What’s Organic About Organic, A New Film on an Important Topic

What’s Organic About Organic asks what the implications of growing food organically or not actually are.  This hour-long film covers a lot of ground.   Its short length and breadth of issues make this movie a good discussion-starter amongst peers, family, and friends.   Watching What’s Organic About Organic left me with a sense that we don’t necessarily know the whole story about conventionally grown food or the benefits of organic,  it made me want to learn more and be a more educated consumer.

This film is a basic introduction to what organic fundamentally means.  Its goal is to promote conscientious food purchasing, namely, to buy organic.

Many people dismiss organic food as a way for companies to squeeze a few extra dollars out of their pockets for a product that is relatively the same.  In my own discussions with family and friends, this is largely the consensus.  What’s Organic About Organic responds to this claim in several ways.  Perhaps most importantly, it shows that the costs of conventionally grown food are externalized to taxpayers, for example, paying for pollution clean up or medical costs for pesticide exposure.  Many of the organic farmers in the film stress that when you buy organic, you are paying for better nutrition, freedom from harmful pesticides, and more sustainable farming methods.

One thing that is made clear through interviews in the film is that chemicals and pesticides cause steep health costs to plants, animals, topsoil, and humans alike.  An interview with an organic farmer who grew up on a conventional farm exemplifies this best.  When the farmer was 7 years old , his dog who had been playing with pesticide-sprayed crickets died from eating them and the pesticide they were covered in.  He realized the pesticides on the bugs killed his dog, and at that moment he knew there was something wrong with those chemicals, that if they could hurt bugs and dogs, they could certainly hurt people.  These are the same chemicals that we are constantly ingesting from conventionally grown foods.  One person in the film said it best when he pointed out that pesticides are sprayed on to withstand rainstorms so it follows they can probably withstand the washings we give food before we eat it.

The experience that this man had as a 7 year old, seeing first-hand the effects of pesticides, brought him an understanding that those of us who are unfamiliar with conventional farming practices don’t get to have.  Many farmers in the film spoke about their belief that if people truly knew what conventional farming techniques were, they would happily choose organic.  Practices such as the use of sewage sludge for fertilizer, feeding chicken excrement to other animals, and pumping cows full of antibiotics are not exceptions; they are the standard in conventional “agriculture”.

The film’s conclusion seems to be that, our dependence on “chemically addicted”, conventionally grown food is not sustainable.  Further, there is a solution!  It’s not radical, it’s not about quick fixes, and it is profitable.  The use of farming practices that have been used for centuries, encouraging and capitalizing on nature’s own processes, works.  What’s Organic About Organic shows that the most traditional and natural farming methods are also the most sustainable.  These farming techniques used to be “normal” and it’s up to us to support a return to these methods and take care of our own health by understanding the food we eat.

I only covered a few of the issues shown in the movie here, so be sure to check out the film’s website at whatsorganicmovie.com where you can learn more, find showings, and contact them to host a screening.  The film also touches on the use of antibiotics, loss of topsoil, and the divide between large scale agribusiness organics and small organic farms (to name a few).

What’s Organic About Organic has opened this week in New York City.  There is a series of premier screenings with expert panels after the film.  For a complete schedule, click here

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