Organic Bytes
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Aerial view of an agroforestry operation

Tree Talk

Agroforestry is one of the most ancient forms of agriculture. It puts nature first, integrating trees and shrubs with food crops to create a natural, biodiverse landscape that doubles as a food system. 

Unfortunately, the rise of industrial agriculture and its new technologies—pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and fancy farming equipment—has in many ways brought thousands of years of agricultural evolution using trees to a standstill. 

In the latest “Trails of Regeneration” video, Regeneration International explores the roots of agroforestry and how industrial agriculture has pushed aside ancient farming practices that produce healthy food while also caring for the environment. 

Patrick Worms, senior science policy advisor for the Nairobi-based World Agroforestry Centre explains early humans that practiced agroforestry developed successful farming systems not because they had scientists in white lab coats, but because they had a constant process of trial and error. In the video he says: 

“But modernity has swept that away. Knowledge that was painstakingly gained by millennia of our ancestors has completely disappeared.”

WATCH ‘Agroforestry Today Part 1: A Brief History of Agroforestry’

READ ‘Agroforestry Works With Nature, Uses Trees to Grow Food’

Genomic data visualization

Not Good

This year’s Nobel Prize for chemistry went to two scientists who are, arguably, the mothers of GMO 2.0, these days referred to as gene editing.

Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna discovered a way to make the genetic engineering of people, animals and crops faster and cheaper than ever before. This has, according to the Nobel judges, “taken the life sciences into a new epoch.”

But in addition to being a technology that can “simply and cheaply edit the genomes of everything from wheat to mosquitoes to humans,” CRISPR can also be used to make killer mosquitos and plant pathogens that wipe out staple crops across wide swathes of land, or airborne organisms capable of altering human DNA in vivo. 

It can also be used to alter a pathogen’s DNA to make it more virulent and more contagious (essentially the same gain-of-function research implicated in making the SARS-CoV-2 virus more virulent). 

The bottom line is CRISPR may be cheap. It may be fast. But, so far, there’s little to suggest it’s good. 

READ ‘CRISPR GMOs―They’re Cheap and Fast, But Are They Good?’

Find out more about the CRISPR GMOs:

‘USDA Opens the Door to New Untested, Unlabeled GMOs’

‘Brave New World: What You Need to Know About Gene-Edited Farm Animals’

A bottle of olive oil being poured into a bowl

Snake Oils

Olive and avocado oils are widely used, popular ingredients around the world. They are often touted for their health benefits and flavor. But these oils are also at the center of international scandals. 

Studies show that most of the Italian virgin olive oil sold today is neither Italian nor virgin. Similarly most avocado oils sold in the U.S. are of poor quality, mislabeled, or combined with other lesser-quality oils.

Food fraud is shockingly rampant in the bottled vegetable oil industry, particularly for the oils most often promoted as healthy, such as olive oil and avocado oil—and America has become a dumping ground for these cheap fraudulent oil products.

With no real oversight it has been left, once again, to consumers to be informed and vigilant. With cheap food oils like so many other things in life and our food system one rule applies: if it seems too good to be true … it probably is.

READ ‘Uncovering Food Fraud in the Olive and Avocado Oil Industries’

FIND OUT MORE About Our ‘Myth of Natural’ Campaign

Vegetables in a heart shape

Digging Deeper

Is it a sign that there is something very wrong when organic food is sold at Walmart and Target? This is a huge question, and one that the organic world continues to wrestle with.

Some argue that we need to scale up. But does scaling up mean mega farms or does it mean more small farmers producing food organically?

Where you stand on this depends, to a large extent, on whether you believe that organic represents a deeper agricultural philosophy of wholeness or just a value-added label.

Few would argue that we all deserve to eat organic, but how we get there matters. If organic becomes simply an extension of a broken system that undervalues and under-prices food, then does it really represent an alternative?

The Real Organic Project is kicking off 2021 with a virtual symposium featuring more than 50 prominent organic farmers, scientists, and climate activists, including OCA’s Ronnie Cummins. The talks, which will run every Sunday throughout January, will dig deep into the most pressing issues of soil, health, food and climate.

If you care about food, people and the planet, join the conversation.

READ ‘Doesn’t Everyone Deserve Organic?’

BOOK your ticket for the Real Organic Project Symposium

Colorful hand silhouettes reaching onto yellow background

Real Issues

They didn’t really talk about the issues that mattered.

In the multi-billion-dollar mudslinging contest for the White House, Joe Biden and Donald Trump instead chose to trade insults, each depicting the other as either “dangerous communist” or a “Nazi-like demagogue.” 

Polls showed “we the people” wanted more. At the forefront of most voters’ minds were climate change, racial inequality, the economy and COVID-19 and its devastating effects.

These issues are, of course, linked and now that the dust is settling we need to acknowledge that we are facing a radical, multifaceted crisis and a political emergency involving climate change, escalating poverty, unemployment, forced migration, deteriorating human health and environmental destruction, political polarization, endless wars, reckless science (including weaponizing viruses) and an all-out power grab by ultra-wealthy.

Now that this election from hell is (nearly) over, let’s get back to the tough work of addressing the real roots of our modern dilemma. 

Let’s recognize that what we do as individuals and communities matters. How we act, what we talk about to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers matters. How we spend our money and our precious spare time and how we raise our children matters.

What we read and share and write as we sit in front of our computers and cell phone screens matters. So do the groups we join, support, and donate money to, the politicians we lobby and vote. All of this will be part of a global awakening and paradigm shift.

Now is the time to think, act and organize locally, while cultivating a global vision and global solidarity. 

READ ‘After the Election: Time for Radical Grassroots Action’

Alina Chan

Truth to Power

“Someone could have been sampling viruses from different caves for a decade and just playing mix-and-match in the lab, and those viruses could be so different from one another that none of our vaccines will work on them. We need to find where this came from, and close it down.” — Alina Chan, molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, in a September 9, 2020 interview with Boston Magazine

As we’ve argued from the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important to know how to protect yourself against the virus.

But it’s equally important to know how to protect against future, potentially worse, outbreaks. That means understanding where the virus came from, and what made it so dangerous for some, especially vulnerable, people.

Getting to the bottom of COVID-19’s origins hasn’t been easy, thanks to a whole lot of “global gaslighting of the media—and, by proxy, the public,” according to the reporter for Boston Magazine, who wrote:

“There’s long been a sense that if the public and politicians really knew about the dangerous pathogen research being conducted in many laboratories, they’d be outraged. Denying the possibility of a catastrophic incident like this, then, could be seen as a form of career preservation [for scientists]. ‘For the substantial subset of virologists who perform gain-of-function research,’ Richard Ebright, a Rutgers microbiologist and another founding member of the Cambridge Working Group, told me, ‘avoiding restrictions on research funding, avoiding implementation of appropriate biosafety standards, and avoiding implementation of appropriate research oversight are powerful motivators. Antonio Regalado, biomedicine editor of MIT Technology Review, put it more bluntly. If it turned out COVID-19 came from a lab, he tweeted, ‘it would shatter the scientific edifice top to bottom.’”

Fortunately, some scientists aren’t afraid to speak truth to power. One of those is Alina Chan, a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT.

Chan, whose work is featured in the Boston magazine piece, couldn’t continue her own research while quarantined at home. 

So Chan, along with a colleague from her days at the University of British Columbia, started digging into the possible origins of COVID-19.

What they discovered, and what they published, is not what Big Media, Big Pharma, Big Biotech—or the scientists (and their funders) in our Gain-of-Function Hall of Shame—want you to believe.

Read ‘Could COVID-19 Have Escaped from a Lab?’

Visit our Gain-of-Function Hall of Shame

SIGN THE PETITION: Stop the Genetic Engineering of Viruses! Shut Down All Biowarfare Labs Now!