Sustainable Agriculture Through Vegetarian Diet

Pg. 2 of 4: More Interesting Sort of Sustainable Examples

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4. Acres USA

The venerable eco-ag mag beats the sustainable ag drum hard, and is always a source of excellent info. Again, vegetarianism is almost never mentioned in Acres USA, although they do publish many articles about crop growing, soil modifications and so on.

In spite of their meat production bias, I read every issue from cover to cover. The following bit of editorial opinion comes from Chris Walters, Acres USA, January 2006:

Last fall the Organic Trade Association introduced a legislative rider, designed to reverse the Harvey v. Johanns decision regarding organic feed in organic animal agrculture.

Translation: 'this means that it will be all right to feed organic dairy cows transitional organic feed for all 12 months of the final conversion year (to organic production). Transitional feed may include growth hormones, GMO's, antibiotics, and so on. Big dairies will be able to raise heifers off the land and deposit them in their lots after 12 months.'

This is a disheartening and worrying bit of treachery, a body blow to hard won organic standards. However, once the public knows about this - it's hard to conceal the truth indefinitely - do you think people will trust the label USDA Certified Organic? I don't.

In the long term, this kind of dirty dealing is a boon to the growth of the vegetarian lifestyle. Because it impacts animal agriculture primarily, it will cause more people to become vegetarian, because it's safer, and farmers to turn to vegetarian food production, because it's easier.

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The meat bias that blinds all concerned is a blessing in disguise for vegetarianism, because nobody except the vegetarians takes it seriously. What they don't see is that vegetarian lifestyle is the fastest growing trend in the world right now, closely tied with the growth in acceptance of organic food.

The meat and poultry industry, the big industrial farmers, Monsanto, Cargill, etc. - they're mainly focused on meat production, and on raising crops to feed animals, and I have the impression that they don't recognize vegetarianism as a driving force behind organics, because of their strongly entrenched belief that meat is essential to life.

5. Also in this issue of Acres USA

Steve Sprinkel, in his column, Certified Organic Industry News, speaks on the same topic. Steve was a guest on the radio program, Beyond Organic, out of San Francisco, along with Katherine Di Matteo, the executive director of OTA, and Phil Margolis, a former president of OTA and current OTA board member who owns Neshaminy Valley Natural Foods.

Di Matteo and Margolis both claimed that the changes were necessary so that we could "see continued growth in acres farmed organically." Without the processing materials and substances that are disallowed in OFPA, there would "no longer be a growing demand for organic ingredients."

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What they mean is they're afraid that organic food would be far too expensive to produce if it were actually organic, so we have to discard organic standards, and just call it organic. Which means that the food in the grocery stores with the USDA Certified Organic label isn't organic.

Personally, I'm prepared to pay a premium for organic food - which I can trust is organic. And since this ruling, I can't trust that anything labeled organic is in fact organic.

The only foods that are still reasonably safe are the non-processed, whole vegetarian foods, especially those produced locally by people I know, whose farms I can visit.

6. Another article by John Ikerd

The New Food Culture: Good News for Small Farms is inspiring, especially when Ikerd gets into his holy-roller fire and brimstone preacher mode. He calls on us all to to abandon quick, cheap and convenient food - fast food, processed food, cheap food from the third world, and join the new food culture which goes for local, organic, sustainable food, and renews the social and ethical meaning of food.

However, not once does Professor Ikerd mention that the vegetarian movement is largely behind the enormous growth of organic food since the 60's.

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The people who are eating all the fast food are mostly non-vegetarian, and that our culture is obsessed with protein, specifically animal protein, and people consume many times more than they actually need, even those in the slow food movement, which Professor Ikerd endorses.

Nor is vegetarian diet once mentioned as a solution to the problem of quick, cheap and convenient food.

It isn't primarily factory farming of vegetables and beans and grains that has destroyed small farms, and the environment, and is turning the planet into a 3rd world country in the control of multinational corporations.

It's mainly industrial agricultural meat production that's doing it. If enough people go vegetarian, then many of these problems will disappear.

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