These are exciting times for the food justice movement and for those of us who envision a world where we live in harmony with the planet instead of trying to dominate it. While I don’t want to diminish the sometimes-scary nature of the news, on the whole, everywhere I look, I see the beginnings of a huge shift in paradigm. The food world is changing on local, national and global levels, and all points in between. It’s happening because folks just like you and me are feeling the passion, taking a stand and uniting to get it done. We aren’t buying Big Food’s slick, well financed PR campaigns anymore. As a result, companies are responding by changing their foods to include fewer synthetics, dyes and additives. As people see the realities of the food system more clearly, they choose organic as much as possible. As a result, organics are on the rise! New data shows the organic food industry grew to $35.1 billion in 2013. Costco estimates $4 billion in organic sales this year (2015). Meanwhile, Walmart, Target, and the major grocery chains have also increased their organic sections.
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The industry is recognizing that consumer desire for healthy food is here to stay. As food manufacturing responds to consumer demand, ingredients and crop practices begin to change. The US, the largest producer of corn (we produce about 13.016 billion bushels, most of it genetically modified and treated with bee-harming neonicitinoids), had to actually import organic corn in 2014. U.S. Farmers are watching and responding. Although we don’t hear it in the mainstream media, farm consultant’s report that increasing numbers of farmers are switching to organic or non-GMO. While organic agriculture is rapidly growing, it currently still occupies only one percent of global cropland. In addition to commodity crops shifting, local food production is also on the rise. There were 3,706 farmers markets in 2004. By 2014, that number had grown to 8,284. Seed libraries are also popping up all over the U.S. as people see the importance of protecting seed sovereignty and creating varieties that are best suited to their environments. California and other states have enacted a number of new laws that make it easy for us to earn money via small scale production. For instance, the Cottage Food Act allows citizens to forage or garden and can or dry foods for sale without having to process the food in a certified kitchen. As more and more people turn to growing their own food and keeping their own bees and/or chickens, new industries are being born. Check out the documentary Urban Fruit for an exciting look at the city based farmer scene in Los Angeles. Check out the trailer for Urban Fruit: In the Midwest, farm and livestock consultants like Howard Vlieger, Elaine Ingram, John Kempf, Gabe Brown and others are educating farmers on how to heal the soil so we can grow healthier food and regenerate the earth, air and water. We don’t hear about these people on CNN but to me, they are doing some of the most important work on the planet right now. Working with the right science, soil can change in a few years, rather than decades. Healed soil sequesters carbon, offering the only healthy way to reverse greenhouse gases. Changing the way we do food literally changes the world.
Grassroots political efforts are accelerating the shift too. Vermont, Connecticut and Maine, for instance, have GMO labeling laws. The Oregon 2014 election had two county ballot initiatives to create moratoriums on growing GMO crops. By uniting across political party lines, both ballot initiatives won by large margins—68 percent of voters in Jackson County voted to protect their family farms from GMO contamination!! As anticipated, shortly after the election, the county was sued to bypass democracy. Although we have no idea if it will be appealed, they won the case on May 20, 2015. The judge ruled that farmers actually have a right to sue to protect themselves before any contamination occurs. Change, real change, is happening because we are making it so. By observing nature, we see that everything is connected. Scientists give us information and educators spread the word to communities about the real nature of the food system and how each individual plays a crucial role in helping us transition out of our current reality. When we know the truth, we vote with our forks, creating change in markets. Companies then see the trends and consequently change their products to meet consumer demand. Farmers then observe the market and change their farming practices. We can accelerate the shift even more by changing policy that moves from the current paradigm to supporting agro-ecological farmers, consumers and the planet. Each one of us plays a role. I have no delusions about knowing where this will all end up. Sometimes I look out there and get terrified by what I see. But I do know this: nothing changes when we are alone. Because we have united, we’ve moved the U.S food paradigm in a very short time. Let’s keep the buzz going, emulating the hive mentality that the bees teach us. See you on the streets! WATCH The Undercurrent: why are we being fed by a poison expert? Monsanto and Roundup