Why the Conventional Agriculture Industry Is Afraid of Organic Gardening

Patagonia  /  3 Min Read  /  Food

The industry in question is the agroindustrial genetically manipulated monocrop chemicalification conglomerate. It’s a mouthful, which is why folks in this business like to refer to themselves as representatives of “conventional agriculture,” companies like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Crop Protection. Let’s leave aside for a moment the fact that our friends in the agroindustrial complex have been hard at work redefining “conventional agriculture” to mean “requiring the extensive use of synthetically engineered petroleum-based fertilizers to biologically barren soils with the aim of promoting growth of genetically manipulated, non-replicating seed-like products, upon which vast quantities of industrially designed petroleum-derived biocides must be applied.” Instead, let’s focus for the time being on the news item at hand.

Not long ago, Michelle Obama announced that an organic garden would be planted on the White House property. The first of it’s kind in approx. 60 years, the garden was planted to feed the presidential family, but also serves a more symbolic purpose. It’s this purpose that has some folks “shuddering” in fear.

While some suggest the garden is a politically astute act in tough economic times (the President is required to pay for all food consumed in private meals, and a bountiful garden helps with grocery bills), its most important role, according to Mrs. Obama, “will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.” Children from local schools in the area have already helped Mrs. Obama till the soil, and plant some of the 55 varieties of organic vegetables that will soon be flourishing on America’s most well-known lawn.

This is pretty cool. I learned what conventional agriculture was when I was a kid, and compared to the model used by agribusiness, mine is pretty straightforward. My mom taught it to me, and it goes like this: Place seed in earth. Water, care-for, and be patient. It didn’t involve using anything with a big “KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN” label on it. From the sounds of it, this is the same lesson that Mrs. Obama will be teaching with the White House garden.

That such a garden became a reality is a victory for folks like Daniel Bowman Simon and Casey Gustowarow, founders of the White House Organic Farm project, and Michael Pollan, whose open letter to the next president to become a “Farmer in Chief” rallied food activists toward the symbolic significance of the Obama’s organic example. And it’s this potently positive symbolic role that has the Mid American CropLife Association (MACA) concerned. MACA represents, among others, the aforementioned agribusiness and chemical titans, companies who seem to have applied their considerable financial and political capital to the task of removing every possible opportunity for a human hands to touch the food upon which we rely.

To quote an e-mail recently passed around MACA circles: “The White House is planning to have an “organic” garden on the grounds to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the Obama’s and their guests.  While a garden is a great idea, the thought of it being organic made Janet Braun, CropLife Ambassador Coordinator and I shudder.  As a result, we sent a letter encouraging them to consider using crop protection products . . .” The e-mail, along with the complete aforementioned letter is available here, but the gist is this – MACA seems more than a little concerned about how their model of conventional agriculture will stand up to Mrs. Obama’s example.

One could argue that the MACA is asking Mrs. Obama not to show children how simple, easy, and CLEAN conventional agriculture can be. Maybe MACA is right. Maybe Mrs. Obama should plant another representative garden on the White House lawn – one that showcases all the glory of the modern agro industrial model, complete with two-story tall tractors, satellite controlled biocide applications, and one vast, uninterrupted spread of corn or soybeans. On second thought, for certain companies “crop protection” means keeping seed police on hand to prevent the spread of their copyrighted genes and arrest Mrs. Obama in the event those genes cross-pollinate to the organic garden. Plus, they’ll have a heck of a time finding the child-sized hazmat suits needed for quality time in the garden.

MACA encourages others who shudder at the thought of wholesome food, grown consciously, organically, and carefully in the presence of children to contact the White House with their own letters. I think they’re onto something. If you have a spare moment, consider dropping Mrs. Obama a line to let her know what you think of the example she’s setting for America, its health, and its children.

Related Stories

The Garden at the End of the World: Regenerative Agriculture Pioneers in the Chacabuco Valley
If the present status-quo of soil loss, carbon pollution and planetary warming continue, we’re looking at just 60 more harvests before we can no longer grow 95 percent of the food we humans rely upon to live. At the same time, the way to prevent this calamity is at hand: regenerative organic agriculture. This is…
If the present status-quo of soil loss, carbon pollution and planetary warming continue, we’re looking at just 60 more harvests before we can no longer grow 95 percent of the food we humans rely upon to live. At the same time, the way to prevent this calamity is at hand: regenerative organic agriculture. This is…
Javier Soler
6 min Read
The Night They Drove Organic Down
Looking back on the USDA meeting in Jacksonville, I am left with anger, grief and a sense of urgency that we keep moving forward. The meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was an historical turning point for the National Organic Program (NOP). It was a watershed moment. “All of the organic philosophy is…
Looking back on the USDA meeting in Jacksonville, I am left with anger, grief and a sense of urgency that we keep moving forward. The meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) was an historical turning point for the National Organic Program (NOP). It was a watershed moment. “All of the organic philosophy is…
Dave Chapman
20 min Read
Food Closer to Home
A couple of weeks ago, we had nice conversation about organic garlic, grown in China and purchased here in the USA. Although the garlic was indeed flavorful, the distance it traveled to reach my plate left a bad taste in my mouth. Fortunately, the wild blackberries around Reno are ripe.  It seems fitting not only…
A couple of weeks ago, we had nice conversation about organic garlic, grown in China and purchased here in the USA. Although the garlic was indeed flavorful, the distance it traveled to reach my plate left a bad taste in my mouth. Fortunately, the wild blackberries around Reno are ripe.  It seems fitting not only…
3 min Read
The Organism that Might Just Save the Planet
When you sit down to write an eye-catching essay about seafood, your first instinct is to go with one of the sleek and sexy creatures that have historically captured the human imagination. Salmon battling 20-knot currents to reach their spawning grounds at the headwaters of the world’s mightiest rivers. Bluefin tuna charging faster than thoroughbred…
When you sit down to write an eye-catching essay about seafood, your first instinct is to go with one of the sleek and sexy creatures that have historically captured the human imagination. Salmon battling 20-knot currents to reach their spawning grounds at the headwaters of the world’s mightiest rivers. Bluefin tuna charging faster than thoroughbred…
Paul Greenberg
5 min Read
Regenerative Organics: Drawing a Line in the Soil
In recent years, we’ve seen a boom in production and sales of organic foods worldwide. The global organic food market is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2015 and 2020, a faster rate than conventionally-grown foods. This seems like good news—but in truth, organic farming makes up just a tiny fraction of the global agriculture…
In recent years, we’ve seen a boom in production and sales of organic foods worldwide. The global organic food market is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2015 and 2020, a faster rate than conventionally-grown foods. This seems like good news—but in truth, organic farming makes up just a tiny fraction of the global agriculture…
CEO Rose Marcario, CEO
6 min Read
GreenWave’s 3D Ocean Farming Program
I’d like to introduce Patagonia’s friends and customers to the work of GreenWave, if you don’t already know it. GreenWave and its 3D ocean farming program have received much attention lately from the national press, including The New Yorker, CNN and NPR. Bren Smith, founder and executive director of GreenWave, gave a TED talk that…
I’d like to introduce Patagonia’s friends and customers to the work of GreenWave, if you don’t already know it. GreenWave and its 3D ocean farming program have received much attention lately from the national press, including The New Yorker, CNN and NPR. Bren Smith, founder and executive director of GreenWave, gave a TED talk that…
Vincent Stanley
4 min Read
From Seed to Shot: Thoughts from a Sustainable Coffee Afficionado
I never used to like coffee; it was too bitter. I could only drink it diluted (with milk) and sweetened (with sugar). But two years ago a couple of colleagues at Patagonia turned me into an aficionado. Betsy introduced me to the simple pleasures of the beverage. “Coffee should never be consumed with sugar,” she…
I never used to like coffee; it was too bitter. I could only drink it diluted (with milk) and sweetened (with sugar). But two years ago a couple of colleagues at Patagonia turned me into an aficionado. Betsy introduced me to the simple pleasures of the beverage. “Coffee should never be consumed with sugar,” she…
8 min Read
Save the Planet, Drink Beer
These beer cozies are made from reclaimed Patagonia wetsuits. They fit bottles and cans, and are perfect for post-session rehydration situations. Get yours today and start saving the planet immediately.
These beer cozies are made from reclaimed Patagonia wetsuits. They fit bottles and cans, and are perfect for post-session rehydration situations. Get yours today and start saving the planet immediately.
1 min Read
Popular searches