Highlights From The Future of Food Conference

05/16/2011 01:33 pm ET | Updated Jul 16, 2011

Highlights from The Future of Food Conference

Where to begin? Well, how about with a brilliant speech by HRH Prince Charles that was practical, spiritual and sharp. He's not new to organic, so his passion for the topic of the future of food is both genuine, incredibly smart and comprehensive. Here are a few of his thoughts that I wrote down (between coughing fits; turns out I had a sinus infection):

"Only by safeguarding nature's resilience can we hope to have a resilient form of food production, and ensure food security in the long term."

"The more I talk with people about this issue, the more I realize how vague the general picture remains of the perilous state we are in." (My own comment: And yet, everyone in the world knows what she wore to the wedding! And you know who I'm talking about, too.)

"Nobody wants food prices to go up, but if it is the case that the present low price of intensively produced food in developed countries is actually an illusion, only made possible by transferring the costs of cleaning up pollution or dealing with human health problems onto other agencies, then could correcting these anomalies result in a more beneficial arena where nobody is actually worse off in net terms?"

"There are many producers and consumers who want to do the right thing, but as things stand, 'doing the right thing' is penalized."

"It would simply be a more honest form of accounting that may make it more desirable for producers to operate more sustainably -- particularly if subsidies were redirected to benefit sustainable systems of production."

"Having myself tried to farm as sustainably as possible for some 26 years in England, which is not as long as other people here, I know, I certainly know of plenty of current evidence that adopting an approach which mirrors the miraculous ingenuity of nature can produce surprisingly high yields of a wide range of vegetables, arable crops, beef, lamb and milk. And yet we are told ceaselessly that sustainable or organic agriculture cannot feed the world."

"You cannot help but feel hopeful when such huge corporations -- like Walmart -- back local sourcing of food and decide to stock their shelves with sustainable or organic produce. Industry is clearly listening."

If all the facts are on our side -- and they are -- why is it so hard to change things? Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of The California Endowment, spoke strongly on our situation, comparing it to the changes around tobacco, a substance scientists knew was harmful since the early 1920s. "At the end of the day," said Dr. Ross, "it's a power issue. Fact alone, which we have in spades, won't do it. The only counter to the power that exists is to create a powerful movement ... it's time to fight!"

And then there was Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who said Obama's original assignment to him when he was sworn in was to "make sure the children are well fed."

The problem, Vilsack proposed, lies between the needs of the 18,000 organic farmers whom he, in theory, supports, and the "200,000 commercial farmers who grow 85 percent of the food in this country and 'deserve a choice' regarding GMOs."

Mr. Secretary, what about OUR choice? Our choice to know what we put in our bodies, and our children's? Our choice to keep our children and our planet safe? A simple label requirement would suffice, and then let the people decide. That's democracy, right? PLEASE, Mr. Secretary, I ask politely, which I know is important to you: INSIST that the American people can see on a LABEL on all their food indicating whether or not it includes GMOs. Please. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and support. It will, I promise, deliver on Obama's charge to make sure that our children are well fed, in every important way that matters.

Senator Jon Tester from Montana was the grand finale. I'd heard about him while out in Montana (Montana organic farmers all but worship him!), but to hear him speak passionately as a successful and dedicated organic farmer first and foremost was a beautiful thing.

There is hope. If we unite and work together to demand organic, protect organic and, as a result, protect our future. Princes believe it. Certain Senators believe it. Lots of farmers believe it. Millions of people believe it (otherwise there wouldn't be a 30-billion-dollar organic industry). Pop stars and celebrities believe it. I know you all believe it. Now we've got to get everyone else to believe!

Related Links:
What It's Like to Meet Prince Charles - Maria's Farm Country Kitchen
Cap'n Crunch Has Five Years to Live -
Organic Gardening

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