5 Amazing Things I Learned from the World’s Leaders of the Organic Food Movement
A few weeks ago, at an international summit of the global network for organic agriculture, delegates from Fiji were excited to share the news that one of the islands in the tiny archipelago nation had gone 100 percent organic. The community had kicked out all toxic pesticides and imported, synthetic fertilizer. The impetus for the decision was clear: Surviving on an island makes living in balance with nature more than just a nice idea; it makes it an imperative for survival. The Fijian tale of a 100 percent organic island was just one of many stories of the spread of organic agriculture I heard at the Organic World Congress, a gathering of the world’s largest organic agriculture and advocacy network, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM).
Here are five surprising things I learned:
1. Organic is going global: In the United States, we have the misperception that the kind of people who choose organic food are driving Teslas to Whole Foods for over-priced fennel. This couldn’t be farther from the truth: Organic consumers here and abroad come from across the economic spectrum and can be found in every single country in the world. And organic farmers span the globe from wealthy specialty growers in some of the richest areas of the United States to smallholder farmers in Namibia, and everywhere in between. As of 2012, 162 countries reported acreage of certified organic farms covering 37.5 million hectares worldwide, a significant undercount of the total since not all farmers are officially certified. Although the United States has the largest market for organic food, 80 percent of all organic producers farm in developing countries, with India, Uganda, Mexico, and Tanzania leading the pack.
2. Will the real innovators please stand up? “Disruption” may be a buzzword in Silicon Valley, but when it comes to food and farming, the chemical and biotech industry like to paint their chemical concoctions and genetically engineered seeds as the agricultural disruptors, upending antiquated practices. But the trip to Istanbul got me flipping that story on its head. Want to see real innovation? Visit Andre Leu’s 150-acre organic farm in northern Australia where he’s growing 100 varieties of tropical fruit and dozens of other species of medicinal herbs, oils, fibers, and more. Leu, the President of IFOAM, is doing all this while successfully returning 100 acres to native, tropical rainforest and creating a refuge for endangered species like Riflebirds, buff-breasted Paradise Kingfishers and the six-foot tall, flightless Cassowary—all while creating a successful business.