Knowledge is Power: A Conversation with Glyphosate

On a flight from San Jose to Seattle earlier this year, I had the unexpected opportunity to chat with a lady whose father helped invent glyphosate for Monsanto. It really is a small world, folks! What started out as an ironic seating arrangement turned into a very interesting conversation. As you might expect, she was not a proponent for organic anything so I asked her to give me a list of the top five reasons she remained unconvinced organic was the future. This is what she said:

  1. The popularity and economic growth of organic food is due to clever and extensive marketing.
  2. Organic farmers don’t get any more from the sales of organic food than non-organic farmers get for the sales of non-organic food.
  3. There is no proof that organic food is better for you.
  4. The majority of food recalls are organic foods that are contaminated by animal manure being used in the fields, making organic unsafe. (She works as a food safety adviser and she did later admit that some of those recalls were due to mislabeling.)
  5. And, of course, the higher cost of organic foods and products.

The flight was a relatively short one and we had a good conversation, parting in Seattle as friends. Though, admittedly, I did suggest she might enjoy my book. 😉 But from my perspective, this conversation wasn’t about right or wrong, it wasn’t even really about organic versus chemical. This conversation was about knowledge.

Our conversation could have, very easily, escalated into a debate. I could have argued that chemical agriculture has had almost three-quarters of a century of their own clever and extensive marketing to build their own popularity and economic growth using ad campaigns those of us in the organic movement can only dream about. I could have insisted that, as an organic farmer who has long since paid off my farm loans since converting to organic, that we can, in fact, see more profit with our organic systems than non-organic farmers. I could have mentioned the recent questions connecting glyphosate and cancer. And I have a whole series of essays on my thoughts regarding the high cost of cheap food!

But as I’ve considered this conversation over the last few months, I realized that these five points of organic skepticism likely represent the opinions of a lot of the people in our country who do not know the whole story of organic, sustainable agriculture or understand the value of organic food. As someone who has been an advocate for organic for over 30 years, I can sometimes forget that not everyone has had the experiences I’ve had and knows what I know.

This conversation reinforced why I wrote my book, Grain by Grain. It’s why I’ve written essays, blogs and articles and appeared in countless podcasts and interviews. It’s why my company, Kamut International, supports organic research and funds informative media, like Ancient Grain for Future Farming. Knowledge. The more we can educate and inspire the folks around us—our friends and families and neighbors—the smaller this list of organic uncertainties will become and the more voices we gain in support of a sustainable, organic future.

I take my hat off in sincere appreciation to all of you who share my belief in the importance of the organic movement. Thank you for supporting organic in the grocery stores and at the farmer’s markets. Thank you to the folks who tirelessly endorse the necessity for change—organic is the future! It’s the only sustainable future for the health of our soils, our food, our earth and our people. Thank you all!