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Ronnie Cummins: Organic Farming--Looking Backward & Forward

Organic Food & Farming: Looking Backward & Forward
By Ronnie Cummins

After several hundred thousand years as hunters, fishers, and gatherers, our
human ancestors, 1,300 generations ago, began domesticating, herding, and
raising wild animals for food, clothing, and transport. Approximately 10,000
years ago our forebears began planting seeds and cultivating food crops,
developing thousands of regionally and seasonally appropriate plant
varieties through trial and error, as well as through more conscious and
deliberate crossbreeding.

Over time herders and farmers learned and refined appropriate animal
husbandry techniques and practices to improve their herds, and keep their
animals healthy. Farmers learned to mix or rotate food crops (i.e. the three
sisters of the Maya, corn, beans, and squash), to grow medicinal herbs, to
leave land unplanted in regular intervals, and to feed the soil with
composted vegetative matter, ash, and animal manure. As a result, farm,
forest, and pasture soils remained basically healthy and alive, teeming with
millions of microorganisms, transmitting precious nutrients and trace
minerals to food crops and animal forage. Food and animal products were most
often pure and natural, rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals.

For the next ten millennium (9,940 years), basically until the end of the
Second World War, small-scale indigenous and traditional farmers basically
raised their crops, food-bearing trees, and animals organically‹without the
use of chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides, drugs, hormones, or genetic
engineering. Even in the United States, six million family farmers and
ranchers worked the land in 1945, farming and ranching, in most cases,
organically and sustainably.

Looking backward, farming and animal husbandry have always been basically
organic, except for the last sixty years. My grandparents, like the
grandparents of many Americans today were hard-working, self-reliant organic
farmers, who raised all of their own food without pesticides or chemicals,
even though they didn't use the word "organic." For them, what they were
doing was simply a matter of following tradition, of doing things the
practical and efficient way that their parents and their grandparents had
taught them.

But beginning in the 1940s, and accelerating through the next half-century,
chemical and petroleum companies including Monsanto, Dupont, Hoechst, and
Bayer (utilizing petroleum byproducts and modifying chemical warfare gases
into organophosphate pesticides), and seed companies such as Pioneer-Hybrid,
aided and abetted by the land grant colleges, cajoled and brainwashed
American farmers to drop traditional organic practices and adopt the modern
practices of hybrid seeds, factory farming, and chemical and
energy-intensive industrial agriculture. By 1994 genetic engineering was
added to the mix.

The end result of this 60-year experiment in modern agriculture, hyped and
marketed in the developing world as the "Green Revolution," can only be
described as a Fatal Harvest. In future installments of Biodemocracy Bytes,
I'll get into some of damage inflicted by this Fatal Harvest and look at the
truly frightening consequences of spreading this chemical and
energy-intensive American factory farm and genetically engineered
"Frankenfarm" model across the globe.