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The History Of The Organic Movement

The organic movement broadly refers to organizations and individuals involved worldwide in the promotion of sustainable agriculture and organic farming (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006). The movement is rooted mainly in organic farming which refers to a system of growing agricultural produce without the use of artificial fertilizers, pesticides and other harmful chemicals (Mallia 2006).

In organic farming, methods such as crop rotation (wherein crops from the same family are not grown in the same area more than once every four years at least), intercropping (wherein crops known to be beneficial to each other are planted together), manure production, and permaculture are used. Permaculture, or permanent agriculture, is the design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems (Mallia 2006).

The organic movement thus aims to achieve a harmonious integration of agriculture and people. There is a general opposition to agribusiness in this movement, which dates back to the first half of the 20th century when modern large-scale agricultural practices began to develop. The movement started in the 1920s in England, when agricultural scientists and farmers opposed the industrialized agriculture. The movement picked up momentum after World War II when war-time technologies resulted to the boom of mechanized, chemical-based farming.

When the hazards and problems with pesticides in relation to environmental and health concerns began to reach public consciousness in the 1960s, the organic movement progressed into its modern phase (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006). Pioneers of the Organic Movement played pivotal roles in developing more sustaining, permanent, chemical-poison-free agriculture. These trailblazers provided for the technical and philosophical backdrop for the mainstreaming of organic foods. One of these individuals was Rudolf Steiner who developed biodynamic agriculture in Germany in 1924.

It represented the first comprehensive organic farming system. Steiner also introduced the tenets of Anthroposophy, which combined science with philosophy and spirituality. His approach to farming combined spiritual with practical concepts, and the Anthroposophic framework became the basis of biodynamics. Although to this day, Steiner’s philosophy of demanding spiritual commitment to organic farming has not caught on in the United States (U. S. ), biodynamic farms and biodynamic products are very popular throughout Europe, especially in Germany (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006; Kupfer 2006).

The book, An Agricultural Testament, written in 1940 by Sir Albert Howard, a British colonial officer (with the lengthy title of Chemical Botanist to the Government of Raj at Pusa in India), often referred to as the father of modern organic agriculture, greatly influenced many scientists and farmers at that time as to the benefits of organic farming. While studying the poor agriculture of local farmers in India who could not afford to buy fertilizers imported from other areas, Howard found that the primary factor in soil management was a consistent supply of fresh humus prepared from vegetable and animal wastes.

He also pointed out that maintaining soil fertility was the fundamental basis for the soil’s health. Howard essentially reinvented the compost pile and propagated methods to best use the natural resources of India. His findings were all transcribed in his book, An Agricultural Testament, which became renowned in many circles throughout the world (Kupfer 2006; Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006). Lady Eve Balfour, deeply impressed by the works of Howard, launched the Haughley Experiment on farmland in England in 1939.

The Haughley Experiment was the first scientific, side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming. Four years after the experiment, Lady Balfour published her initial findings in The Living Soil. Her findings became renowned and were the basis for the formation of Soil Association, one of the more prominent international organic advocacy groups to this day (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006). In the United States (U. S. ), J. I. Rodale started to popularize the term and methods of organic growing.

He has been credited as the most influential individual to impact the movement back toward organic farming systems in the 20th century. This was during the 1950s when sustainable agricultural began to emerge as a popular research topic among scientists. Despite such research interest, scientists however tended to focus on developing new chemical approaches to agriculture. Rodale’s research on organic growing, and publication of its findings in the Rodale Press, however, contributed greatly in promoting organic gardening to the American public.

In 1940, Rodale purchased a 60-acre experimental organic farm near Emmaus, PA, to demonstrate his approach, which rejected chemical agriculture. Rodale’s work was heavily influenced by Howard’ book, An Agricultural Testament. With Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, an Austrian biochemist, Steiner helped to develop the Kimberton Farm in Kimberton, PA, where many early organic farmers learned their craft (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006; Kupfer 2006). The bestseller Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, a prominent U.

S. scientist and naturalist, exploded into public awareness in 1962, and has been often credited for spearheading the environmental movement. Carson’s book discussed the effects of DDT and other pesticides on the environment. Her book revealed just how widespread the use of pesticides and herbicides had become, what poisons were doing to plant and animal ecology, and how residues were traveling to the food chain from ponds and topsoil into the nation’s diet.

Her work was instrumental in the 1972 banning of DDT by the U. S. government. What made the book popular was that Carson wrote information about pesticide abuse, biological magnification, and environment impact in such a way that was understandable to the general public. Since her narration was not steeped in science, it was truly successful in opening up the eyes of the public as to the hazards of chemical agriculture (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006; Kupfer 2006).

The public became even more focus on the benefits of organic farming when worldwide concern on pollution and the environment in the 1970s became important issues. Growing consumer interest in health and nutrition, in addition to the importance of preserving the natural environment, also led to the development of the organic market. As the general public became more aware of the differences, advantages, and disadvantages between organic food and conventional food, the Organic Movement gained momentum.

It encouraged the consumption of locally grown food, promoted through slogans like “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. ” (Organic and Natural Enterprise Group 2006; Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006). As the 1980s rolled in, many different farming and consumer groups began to pressure the government to issue regulations on organic production. Due to such insistent demand, by the 1990s and up to this day, various legislation and certification standards were enacted and are being enacted. After the U. S. Department of Agriculture (U. S. D.

A) introduced a proposed regulation in 1997, which nevertheless allowed the use of irradiation, biotechnology, and sewage-sledge fertilizer for any food product labeled “organic”, nearly 300,000 people wrote letters of protest opposing the inclusion of these three methods. These U. S. D. A. rules allowed food labeled as “U. S. D. A Organic” to contain hormones and antibiotics in dairy cattle and meat products, pesticides on produce, and potentially contaminated fishmeal as feed for livestock. Since individuals, organizations, and advocates of the organic food industry rallied in opposition, the U.

S. D. A eventually banned the use of these three methods, including the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotics in food products, with the rule becoming fully effective in 2002. Majority of the aspects of organic food production are currently government-related in the U. S. and the European Union. In 1999, the U. S. ’s second-largest conventional lettuce grower (Tanimura and Antle), and the U. S. ’s largest organic vegetable shipper (Natural Selection Foods, marketer of the Earthbound Farm brand), became partners in supplying organic lettuce to large, mass-market supermarkets.

This partnership is one of the most significant symbols of the high demand of organic products, and the need to adjust market standards as well as government regulations to cater to such a huge public demand (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006; Kupfer 2006; Cienfuegos 2004). By the 2000s, the market for organic products – which includes food, beauty, health, body care, and household products – continues to grow at an increased rate all over the world. In the U. S. , sales of organic commodities in natural foods stores reached almost $ 3. 3 billion in 1998, compared to $ 2.

08 billion in 1995. In late December 2000, the U. S. D. A. announced its final adoption of the first standards the Federal government has ever imposed for the labeling and processing of organic foods. To this day, activists and supporters of the Organic Movement around the world, particularly in the U. S. , continue to closely monitor certification rules and decisions. Industry experts estimate that the current average annual growth rate of 20-24 % for organic food sales will continue for the next decade. This growth rate, along with the U. S. D.

A’s national organic program, has had deep impact in transforming and developing the Organic Movement (Wikipedia, “Organic Movement” 2006; Kupfer 2006). To this day, many modern day heroes continue the cause of the pioneers of the Organic Movement. U. C. Davis addressed the more than 14 million tons of high-moisture, organic waste generated in California each year. The university developed a digester, funded by the California Energy Commission, which consumes about three tons of organic waste per day, delivered from collection facilities in Dixon and San Francisco.

The digester converts these organic wastes and other biodegradable materials into energy to keep lights burning in thousands of homes in California, into high-quality soil amendments for the landscape industry, and even into fiberboard for construction purposes. The project revolves around a “garbage in, good stuff out” theory, and even uses biogas to burn for electricity-producing turbines. The digester generates about 600 kilowatt-hours of electricity per day, enough to meet the needs of 15 typical California homes and campus power supply (UC Davis News and Information 2004).

Modern day support to the Organic Movement has not been limited to scientific approaches. Even restaurant owners and chefs have been instrumental in the continuation of the movement to this day. Alice Louise Waters, an American chef who is founder and co-owner of Chez Panisse, the original California cuisine restaurant in Berkeley, California, has been credited not only for promoting organic and small farm products heavily in her restaurants, books, and Edible Schoolyard program in public schools, but has also developed Californian cuisines.

Waters’ “edible education” program was introduced to the entire Berkeley school system, and addresses childhood obesity by serving healthy, organic food to children all over the area. Waters is a vocal advocate of eating locally produced foods which are in season and the use of fresh local ingredients. Her restaurant Chez Panisse, and subsequently, Cafe Fanny, continues to reject the use and serving of mass-produced food and ingredients which Waters advocates as being both harmful to the environment and producing inferior products for the consumer.

Chez Panisse and Cafe Fanny to this day continues to serve food made of organic produce and ingredients. Waters has encouraged public awareness of the benefits of “dining organically” by the publication of such books as California Fresh Harvest: A Seasonal Journey through Northern California (California Fresh), Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook, Chez Panisse Cooking (written with other organic food chef/advocate Paul Bertolli), Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, and Fanny at Chez Panisse: A Child’s Restaurant Adventures with 46 Recipes.

Chef Waters also serves as founder and director of Chez Panisse Foundation and is in the steering committee of the Yale Sustainable Food Project which brings locally grown, seasonal, and organic food to the students of Berkeley College. For her contributions in the Organic Movement, Chef Waters was awarded as Best Chef in America by the James Beard Foundation in 1992, the James Beard Humanitarian Award in 1997, and Bon Appetit Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 (Wikipedia, “Alice Waters” 2006).

Other chefs and restaurateurs, although not all as famous as Alice Waters, have also served as advocates of the Organic Movement. The Slow Food Movement, introduced in 1991, was developed and strongly supported by what have been dubbed as “salt of earth” chefs such as Judy Rogers, Jonathan Waxman, Frank Stitt, and, of course, Alice Waters as earlier mentioned. These people have created an educated consumer market by heralding the benefits of organic, local and seasonal produce and ingredients used to prepare food served in restaurants such as Waters’ Chez Panisse, and Judy Rogers’ Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.

The media has also supported this movement by increasing consumer awareness and education on organic food. Many grocery stories, local farmers markets, and restaurants all over the U. S. have also been instrumental in keeping the Organic Movement alive and well. In fact as of 2005, the organic food industry was reported to have approached $ 25 billion in annual sales. It is considered the fastest growing segment of the food industry to date (Touhy 2005).

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