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Answer to Reader Question
This first appeared in Apple Journal in response to a reader's questions about organic fruit
Our position is that the issues fruit growers face are complex and not easily described in catchy slogans or simplistic statements. Supporting our family farmers, protecting the environment, improving the quality and safety of produce, and feeding the population are worthy goals that resonate for most people. There are dangers in addressing any one of these areas to the exlusion of the others. We all need to be open minded and look at the issues in a wholistic way.
First and foremost, we should protect, defend and support the families who are growing our food if we are to have an opportunity in the future to have a dialogue on these issues. If the organic movement harms small family farmers, it will actually set back the progress towards safer food and better land management, as food production will move overseas and be more likely to be in the control of those with no stake in our rural communities, and little or no commitment to the best interests of future generations.
Secondly, lets continue to expand the discussion about food safety and land stewardship in a way that includes, rather than excludes those who don't agree with us on every point.
Thirdly, let's tell our legislators that farming issues are important to us. Many government policies negatively affect farmers, from inadequate funding of the research programs at the state universities (these universities were chartered and given land grants on the condition that they supported the public interest on agricultural isues), to unfair land taxation, to unfair trade policies, to tax incentives that encourage unregulated urban development and sprawl.
Lastly, let's continue to educate ourselves and others on the complex issues that farmers are facing.
There are many exciting and positive developments in a variety of areas. Introduction of disease resistant apple varieties is one exciting and promising direction. We are not talking about genetically modified food here, by the way. New apple varieties are being developed today by the laborious and time-honored method of hand pollination and then selection from the thousands of possible results by growing the trees and assessing the resulting fruit.
Integrated Pest Management, and other new practices should not be dismissed out of hand because they are not certified organic or because they are practiced by someone who does not agree with us on all issues. Does it really serve anyone to have gigantic factory farms out in the desert cranking out produce at terrible cost to the fragile desert environment, merely so we can feel good that we are eating certified organic? There are no pests that attack apples in the Arizona desert, now. There will be, though, as a result of putting orchards where they don't belong to reap a short term financial gain, and by then the "organic" corporation will have moved on to the next fad to make a windfall profit.