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Author Topic: Organic vs. Sustainable  (Read 4825 times)
Ingrid Naiman

Posts: 27

« on: July 28, 2008, 01:47:37 AM »

Many years ago, herbalists told me that as fast as they can come up with a word to define the highest standards in herbal medicine growing and production, the agroindustry PR people appropriate the term and render it meaningless.  So, when "organic" was just becoming a household word, herbalists were thinking "sustainable" and fretting about the next language they would have to develop to differentiate themselves from those who use such words mainly to increase prices.

In theory, "organic" refers to crops that are grown without use of any chemicals or fertilizers but the list of allowable exceptions leaves lots of room for discomfort.  The word basically infers that there is a health benefit but there are real challenges to large scale organic farming so the reality is that only small crops can be grown in accordance with what we like to think are safe, organic practices. 

In Europe, most people use the term "biodynamic" to describe what call call "organic" foods and herbs, but these biodynamic crops are nearly always grown by those practicing a very specific type of Anthroposophical agriculture as espoused by Rudolf Steiner.  There are biodynamic farmers in the U.S. as well and most would contend that their standards exceed those of "certified organic" growers.

Sustainability is ecological concept that implies ethical responsibility to the Earth and future generations of inhabitants.  Let's say someone is wildcrafting bloodroot or goldenseal and this person would like to make as much money as possible.  He or she harvests everything in sight and leaves nothing for the next wildcrafter.  This is obviously catastrophic for the environment and for the future so while a sustainably harvested plant might not really be organic much less certified organic, it is collected in a manner that assures future growth.  In reality, most wildcrafted herbs are organic, at least as organic as possible in a world that suffers from everything from acid rain to chemtrails.

There is one step beyond sustainably and this is fair trade.  In this ethic, those who grow or harvest the food or herbs are paid a fair sum for their labor and crops so that there is neither exploitation of people or Nature.  It is my hope that Ahimsa Co-op will function at this level and never take advantage of economic cycles or opportunities to buy at a cost that does not afford the provider fair livelihood.
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