Break’Em Up! Announcing our 2024 Symposium

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Dear Friend,

This March we will release our virtual Winter Symposium entitled Break ‘Em Up: The Chickenization of Organic. Our fourth virtual symposium will again feature a broad coalition of voices exploring, questioning, and searching for answers on the big organic issues of our time. This year we will look at the concentration of power in our food system, starting with how food is grown, but also including distribution, processing, and retail.

Our culture is in the midst of a second Gilded Age, when the consolidation of wealth is leading to tremendous damage. Instead of lifting all boats, this tide is drowning our villages. Changes are taking place in the food system with a dizzying speed, leading to new realities that are dangerous to our health, to our climate, to our water and air, to our democracy.

“But we are also here for truth. Because two of the biggest lies that have killed the earth are also killing our health and our farmers.

“First is the lie that chemicals and poisons produce more and more food. No, they merely produce more poisons. The best way to produce food is to use diversity and farm on a small-scale with love and care. All the data we saw today and all the data we live everyday in our fields shows us that chemical farming reduces output: it doesn’t increase food production.

“And the second big lie that is repeatedly told is: You cannot afford your local food and to ship food from 5,000 miles away is cheaper, to pump food with huge doses of chemicals is cheaper. That lie about cheap food from globalized free trade and industrial monocultures is what is making it impossible for an honest agriculture to be practiced.

“That honest agriculture is what we are here for. And an honest agriculture needs honest prices, not the subsidies, hidden and not hidden, that make very costly food cheap. Costly for the planet—the planet cannot afford the burden of globalized free trade or industrial agriculture with chemicals.

“Our bodies are rebelling. We cannot afford the burden: it is a very costly burden. It is now time to go to the really low-cost agriculture which is an agriculture in which we use our intelligence and bio-diversity to feed ourselves.”

– Vandana Shiva (speaking at Terra Madre in 2005)

Vandana is part of our virtual symposium on Sunday March 17th and April 7th, 3-5 Eastern

When Tom Vilsack retired as Secretary of Agriculture at the end of the Obama presidency, he did not file for unemployment. Rather he stepped into a million-dollar-a-year salary running the U.S. Dairy Export Council, a Big Ag lobbying group representing the largest dairy conglomerates in the country. They are funded through the dairy checkoff program.

The federal checkoff programs raise money through mandatory fees charged to all dairy farms, both large and small. Those monies are then used to fund trade associations that primarily serve the largest producers in the country.

This is just another example of the ways that agribusiness is propped up by hidden support from taxpayers. From us. The regulatory capture of the government agencies is not a new story, but I have been stunned to discover just how far that has progressed within the National Organic Program.

Tim Wise Author of Eating Tomorrow at his desk during his Real Organic Project Symposium interview

“Our politics are completely corrupted by money. So how do we get corporations back to a point where they’re not calling the shots for our society? That’s an enormous challenge in a place like the United States.

“We are such an outlier in how much we allow corporations, and the rich, to control our politics. It’s just not like that in most countries.

“The health outcomes for the United States are terrible. And we all suffer for that. And more and more information comes out about just how maladaptive our diets are and how much they harm us. That starts to wake people up.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for ‘wake up calls’, and somehow they have to overcome the power of big corporations to silence us.”

– Tim Wise

Tim is also a speaker at our virtual symposium on Sunday March 17th and April 7th, 3-5 Eastern

I have wondered why it is that the USDA seems to hate organic so much that they have redefined it. They never wanted to be involved in organic certification. That was foisted on them by Congress when the Organic Food Production Act was passed in 1990 by the first Bush administration. Their assigned mission was to protect the integrity and transparency of the organic label, to serve the farmers and eaters so they could know they were getting what was promised.

Up until then, organic was a term much scorned by the USDA, which is sometimes called the US Department of Agribusiness. Now they embrace organic as their somewhat limited child, kept in an outer room so that it doesn’t annoy the grown ups too much. No one in Washington will suggest that the organic movement offers solutions to climate change. That is reserved for their friends in Big Food. The ones with the money. The ones they give more money to.

So what are we to do?

Avoiding government intervention is not a meaningful way to avoid corporate domination. The Regenerative Movement is in the midst of a corporate capture by the biggest chemical companies in agriculture. The government has willingly joined in, but the greenwashing first came from Big Food.

Again, what are we to do?

Real Organic Virtual Symposium early bird pricing graphic featuring a chicken laying an egg with "wakeup" promo code

First, we must get over complaining and move to action. We will not create a movement (by any name) that isn’t going to face invasion by economic forces that could care less about us. Like sharks and mosquitos, if there is blood, they will come. And the blood is our money. There is no place to run. No place to hide. We can only stand and fight.

One of the thinkers who will be featured in the symposium is Vandana Shiva. This week we released our latest interview with Vandana, a leader in the world movement to challenge Industrial Agriculture. For 40 years she has called out the failure of the “chemical cartel.” And she has celebrated the worldwide movement to build viable alternatives. She is a great poet of the organic movement, weaving together images with her words that help free us from paralysis.

Another great speaker in the symposium will be Tim Wise, a researcher from Tufts University who has spent the last 15 years living in Africa and Mexico. Tim is deeply knowledgeable about the first Green Revolution, and the latest iteration called AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), founded in 2006 and funded by the Gates Foundation. It is once again worshiping at the alter of technology rather than biology. More chemicals, more consolidation of land ownership, more commodity farming. And, studies suggest, more hunger, more poverty, and more land degradation.

So please, join us on Sunday, March 17 for Session 1: Break ‘Em Up, and again on Sunday, April 7 for Session 2: In Defense of Biology. We promise your world will get bigger as you hear from Zephyr Teachout, Michael Pollan, Vandana Shiva, Tim Wise, Seth Godin, Alice Waters, Hans Herren, Barbara Gemmill-Herren, Dan Barber, Eliot Coleman, Kat Taylor, Patrick Holden, Errol Schweitzer, Liz Carlisle, Daniel O’Connell, Austin Frerick, Alan Lewis, J.M. Fortier, Mwatima Jumo, Will Rosenzweig, Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, Vincent Stanley, David Bronner, and many more.

See you there!

– Dave and Linley and the Real Organic Project Team

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