As a food systems minor I have begun to feel as if there were no end in sight to the magnitude of problems our current food system faces. Where do we start to make change? By making this post? By purchasing the organic broccoli over the conventional that one time? By making my own pickles? Sure.
By further understanding the objectives and values of the various food movements attempting to fix these problems, there is a clearer picture of how these changes might be made, slowly, but thoughtfully. The local, organic, slow food, and other movements have independently had criticisms in their methods, though each movement is able to collaborate to fill in the gaps of the other. Local is too expensive, organic is just a marketing tactic... yadda yadda. I believe that if each movement grows in capacity, eventually the movements will overlap to shift the current food system paradigm. This new food system will incorporate the health and wellbeing of the environment, the farmers and their workers, all the way to consumers. This idea is validated by the ideals of the article Beyond Voting with Your Fork by Josh Viertel, president of the Slow Food Movement. In the reading he explains the standpoint that though values on the food movements differ between groups, any positive value is a step in the right direction. He states that “The problems with food and farming don’t come from people holding the wrong values, they come from people not applying the values they hold.” (p. 139).
There have been many critiques of the organic movement concerned that it has watered down its beliefs and values and some say is even following the path as agribusiness. The organic movement originally was comprised of multiple groups’ values. Those that value an alternative to production technologies, those that value healthy food, those that value efforts back to the land, and those that value the health of the environment. Through organic standard setting, organic has become a marketable practice, and since been manipulated so that large corporations are able to use it as a profitable act. While some believe this has mainstreamed the organic values, and brought organic movement to the attention of the broader population, activists believe it has compromised its main objectives. While I agree that some of the objectives of organic farming to revolutionize our food system have been lost, I agree with Josh Viertel’s statement that any value will do.
In order to compromise on a value through a broader population, a social movement must choose some objectives to focus on, while letting go of others. When you look at the benefits of organic standards, it is clear it has made an impact by creating a market for organic food, when prior to the standard may have only been important to the early adopters of the movement. Now, organic labeling and the organic standard have given individuals the opportunity to purchase organic no matter where their values in organic are held. It has given consumers the ability to apply their values by making purchases that are a step in the right direction toward the food system they want. We see that consumer demand for better food is what has created the need for an organic labeling system, and how in a sense consumers hold the power in controlling what corporations will do based on their demand.
So yes: As Josh Veirtel says, if you eat, then you are part of the agricultural system. Today I ate a local and organic egg, I wrote this blog post, I contributed to making a paradigm shift… slowly but surely.