On February 28, 2009, OCA's DC intern Chantal Clement spoke at Power Shift '09, a gathering of 12,000 young climate activists, on a panel about the film Food Inc.:
"Our food system is an extremely outdated one. Created in the post-war 1950s, agriculture’s industrialization was meant to increase food production to provide Americans with cheap, easily accessible and abundant food. Its main tool was mass production to create economies of scale. Decades later, it has left us with a legacy of terrible food industry labor rights issues, overproduction, waste, excessive pesticide use, and cheap nutritionless food.
"How can we continue to rely on a defunct and inefficient system? Food now travels an average of 1,300 miles to get to its final destination and the environment continues to pay for it. Produce can also spend up to 14 days in transit losing its nutritional value by the second.
"Local, organic farming is the key to turning around the climate crisis by ensuring both environmental sustainability and food security. People now spend over $11B on organic food every year. The U.S. has over 50 million self-identified ‘socially responsible consumers’ and about 10,000 organic farmers nationwide to feed them. We each can make a difference by voting with our dollars and choosing to support a more modern and sustainable food system.
"Organic agriculture is sustainable agriculture. To turn around our food system, we need both the bottom-up effort from citizens across the nation to demand change, and the top-down shift that states and federal politicians have to support.
"Organic farming can feed our entire nation and even the entire world if we are committed to change. It has been proven time and time again by a growing number of scientists, researchers and farmers that organic farming can curb all our current food issues. In 1998 the UN FAO published a study showing that organic farming could compete and even replace conventional agriculture when farms are given enough conversion time (usually 2 to 4 years). Compared to conventional agriculture, organic crop yields are as high or higher, farming is more efficient, and benefits are exponentially higher financially, socially and environmentally. Organic agriculture holds the keys to create sustainability in a way conventional agriculture—and certainly not genetic bio-engineering—can even begin to imagine.
"Every day we are confronted with choices. To create a sustainable system, to reverse global warming, we increasingly have to think about where our food comes from, who made it for us and how. Every bit counts in the fight against climate change, starting with what we put on our plates."
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change designates 13.5% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions to the agricultural sector. But examinations of the entire food production system, from land use changes related to agriculture to long-distance food production, produce estimates of industrial agriculture's contribution to green house gas emissions of up to 30%. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that direct emissions from industrial meat, milk and egg consumption account for about 18% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. This includes clearing forest land, making and transporting fertilizer, burning fossil fuels in farm vehicles, and front and rear emissions of cattle and sheep.
Organic agriculture has the potential to eliminate these emissions while creating a powerful, permanent sink for carbon dioxide in the soil. In addition, the organic practice of composting helps to reduce the green house gas emissions from burning trash and decomposing waste in landfills. The Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial, the longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming systems in the U.S., shows that "practical organic agriculture, if practiced on the planet's 3.5 billion tillable acres, could sequester nearly 40% of current CO2 emissions."
Converting industrial agriculture to local and organic food production would reduce green house gas emissions 30%, and create a carbon sink that would make sufficient contribution to getting the CO2e in the atmosphere down below the dangerous 350 ppm threshold that we've already crossed.
Every day, every time we eat, we're either part of the solution or part of the problem.
If we choose to eat organic food, we contribute to eliminating the 6% of U.S. green house gases that are the result of chemical fertilizers.
If we eat less animal products and only eat organic when we do consume animal products, we contribute to eliminating the emissions that come from factory farms where confined animals are crowded together and pump out emissions like a coal fired power plant. Animals that are raised on organic farms can actually help mitigate green house gas emissions. Manure helps build up carbon organic matter in the soil and increases its capacity as a carbon sink, but that only works when you have the animals outdoors on enough and to absorb their waste, one of the requirements of organic management.
If we eat locally grown organic food, we contribute to eliminating the GHG from long-distance food transportation.
If we compost our waste, we create a carbon sink that traps GHGs.
If we support local organic farms by buying a share in a community supported agriculture project or grow our own food organically, we're contributing to a carbon storing piggy bank that will continue to pull CO2e out of the air, trap it in the soil, while being the source of healthy food for generations to come.
OCA at Power Shift '09 Youth Summit
Chantal Clement, OCA Intern, Speaks at Power Shift '09
Panel: Food Inc., "You'll Never Look at Dinner the Same Way"
By Alexis Baden-Mayer
Organic Consumers Association, March 2, 2009
Straight to the Source