History and Legacies of the Organic Movement

Published On June 9, 2009

What is Organic Farming & Organic Food?

Organic farming refers to the use of natural chemical free methods in the growing and production of primary products. That is, organic farming relies upon tradtional farming practices which do not utilise synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, hormones, and genetically modified crops. But organic farming is much more than farming without chemicals, it is a system of sustainable agriculture where the goal is to work with nature with respect for the environment and natural laws and to minimise the environmental impact of farming practices. It is a way of life which is rooted in respect for nature and natural health and a determination to seek to refrain from violating natural laws.

True organic farming does not endorse environmentally violent agricultural practices which effectively rape the environment for short term financial gain. The humble fundamental family farm basis of true organic farming is at odds with some modern definitions where there is exploitation of the environment by huge companies for short term financial gain.

Organic food is food that is free of chemicals, pollutants, artificial flavourings, preservatives, hydrogenated fats, hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, and additives and which has been produced by a properly certified organic farm.

Organic products however are not confined to food. Natural fibres such as cotton are responsible for the consumption of huge amounts of water and toxic chemicals if grown by conventional industrial farming methods. Conventional cotton farming is therefore extremely wasteful of resources and damaging to the environment. These issues can be addressed by effective organic farming techniques hence the increasing popularity of organic cotton.

History of the Organic Movement

The organic movement resulted from a reaction to the widespread introduction of agricultural chemicals early last century. Original proponents of the organic philosophy were of course the early environmentalists. But environmentalism and sustainability in those days were frowned upon as extremism and fanaticism by governments, scientists, and those seeking to sell their agricultural chemicals. As is noted by Wikipedia:

The organic movement is truly not as new as we all tend to believe it is. Organic food was initially seen as a fad observed by the eccentric few, however today it has become more widespread.”

But Wikipedia also notes that the organic movement was “kept alive by a relatively small group of ecologically minded farmers

So as the “eccentric few” practiced their “fad” of supporting the environment they were ostracised by the masses, including governments and scientists, who put their support behind the production and use of massive quantities of toxic agricultural chemicals. Governments led the way with subsidies to encourage even more use of agricultural chemicals. At the same time the misinformation bureau continued to label supporters of organic farming as extremists or faddists.

As governments and scientists realised the gravity of their monumental error in their support for environmentally violent and non sustainable agricultural practices, in the late 20th century they began to reverse their stance. Some have even apparently sought to minimise their embarassment by asserting that there is now a “new” organic movement which has little or no connection to the “old” organic movement.

This of course is laughable given the fact that organic agriculture has always been rooted in respect for the environment and natural laws. This has not changed though some who have traditionally supported violent non sustainable agricultural practices may suggest otherwise.

And just how much present scientists and governments truly support the true organic philosophy remains to be seen. Are governments and scientists rallying against financially motivated unnatural and potentially environmentally disastrous practices such as non viable terminator seeds and genetically modified crops?

When will governments, scientists, and environmentalists become vocal about these major environmental issues of our time? When will their policies truly reflect a respect for the environment and natural laws?

Organic Philosophy Correct When Science was Wrong.

Many of today’s accepted best environmental practices are firmly based upon the traditional teachings of the organic movement, teachings which were long ridiculed as fanatacism and extremism by mainstream scientists and environmentalists. The use of natural forms of pest control in place of toxic agricultural chemicals for instance. For many years warnings by the organic movement about the dangers of toxic agricultural chemicals were ridiculed by mainstream scientists. I can recall when the conventional horticultural industry even advised gardeners to drench the soil with chemicals in order to kill earthworms which they claimed had a bad effect on the growth of plants. At the same time the organic movement was encouraging earthworms and teaching of their importance. The scientific experts laughed at this however. And when the organic community was teaching the importance of recycling and using compost and manure to return nutrients to the soil and build up soil structure, mainstream scientists and horticultural experts claimed this was nonsense and all that was needed were some synthetic chemical fertilisers.

Organic shops have also led the way for a very long time. When plastic bags became ubiquitous in conventional shops, organic shops continued trying to supply natural, biodegradable or reusable bags, such as cotton bags, paper bags, or jute bags. Now however, some supermarkets are at long last apparently realising the wisdom of the organic community and are seeking to use more environmentally friendly bag materials. In stark contrast with organic stores which have been quietly seeking to do the right thing for a very long time however, often large supermarkets seek to announce their “new” environmental consciousness in a blaze of publicity.

I can also recall the warnings of the organic community regarding the dangers of hydrogenated fats and trans fats decades ago but once again mainstream scientists, nutritionists and dietitians assured us all that this too was nonsense. Now of course they once again agree with the organic community and have warned that hydrogenated trans fats may be the most dangerous fats of all.

Repeatedly the warnings and teachings of the organic movement have been proven to be 100% justified and correct and organic beliefs have therefore continually moved into the mainstream. Conversely the beliefs of governments and mainstream scientists have been repeatedly shown to be environmentally disastrous and downright wrong as they are increasingly relegated to the realms of faddism or quackery as time goes by.

The true benefits of the organic philosophy, and the false belefs propogated by opponents, have recently been summarised in an article entitled “The great organic myths rebutted” by Peter Melchett.

If we seek the best environmental way forward we should clearly be guided by those whose track record has repeatedly been proven correct over the past century.

Threats to Redefine “Organic”

There is a tendency now for some to seek to modify and “water down” the organic philosophy and redefine it to fit in with their goal of short term financial gain irrespective of the possible long term environmental impact. They seek to redefine organic products so previously non organic products can be defined as organic. For a run down on these disturbing trends visit the web site of the Cornucopia Institute.

We should all rally to support the true organic movement and the original environmentalists. But even more important, we should support the respect for nature and natural laws which forms the basis of the organic movement. We should learn the lessons taught by violation of natural laws.