used in processed products. That being the case they are no longer wholefoods. They suffer all the ill effects of other processed food but without the Roundup (possibly).
We must get to know our food producers, personally. Organic producers at farmer’s markets are always, in my experience, ready to talk about how they produce their food. They are, understandably, proud of their efforts and results.
Above all, I would ask you to at least think about from where your food is coming. It really is important, to you, to all of us and to the soils which support life on land.