What I said at the NOSB meeting last week
Soil carbon 'a saviour' in locking up carbon
This is the World Organic News for the week ending 1st of May 2017.
Jon Moore reporting!
I’d like to start this week with a big thank you to dsearlybird12’s comment on Podbean: “interesting and pertinent”! Thank you!
Now to the blog: Organic Matters by Melody Meyer and a series of posts on the National Organic Standards Board.
Melody spoke on behalf of United Natural Foods. She spoke about the need for market driven solutions within the organic food sector.
It’s the dollars and cents, the economic growth that organic represents for producers, manufacturers and retailers. For consumers, it’s the option to have an informed choice through the USDA label. Expanding and preserving that choice helps consumers avoid persistent pesticide exposure. It helps correct the environmental degradation of non-organic production methods.
I found this thought provoking. The “market” in inverted comments is a social construct. Defined by the governments of the world, the rules for markets are decided, not so much by Adam Smith’s unseen hand, but by that unseen hand operating within the rules decided in unseen smoke filled back rooms. So with a little tweaking and whole lot of subsidy redistribution, the market could be made to work for rather than against the organic movement. The way the system is set up now, farmers who do not use poisons have to spend thousands to prove this is the case. Those farmers who regularly douse their crops in poisons, pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers are free to sell whatever they want based on the 50% death rules.
50% death rules? I hear you ask. Yes. A poison is determined safe for human consumption on the following basic idea. Lab rats are fed a poison. The length of time it takes to kill half of them is the key to human food safety. Once the 50% death rate is reached, a conclusion is reached and the remaining 50% of surviving rats are euthanized. There are, therefore no data on long term effects of these poisons only their immediate acute effects. Sounds like a system designed for chemical manufacturers rather than human food consumers.
Changing these rules of the market would immediately increase the safety of foods and give the organic sector a huge boost.
I would suggest as individuals the way to overcome this bias and the many others embedded in the non-judgemental, values free, “market” which determines the best price for both consumers and suppliers, is to avoid anything, and I mean anything which does not have a certified organic label. Now there may be perfectly safe insecticides out there but we have no way of knowing giving the testing regime currently in place.
Who knows how safe the cockroach and spider sprays are that are used on homes, well used on all buildings really. We are after all inhabiting these structures, not ingesting them until half of us drop dead!
Now to the other end of the food system, the soil!
This from an interview with Robin Batterham, a former federal chief scientist in Australia. Robin was a guest on the long running Radio National program the Science Show. The title for this interview gives us a clue: Soil carbon 'a saviour' in locking up carbon.
Now the science around soil carbon is messy. The soil is, after all, a living thing.
It is not fully understood, far from it, although with genetic typing these days we can understand much more of the thousands of interactions that go on. That's one whole side which is how do you encourage more of the bacteria and the fungi so that you get actually more carbon in the soil, you get greater root penetration, you get greater water retention and so on.
Robin’s argument is that we have sufficient knowledge, if not the ability to accurately measure soil carbon to starting the process of moving agriculture from artificial fertilisers and poisons to regenerative agriculture. Noting the following ways soil carbon is lost:
We lose it essentially by two methods. One, we clear native vegetation and turn it into intensive agriculture. That almost inevitably results in loss of carbon from the soil. That's one. The other is that by extensive use of tilling, which changes the oxidative state of the soil and changes the balance between fungi which tends to not want it to be too oxidative and bacteria, by use of pesticides which similarly affect the biota, by use of extensive fertiliser application in a form which is not readily absorbed by plants, we just slowly, surely grind carbon...