In the most recent lecture of my “Global Perspectives of Food” course, my prof touched on the Great Labeling Debate. How do we read “organic,” “local,” “fair-trade,” and “unionized” as meaningful terms? Organic food methods used to stand in contrast to industrial production. Now, there is an “organic industry” which relies on monocultures and nationwide transportation to add “value” to food. That term—organic industry—is a sort of oxymoron, when “organic” means part of a living system, and “industry” is defined by mechanistically aiming to eliminate any variation, preference, or creativity. Is something really organic if it’s exploiting workers, enabling out-of-season produce, and breeding complacency with our food supply? Agribusiness is oppressive, plain and simple, as it capitalizes on this stamp of approval from the USDA. The answer? Some say that “local is the new organic.” That is certainly the catch phrase in
Some recommend eating grub. Anna Lappé and Bryant Terry say 1. grub is healthy local sustainable food for all 2. grub is food that supports community, justice, and sustainability 3. grub should be universal” I agree. Down with these meaningless “brand names” of how food is grown, and up with genuine relationships with the energies that are engaged to bring food to the table. Food doctrines are as dangerous as any other single-variable principle. This dogmatic approach is taken with labels for food like fair-trade, unionized, local, and organic as well as labels for food-eater like vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist, and freegan…these identities are meaningful in choice contexts, but they don’t help to satisfy our appetite for ethical, delicious, affordable, and accessible nourishment.
The quiet revolution, say Lappé and Terry, has begun. One example of whole-system activist is a local (to me in