Get politics out of agriculture issues

Monday July 8, 2013

To the editor of THE EAGLE:

On June 24, George Beebe, a local farmer, wrote a letter "Alternative agriculture doesn’t work." Sadly, he suggests the issue is politically a left/right issue. Instead I suggest that this is a common sense issue that bridges political idioms.

He suggests that if the country were to transition from conventional agribusiness to sustainable farming that production would decrease by 25 percent. He fails to mention that political policies still pay farmers for not growing crops with absurd subsidies. In an honest political landscape where no one wants unnecessary spending, both sides of the aisle would be appalled by this. Instead, Mr. Beebe’s allies are less focused on cutting wasteful spending and more focused on further supporting big business practices to the detriment of the rest of us. I could continue and point out other foibles in his letter and wish I had more room here to talk about the financial benefits in growing our local economy and providing direct and indirect jobs with a flourishing sustainable agriculture, but instead let me agree with one of his assertions.

I have yet to see significant evidence that organic and sustainable foods are healthier for us, and when people say that it tastes better, that is a subjective statement. I agree that the organic community is not served well when making those statements. However, there are hundreds of scientific studies done that point out that dangerous chemical residues are left on conventional produce in spite of washing and that some crops actually absorb those same chemicals. There are hundreds of studies that I am aware of that prove that ingesting those chemicals is bad for us.

Forget about being conservative, liberal, tea party, or tea drinkers. Eating foods tainted with chemicals intended to kill other living organisms can’t be good for us. Do we really need experts to tell us that?

By the way, the conservative movement should be leery of government decision-making. The EPA just agreed to raise the residue limits of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide that consumers now ingest, even though non-political groups such as the National Institute for Health have labeled it as having negative cumulative effects, as once ingested it stays with us. That product is only found in Roundup, the chemical weed killer that we now grow GMO corn to be resistant to, instead of simply eliminating the chemical. Stupid is as stupid does, I suppose.


Great Barrington

The author is general manager of Berkshire Co-op Market.


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