Drawing on findings from leading health researchers as well as conversations with both chemical and organic farmers from coast to coast, Maria Rodale's Organic Manifesto irrefutably outlines the unacceptably high cost of chemical farming on our health and our environment. She traces the genesis of chemical farming and the rise of the immense companies that profit from it, bringing to light the government's role in allowing such practices to flourish. She further explains that modern organic farming would not only help reverse climate change by reducing harmful carbon emissions and soil depletion, but would also improve the quality of the food we eat, reduce diseases from asthma to cancer, and ensure a better quality of life in farming communities nationwide.
For every parent wondering how best to safeguard the health and safety of her children; for every environmentalist in search of a solution to the worsening crisis that afflicts our land, air, and waters; for every shopper who questions whether it is worth it to pay more for organic, Maria Rodale offers straightforward answers and a single, definitive course of action: We must demand organic now.
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About the Author
Maria Rodale is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., the world's leading multimedia company with a focus on health, wellness, and the environment, and the largest independent book publisher in the United States. Rodale reaches 70 million people worldwide through brands such as Prevention and Men's Health; through books such as The South Beach Diet and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth; and through numerous digital properties. She is founding editor of the company's newest online venture, Rodale.com, which features the latest news and information about healthy living on a healthy planet, as well as her blog, Maria's Farm Country Kitchen.
Maria Rodale joined the family business in 1987, first working in circulation and direct marketing and eventually leading Rodale's in-house direct marketing agency. In 1998, she served as director of strategy, where she led the strategic review, planning processes, and management changes that refocused the company on publishing information on healthy, active lifestyles. She also led the company's Organic Living division, Rodale's first integrated brand division, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of Organic Gardening and oversaw all of Rodale's gardening books. She joined the Rodale board in 1991 and was elected Chairman in 2007.
She has won numerous awards, including in 2004 the National Audubon Society's "Rachel Carson Award" and in 2007 the United Nations Population Fund's "Award for the Health and Dignity of Women." In 2009 she was named to Pennsylvania's "Best 50 Women in Business" List. She is also a member of the board of Bette Midler's New York Restoration Project, co-chair of the Rodale Institute, and a board member of the Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Maria is a mother, an activist, and a businesswoman and has made promoting the benefits of an organic lifestyle both her personal mission and her business. She lives in an ecologically friendly house in Bethlehem, PA, with her husband, three children, one dog, one cat, and six guinea hens.
Read an Excerpt
1. WE HAVE POISONED OUR SOIL, OUR WATER, AND OUR AIR
When I was a little girl, one of my favorite outings was a Sunday drive to the local orchard. Out of the blue my dad would say, "Let's go for a drive," and we'd all scramble into the station wagon. When the destination turned out to be the orchard, we would rush to the juice machine and push our paper cups under the spout to get a cup of cold, fresh cider.
The autumn air would be filled with the scent of fallen leaves and wisps of wood smoke, and we would always come home with a wooden bushel basket full of apples, or sometimes even two if we were going to make applesauce. None of us wore seat belts and, in fact, I doubt the car even had themit was the 1960s. We headed home feeling lucky to live in a place where apples right from the tree were so delicious, so fresh, and so close by.
These were our good times. My Eden. My family lived right next door to my grandparents on a working farm where chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, and organic vegetables and fruits were raised. The fields were planted with hay and corn. At that time we knew the only way to get organic food was to grow it ourselves and so we did. And it was good.
Years pass, and now I'm driving my own kids to the local fair. In the intervening years, my grandfather died, having achieved iconic status in the hippie culture (although he himself was not one). My father, too, died, killed in a freak car accident while trying to launch an organic gardening magazine in Moscow. As I drive, I notice that the orchard has been turned into a housing development, and only a few gnarled old apple trees remain at the edges of the manicured lawns. I have often joked that Pennsylvania's biggest farm crop is houses, so while I am saddened to see a housing development there, I am not surprised. Nor, unfortunately, am I surprised when I read in the local newspaper that every one of the 800 water wells in that development tested positive for lead and arsenic. The soil is also contaminated, with levels more than 50 times higher than is deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency. The families who bought houses on Macintosh or Dumpling Drive, thinking they were getting their slice of the American dream, now are living an American nightmare.1
It's impossible not to feel for those poor families. Their children have a much higher risk of suffering reduced intelligence, behavioral problems, and health issues. Consider the young couples who thought they would be starting families and now find themselves unable to conceive,2 and may even be facing cancer treatments instead of fertility treatments. Consider the hard working people who might never be able to sell their houses. Perhaps you know other families in similar situations.
Now consider this: We are all in the same situation to varying degrees. We are all being poisoned, contaminated, sterilized, and eventually exterminated by the synthetic chemicals we have used for the last 100 years to grow our food and maintain our lawns, to make our lives easier and "cleaner" and our food "cheaper."
Most of us probably think our species' biggest problems, aside from the global economic collapse, have to do with energy and energy independence. The debate over the climate crisis and environmental destruction has been almost completely focused on energy usagehow we drive our cars, heat our homes, and power our affluent and well-lit lifestyles. We haven't yet made the full connection between how we grow our food and the impact it can have on our climate crisis and our health crisis.
The global economic upheaval in 2008 and 2009 has afforded us a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to rebuild and re-envision an economic model, a government, and a future that is based on what is right for people, the environment, and business. We can and must create a world that is more than sustainable, that is regenerative. Nature, under optimal circumstances (mainly, when we leave it alone) heals itself. Regeneration is necessary to heal the damage we have already done to ourselves and to our environment.
It is time to begin the process of healing.
WHY CARBON REALLY MATTERS
Over the last century we've all been subjected to an un precedented chemical experiment. While there have been antivivisection movements around the world to protect animals from testing, I've never heard about a single protest to save our children from this vast experiment. Yet there is increasing and frightening evidence that agricultural and other industrial chemicals are causing significant and lasting health problemsproblems that will be hard to solve and take time to correct even if we start making changes today. The evidence is starting to pile up.
Do you know what the number one reason is for kids missing school these days? It's not colds or the normal sicknesses that all children go through during their lives. It's asthma.3 Asthma's prevalence increased by 75 percent from 1980 to 19944 (the last time it was officially measured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Thirty-four million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma, and worldwide the number has reached approximately 300 million. 5 You could say that it's getting harder and harder to breathe on this planet.
What does asthma have to do with carbon?
Let's think for a minute about the human body and its relationship with the planet. Breathing is fundamental to life. We can live a few weeks without food, a few days without water, forever without cars if we must. But take away our air or our capacity to breathe it in and we are dead in minutes.
We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide in an ongoing cycle. Researchers have determined that global warming or climate change is caused primarily by too much carbon dioxide being produced by cars, manufacturing, and other uses of fossil fuels. Our collective exhaling is exceeding the earth's capacity to process it back into air for us to breathe in.
Carbon, the building block of life,6 is one of the most abundant naturally occurring elements on earthit's in coal and inside our bodies, it's in limestone and in every living thing (which is how scientists are able to use carbon dating to determine the age of artifacts and fossils), it's in oil and it's in the air, it's in wood and it's also in soil. In its densest form, carbon is a diamond. The very same element in a less compact form is charcoal or graphite.
Carbon molecules move all the timeand react readily with other elements, especially oxygen. When one carbon atom reacts with one oxygen atom, the result is carbon monoxide, which is both highly toxic and at the same time useful (it's the blue flame burning on your gas stove, for instance). The carbon monoxide reaction occurs most often when carbon is burned in an oxygen-starved environment, like a woodstove. We have all heard stories about people who went to sleep on a cold winter night but never awoke the next morning because their faulty heating systemsoxygen-deprived, carbon- burning combustionkilled them with carbon monoxide.
When one carbon atom merges with two oxygen atoms, the result is carbon dioxide (CO2). Carbon dioxide is produced naturally by things like volcanoes and hot springs, but it also occurs when you burn carbon. Like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide is toxic in high concentrations and can cause dizziness, headaches, rapid breathing, confusion, palpitations, and at very high concentrations death.7
Oxygen is released into the air by plants through photosynthesis. Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen, a fundamental reason that plants of all kinds are essential to our survival. Plants generate oxygen we need to survive. The earth doesn't have enough plants to breathe in and store all the carbon dioxide our activities have been producing and recycle it as fresh oxygen. So we either have to stop spewing out so much carbon dioxide or find ways to "sequester" ithold it someplace. This is the conundrum we now face. This is the essence of our climate crisis.
There is no shortage of schemes and dreams to solve this problemincluding making "biochar,"8 cap-and-trade programs,9 creating vast underground tanks to hold the carbon, or shooting it out of our atmosphere and into space.
But what if we are missing a major piece of the equation? Most discussion on global warming has focused on the energy issue, both because it's the most visible cause of carbon dioxide emissions and, more important, because it's where all the money and political power are concentrated. Oil, gasoline, "clean" coal, solar, wind, biofuel, and all that goes with those things (wars, power grids, automobile companies, bailouts, deals, lobbying, government appointments) have been hogging our attention. And so in our daily confusion, we just take for granted that we will always have food, comfortable lifestyles, cars, and climate-controlled homes.
We take it all for grantedjust like breathing.
Now imagine for a minute that someone, maybe Bill Gates, has developed a nanotechnology for sequestering carbon (that is, taking the excess carbon dioxide that causes global warming from the air and holding it in a stable, safe form somewhere where it cannot do any damage to the atmosphere). Perhaps it is a technology that you put in the soil that will suck up all the carbon we have expelled into the air. Bill will set up a new business called Mycrosoft that is backed by venture capitalists and has an IPO scheduled for Year 2. People would be all over this like girls at a Jonas Brothers concert. Headlines in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal would herald this new technology as the savior of our environment. Warren Buffett would buy a piece of the business, for sure. Bill Gates would win a Nobel Prize. All the lucky investors would make a fortune.
The irony is that this cutting-edge, breakthrough technology already exists. It's just that nobody has figured out how to own it yet.
(Actually, it's just a matter of time until Monsanto figures out a way to make money from it. Monsanto has been hosting meetings of the Agricultural Carbon Sequestration Standard Committee, along with the USDA, to develop standards for "validating carbon offsets resulting from soil carbon sequestration of greenhouse gas emission reductions at the soil interface." In other words, it is trying to figure out how to make a business out of carbon sequestration in the soil. This process is facilitated by a company called Novecta, a joint venture of the Iowa and Illinois Corn Growers Associations that provides guidance on crop protection, "value enhanced crops," and help farmers understand their role in "producing product that is desired by the food, fuel, and industrial markets."10
These are smart people who are on to carbon sequestration and trying to get ahead of the market, the government, and the organic community in order to control it and make money from it. And they have billions of dollars at stake in doing so.)
What is this magical, superpowered natural nanotechnology?
"Myco" means fungus, and "rrhizal" means roots. So Mycorrhizal fungi are literally fungi that grow on the roots of plants.
For more than two decades the Farming Systems Trial (FST) at the Rodale Institute has been studying what happens over time to plants and soil in both organic and synthetic-chemical farming systems. The most surprising finding of all has been that organically farmed soil stores carbon. A lot of carbon. So much, in fact, that if all the cultivated land in the world were farmed organically it would immediately reduce our climate crisis significantly. "These fungi actually build our soil and its health and contribute to taking greenhouse gases out of the aircounteracting global warming to boot," says Paul Hepperly, PhD, a Fulbright scholar and former senior scientist at the Rodale Institute.
Conversely, soil farmed using synthetic-chemical or "conventional" methods has very little ability to keep or build vital supplies of carbon in the soil. This is not surprising, since farmers often apply fungicides as well as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These chemicals are meant to kill. As a result of using these chemicals, a farmer is left with debilitated soil that has weakened microbial life, a compromised structure, and a significantly impaired ability to withstand the stresses of drought and flood.
The fact that we haven't noticed these little helpful creatures before shouldn't surprise us. We prefer our nature in the macrothe postcard vistas and views. When it comes to the micro, we'd rather not look or know. We know more about outer space than we do about the ground we live on, about the soil that sustains us. In general we don't care to think too much about soil. Frankly, it's not sexy. In its verb form, it's a synonym for something that's dirty or ruined. Our most regular contact with soil probably occurs when it gets tracked into the house on muddy shoes. Then we get out the bucket and mop and fill it with fresh meadow-scented antibacterial cleaners to purify our homes and protect our families.
In the 1950s, a promotional brochure for DuPont Farm Chemicals trumpeted "Man against the soil: The story of man in his rise from savagery to civilization is the story of his struggle to wrest his food from the soil." Soil is our enemy?
Television commercials for cleaning products show magnified images of little bacterial villains who are out to get us, making us paranoid and afraid. And yet, according to Lynn Bry, MD, PhD, clinical fellow of pathology at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, if all the germs and bacteria in our bodies (and all around us) were eliminated, we would be dead within 2 weeks.11 Why, then, are we so intent on wiping them out?
Suspend your fear of dirt and all those things we can't see with our own eyes for a minute.
What we call "soil" is a living thing. Just one tablespoon of soil can contain up to 10 billion microbesthat's one and a half times the total human population. We are learning more each day about what goes on in that soil. The discoveries are surprisingand incredibly important.
Right now, soil scientists understand less than 1 percent of all the living things in the soil. But soil is more like us than like plants because the microbes in it breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. Healthy, organic soil also stores massive quantities of carbon and holds it tightly, just like a tree holds on to and stores carbon in its trunk and limbs (which is why all of our forests, including the rain forests, are so important to our survival).
Think about this for a minute.
Table of Contents
Foreword Eric Schlosser ix
Part 1 The Great Chemical Experiment (In Which We Are All Guinea Pigs)
1 We Have Poisoned Our Soil, Our Water, and Our Air 3
2 We Have Poisoned Ourselves and Our Children 17
Part 2 The Tortuous Journey to Our Extinction
3 Chemical Farming Today 43
4 The Birth of Our Chemical Addiction 65
5 How Industry and the Government Have Betrayed Us 88
Part 3 The Age of Healing
6 Organic Farming Today 141
7 The Truth about Modern Organic Farming 155
8 Five Solutions That Might Save Us 184
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I put all the other articles on the subjects of Chemicals in our food and water that are making us sick, not just the occasional "sniffles", but the Cancers, ADD, Arthritis, Birth defects and so many deceases, and the Organic Manifesto captures the ENTIRE scope of the Political control of our HEALTH. The Author has done her duty in sharing her knowledge with the WORLD. My knowledge on ORGANIC has expanded to the core of my Being. This book has strongly encouraged me to make sure every individual I know will be wiser when it comes to protecting not only their Bodies, but also the precious ENVIRONMENT which we desperately need to survive.
Organic Manifesto makes excellent argument for the case of organic farming. The book exposes the myth that "conventional" farming techniques are necessary to feed the world in an affordable way. In fact, organic farming would not requre the massive amounts of government funds that currently go into our food production today- the hidden costs that we do not see reflected on the price tag at the grocery store. This book also shows why eating organic is much more important than eating local when it comes to both our health and the health of the environment. While the average reader might find this book a little dry, it is an excellent resource for people who have read Michael Pollan's books and wish to learn more.
Absolutely brilliant! Maria Rodale continues the family legacy with astonishing new insights and solutions and clearly describes the broad impact that organic farming and lifestyle has on our lives, our health and the preservation and restoration of our planet. The scientists at Rodale Institute continue to lead the world in proving the real value of organic science as opposed to mechanistic science as well as providing new documented proof of the very real destruction of the environment that results from chemical farming. The solutions provided in this very readable book are surprisingly simple and doable--well within our grasp. It's all good news. This is an incredibly important book and I highly recommend it.
Pedantic and boring. Ponderous even though I agree with the arguments the author advances. Believe me, you've read it all before in a much more interesting presentation. Kudos to Ms. Rodale for her passion, but save your money and just buy organic.