In Organic We Trust

Reviewed by: Julie Bélanger
Categories: Food

Many people are already reaching for organic products on supermarket shelves. But does certified organic really mean health, harmony and happy cows? This young American director makes it clear that many people also aren’t really sure.

The general assumption is that organic food is cultivated with the philosophy popularized by the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s, which advocated for working with the rhythms of nature. Through interviews with industry experts and farmers, In Organic We Trust shows how big agriculture and certified organics have become strange bedfellows, blurring the line between crops and cash.

Organic certifier Jessica Morrison explains that USDA Organic is a production claim, ensuring that the product has been made according to the US Department of Agriculture’s national program regulations. But this certification has little to do with that original philosophy.

“Organic is simply a marketing tool and is promoted by the USDA as a marketing tool,” explains Alex Avery, director of research at the Hudson Institute. He also busts the myths that organic food is more nutritious (although it does contain less harmful chemicals) and organic farmers don’t use pesticides (only naturally occurring ones).

As your ideals of changing the world through good food deflate, Pastor showcases alternatives to a food system that promotes “cheap food now, healthcare later,” such as urban farming and otherwise localized food production. Some of the most exciting innovations on this front are taking place within the education system.

Watkins Elementary in Washington, D.C., is getting children getting excited about kale through a vegetable garden and health and dietary education. Robert “Chef Bobo” Surles of the Calhoun School in New York is revolutionizing the school lunch program while maintaining a cost of $3 per person in an effort to outlaw ketchup and wean kids off of processed foods.

In Organic We Trust provides an important look at how certified organics fit and don’t fit into the larger sustainable food picture. While the film only considers the American context, this FAQ from the CBC offers some of the basiccs about standardized organic certification in Canada.

In Organic We Trust, directed by Kip Pastor, USA: Pasture Pictures, 2012, 82 minutes

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Reviewer Information

Julie is an urban planning graduate student at the University of Waterloo, focusing on sustainable transportation.

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