In Holli Cederholm’s feature story in this issue of The MOF&G, Mike Bowman of Groundswell Farm says that he has always farmed and gardened organically and has never considered any other method. He and Maria Reynolds cultivate Groundswell Farm the way they learned, through their own farming and gardening experiences, through apprenticeships on MOFGA certified organic farms, and by having co-managed the MOFGA certified organic Black Bear Food Guild at the University of Maine. They are of a generation that has grown up with organic and now embodies an ethos in which MOFGA members – consumers, gardeners, farmers – trust.
We trust that our Maine organic growers produce healthful food, seeds and other agricultural crops in environmentally sound ways. MOFGA Certification Services LLC monitors those practices, so the MOFGA certified organic label helps ensure, for instance, that our crops have little or no pesticide residue. Nationally, when residue testing is done, organic crops come out ahead: Residue is either missing or, if it has contaminated organic crops at some point, is still far lower in concentration and occurs on far fewer organic items than it does on conventional. Many studies confirm that those eating an organic diet have far fewer pesticide residues in them than those eating conventional. The proof is in the organic pudding.
That proof matters. According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), three recent independent studies found that children whose mothers were exposed to common synthetic agricultural pesticides were more likely to experience problems in cognitive development, including lower IQ, as well as impaired reasoning and memory. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of these pesticides.
In fact, avoiding pesticide residues is still consumers’ number-one reason for choosing organic foods.
Can avoiding residues of genetically engineered crops be far behind? Those residues include pesticides, especially of the herbicide Roundup, so widely used on Roundup Ready crops; and soon, if it’s permitted, of the herbicide 2,4-D from Dow Chemical’s genetically engineered 2,4-D resistant corn; and, in crops engineered to express it, the Bacillus thurnigiensis (Bt) toxin. Again, the OTA cites a study by Quebec scientists who found the Bt toxin in 93 percent of maternal and 80 percent of fetal blood samples, and in the blood of 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested.
Some engineered crops may cause still other problems, such as reducing the nutritional value of animal feed, creating reproductive problems in animals that consume them, and promoting plant diseases. Dr. Don Huber has been speaking out about these issues, as noted in the News section of this MOF&G.
Pesticide and GE residues are just two reasons for choosing locally grown, MOFGA certified organic crops. Organic avoids a host of other problems, and supports a host of methods that conserve and even enhance the environment.
MOFGA’s nearly 400 certified growers and producers, and the hundreds more who make $5,000 or less and so do not need to be certified (but still need to follow organic certification regulations), are more than hundreds of individuals: Their numbers create a community and a powerful voice for truly sustainable, local, organic agriculture. We are so fortunate to have had Mary Yurlina heading MOFGA Certification Services LLC for the past 10 years, assembling such an effective certification staff to work with and for this community.
As the world is forced to abandon harmful methods of farming and gardening, due to climate change, environmental degradation and other factors, organic growers are here to share their knowledge. And those growers include a generation that, like the Groundswell farmers, has grown up with organic and speaks with such confidence about its merits. Our organic farmers who have kept the old ways alive and enhanced them with new cultural methods, and passed them on to the next generation – now making its own enhancements – will help ensure our survival. And that survival will be not of the richest, but of the most cooperative; of those who cooperate with nature and with one another to feed and clothe us and help make our landscapes beautiful, productive and ecological.
You can be part of this survival by asking your growers: Are you certified organic? Look for the MOFGA certified organic logo.