Category Archives: Agrochemical Industry

Organic Agriculture Is Going Mainstream, But Not the Way You Think It Is

Organic going mainstream

“Big Organics” is often derided by advocates of sustainable agriculture. The American food authors Michael Pollan and Julie Guthman, for example, argue that as organic agriculture has scaled up and gone mainstream it has lost its commitment to building an alternative system for providing food, instead “replicating what it set out to oppose.”

New research, however, suggests that the relationship between organic and conventional farming is more complex. The flow of influence is starting to reverse course.

Even with the upscaling, the market position of organic agriculture remains limited.

In Canada, organic sales grow by nearly 10 percent per year, and the total value of the organic market is around $5.4 billion. Yet the reality is that the industry is still dwarfed by conventional agriculture.

There are more than 4,000 certified organic farms in Canada, totalling 2.43 million acres. But this accounts for only 1.5 percent of the country’s total agricultural land.

Also, aside from the two organic heavyweights—coffee (imported) and mixed greens (mostly imported)—the market share of organic groceries is pretty small, at around three percent.

Yet the influence of organics is felt well beyond its own limited market.

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Industrial Agriculture and the Agrochemical Industry

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The chemical-intensive industrial model of agriculture has secured the status of ‘thick legitimacy’. This status stems from on an intricate web of processes successfully spun in the scientific, policy and political arenas. It status allows the model to persist and appear normal and necessary. This perceived legitimacy derives from the lobbying, financial clout and political power of agribusiness conglomerates which, throughout the course of the last century (and continued today), set out to capture or shape government departments, public institutions, the agricultural research paradigm, international trade and the cultural narrative concerning food and agriculture.

Critics of this system are immediately attacked for being anti-science, for forwarding unrealistic alternatives, for endangering the lives of billions who would starve to death and for being driven by ideology and emotion.

From Canada to the UK, governments work hand-in-glove with the industry to promote its technology over the heads of the public. A network of scientific bodies and regulatory agencies that supposedly serve the public interest have been subverted by the presence of key figures with industry links, while the powerful industry lobby hold sway over bureaucrats and politicians.

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