The Most Important Thing You Can Do to Increase the Availability of Organic Food
I want to share a disturbing set of numbers with you:
5% of US food is organic.
The organic industry is growing at a rate of 10-12% per year (for the non-economists like myself, this is MASSIVE growth).
And yet, only 1% of US agricultural land is organic.
That last number stopped me in my tracks.
One percent??? But where does the remaining 4% of the organic food in this country come from? (Answer: overseas.) And – more importantly – how and why are major food and agriculture companies missing this massive business opportunity?
Chipotle – an industry leader providing healthy, GMO-free food to the mainstream – is forced to source non-GMO feed from Romania and China. Say what???
This past weekend I was at an event called ShiftCon, where I had the privilege of hearing some of the pioneers and thought leaders who are actively changing the landscape of food in this country. One of the most powerful speakers was Robyn O’Brien, a mother of four who’s been on the front lines demanding changes in our food supply since her daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies.
If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend you check out her eye-opening TED talk.
I was on the edge of my seat learning about the dire predicament of the US food industry and realized that we are at the next stage in the evolution of this movement to healthier food.
The issue is no longer the demand for organic food – we’re asking for it – the issue is a lack of supply.
Now there are many different factors at play here and a lot of this happens at levels we don’t overtly see. Primarily it’s a monumental upside down financial structure with huge tax incentives to support chemical-laden farming, major pushback on all labeling initiatives, and costly, often insurmountable hurdles facing those farmers who want to switch to organic.
BUT that does not leave us, the consumers, in a powerless position.
In presentation after presentation at ShiftCon the question was asked: what can we do? And the answer was consistent: Keep demanding organic, “free from” food.
Because let’s face it: attention goes where the money flows.
If there’s one benefit to living in a strongly capitalist society like the US, it’s that money talks. And while it takes them a while, these companies aren’t stupid. There’s example after example of major food conglomerates acquiring key organic brands – Danone’s acquisition of Stoneyfield Farms; General Mills’ acquisition of Annie’s organics; Mondelez’s acquisition of Enjoy Life foods; Coca-Cola’s investment in Suja juice. None of this is accidental.
While you may or may not agree with this trend of corporate acquisition of some of our favorite organic brands, the reality is that to truly change our food system, we have to play at this level. Will these smaller brands be able to maintain their integrity within these major companies? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, there’s something very important we can all do:
The more we demand it, the more the resources will shift in this direction. We’re at a pivotal moment right now with the deep imbalance between supply and demand. It’s not time to let up on that demand – it’s the time to increase it.
Now I know there will be some folks reading this who don’t think organic is far enough, and in some ways they’re right. There are shortcomings in organic certification. But I would argue that the organic label is, for now, one of the best tools we’ve got to en masse make our voices heard about the minimum quality of food we’re willing to put into our bodies.
If it’s cost prohibitive for you to buy everything organic – pick one or two things and switch those over. Even small changes make a big impact.
Your voice really does count, and one of the most powerful ways to use it is through your purchasing decisions.
Very soon I’ll be sharing an amazing new resource for you to get my favorite organic brands at 40-50% off.
In the meantime, ask yourself this: How much of your weekly food is organic? What more could you switch over?
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