Vandana Shiva will give the keynote on Saturday at EcoFarm. Vandana showing support in Vermont for Keep The Soil In Organic.

Vandana showing support in Vermont for Keep The Soil In Organic.

Rachel Carson wrote more about pesticides, and Albert Howard wrote more about the fertilizers. But both tried to wake us to the fact that companies that had gotten addicted to making profits from killing people and for war were now wanting to continue to make profits by selling the same chemicals as agricultural inputs. 

“I realized that when I would discuss this with people there would be so many kinds of pesticides and so many kinds of herbicides, and people would just glaze over! And they hear the names of so many different companies and they just glaze over and say “I don’t understand.” 

“And I remember in one article of mine, I said, ‘It’s the Poison Cartel. They are a cartel. They are organized like a cartel. And they make poisons.’ And that’s what I have used ever since for this group of companies.”

– Vandana Shiva, author, teacher, and farmer, speaking at the Real Organic Symposium.


Dear Real Organic friends,

One of the great debates in the organic movement is whether it is wrong to speak out. Is it wrong to criticize the organic label if we really want to strengthen that same label?

We know that publicly criticizing the “organic brand” can be a gift to the agrochemical companies, the Monsantos and Cargills, the traditional enemies of the organic movement.

Even more confusing is that MANY of the biggest conventional food and ag companies in America are now pleased to claim “organic” or “sustainable regenerative” in their portfolios.

When the organic law was passed in 1990, it was not appreciated by the large agribusiness companies and their public servant, the USDA. There was considerable scorn for the dangers of “voodoo agriculture,” as some professors at UC Davis called it.

There was not a policy of peaceful co-existence.

Some things have changed since then. After the passage of the Organic Food Production Act in 1990, the organic market continued to grow. At some dangerous point, many huge corporations realized that there was more money to be made in joining the label than in fighting it. Unfortunately, their conversion was often very shallow.


True champion of organic agriculture Senator Patrick Leahy with Real Organic Project Executive Director and farmer, Dave Chapman.

“We had to overcome a LOT, a lot of opposition. The USDA was opposed to it. You know as well as anybody the pesticide crisis we had in the country at the time. We really had to fight for it.”

Senator Leahy responding to the huge Danish commitment to organic:

“But make sure, make sure that they have strict standards when they label something organic. We love maple syrup. Remember when they had “Vermont Maid” and it was like molasses or something. It certainly wasn’t Vermont syrup! People want to know what they are buying. We go to the grocery store, Marcelle and I, and we buy organic products. Oftentimes they are slightly more expensive. But that’s what we want to buy. But I don’t want someone to be able to slap a label on something that’s loaded with insecticides.”

– Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont speaking at the Real Organic symposium

The damage to the organic label by corporations getting only part of their production “certified organic” has been more serious than that of the chemical companies. As they say, “One false friend is worse than ten true enemies.” We keep losing every serious regulatory fight with the corporate giants. Even when the standards are good, the USDA enforcement is weak.

And so, back to our first question, we face a difficult choice. Do we remain silent, or do we raise hell?

If we remain silent, things only get worse, and quickly. 

If we raise hell, we undermine the “organic brand” that still serves so many legitimate organic farmers and eaters. 

But every day it serves all of us less well. Less milk comes from pastured animals. Fewer berries and tomatoes and greens are grown in the soil. Real organic farmers go out of business in a system that favors fraud. As Hugh Kent said, such a system of cheaper Hydro/CAFO production actually mandates the rule-breaking. 

Because of the proliferation of organically certified CAFO poultry, an authentic organic egg has become a precious item. People who know and care search far and wide, trying to source “real organic” eggs. (Real organic has pasture access AND real organic feed.) 

And often, they simply can’t find them.

“And somehow, you know, you have to build your own movement. And bring the change that you want to see with you. I think that is what the Real Organic Project is doing, and has done. The vision, and the change, and the strength of the organic integrity of the label is represented in Real Organic Project.”

– Jennifer Taylor, farmer, teacher, and Real Organic Project Board member, speaking at the January symposium.

At the Real Organic Project, we offer a third path.

Instead of just remaining silent (collapse) or fighting like hell (rage), we are going directly to the farmers and eaters. We are working to become a trusted friend, a matchmaker who can arrange wonderful food marriages. Our add-on label is a symbol that can be trusted. 

We would rather that reform of the USDA succeeds. How simple would that be if the government actually worked as intended?

Kind of like Denmark…

But in the meantime, look for our seal. Join us. We are not wolves in sheep’s clothing. We really are “us.” We are the organic movement.

These issues and more will be discussed at the January Real Organic Symposium.

We are joined by a tremendous gathering of speakers. This letter highlights five of them: Vandana Shiva, Senator Patrick Leahy, Jennifer Taylor, Arran Stephens, and David Bronner.

Arran Stephens, founder of Nature’s Path, at the Real Organic symposium

“That’s another big bone that I have to pick, in the so-called Regenerative Agriculture movement. We saw at Expo West, two or three years ago, an announcement that a particular company was turning a million acres into Regenerative Agriculture. And when I looked into it, it really wasn’t doing much at all for the land other than having animals come on the land and perhaps growing some cover crops. They were adopting some organic practices into this so-called Regenerative Agriculture system. But still allowing the use of chemical fertilizer. Still allowing the use of cancer-causing Glyphosate to be used. 

“And they call it ‘No-till’ farming. No-till farming they say is more regenerative because you’re not plowing the fields and you’re not allowing the evaporation of the moisture from the soil. And you’re doing all these good things to the soil by spraying this Round Up on the soil. In the front of your factory you’re spraying the Glyphosate and in the back you are seeding. Right? You’re not plowing! 

“It is adding this dangerous chemical into the environment, into the food, into the food supply. And so, I have a big objection to that. They’re pretending that they’re as good as organic. Regenerative Agriculture, unless it is certified regenerative, it is really not going to be as good as organic. It’s going to contain a lot of the things that we are trying to get away from in organic production.” – Arran Stephens

“Dr. Bronner’s has resigned from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), citing the association’s betrayal of the consumer-led GMO labeling movement, and general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement.”
– Dr. Bronner’s press release

“I totally understand how there are supposed to be ruminants in a pasture cropping operation. How they can make a very regenerative farm. There is such a thing as a balance of plant and animal life in a wild ecosystem. And if you replicate that balanced system correctly in a farming ecosystem, you can have a very balanced, holistic, biodynamic, real organic, regenerative organic system. The idea that your farm is an organism, and that you match your feed and fertility flows, that that can all work out really good.

“So while I’m going to be Vegan until the day I die, I am very much in high-level solidarity with pasture-based livestock operators. I very much respect the choice that, if you are going to eat animal products, then if you support these kinds of farmers, we are a hundred percent allies against this machine that is eating us for lunch.”

Hear words of hope and vision in this VERY SHORT preview of the Real Organic Symposium.

“A coming attraction.”

Al Gore, Paul Hawken, Leah Penniman, JM Fortier, Dan Barber, Emily Oakley, Eliot Coleman, Arran Stephens, Jennifer Taylor, Jessie Buie, Linley Dixon, Zach Wolf, and Dave Chapman give a call to action for the Real Organic movement.

Yes, we can!

Please watch and share.


From the hardworking team at the Real Organic Project


Updated: You can still watch recordings from our January symposium by clicking here.