Using the term “organic” to market everything from food to personal products to clothing is a relatively new use of the word. According to Wikipedia, “In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (written in 1939, but published in 1940), out of his conception of “the farm as organism”, to describe a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming — in contrast to what he called chemical farming, which relied on “imported fertility” and “cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole”. What started as a reference to a farm being a living organism has become a catch-all for almost everything that someone might want to “green up”. I am as guilty as the next person for using the term quite a bit, both here on the site and in real life, but a few weeks ago it struck me that in terms of our food, the word “organic” is just another word for “old-fashioned”. In the past, our food was grown the natural way – in the ground, on small farms, with no toxins or fertilizers stronger than compost. There were no companies like Monsanto or Cargill to make Frankenstein seeds in a lab somewhere or to make such dangerous pesticides. Food was “organic” in the truest sense of the word – part of a living organism controlled and monitored mainly by nature.
Food grown on a farm used to be good for us, before we had to start choosing between “conventionally” or “organically” grown in the grocery store. Farmers (or homeowners, really) took great care to grow food in a natural way, using seeds passed down from generation to generation and using their families’ compost to fertilize the soil. We didn’t need to worry about DDT or GMO foods – seeds were planted, crops were picked, and food was eaten. This was “organic” throughout history until the 20th century came along thinking that it could improve on nature. Sadly, it cannot without the addition of toxic chemicals, modified seeds, hulking machines, and giant corporations pulling the strings. Take Monsanto, for instance. Here is a company that has designed their own genetically modified seeds that are sold to farmers. These seeds are not only designed to be resistant to, wait for it, the company’s own pesticide, but also to only last for one season. Want to grow that crop next year? Gotta buy more seeds, as they are created to only germinate once. And on top of that, (for the seeds that they make that do germinate more than once), a person could get sued if the seed flies through the air and happens to grow on the property of someone who didn’t pay for the seed, as in the case of Monsanto vs Schmesier. Scary, no?
I guess my point is that organic should just be the way it is. I personally don’t like knowing that I eat food that basically engineered in a lab, designed to be controlled by a huge corporation, and covered with toxins. I would like my food to be “old-fashioned” in this sense, so I could possibly know where it came from, who grew it, what it is made out of, and why it’s good for me. This is the reason we try to buy as much local produce as possible, even though it’s not possible to buy all of it here in Northern New Mexico as the climate is not ideal for growing food. But we do our best with the resources we have available. However, it’s too bad I have to choose between organic and conventional at all, because while they may have been synonymous in the past they most certainly are not today.