At the event entitled, “CGES Online: Good Food for All—Towards Sustainable Food Systems in Germany and the US,” Friedhelm Von Mering and Ed Stockman discussed organic farming in Germany and the US. Friedhelm Von Mering is a political liaison manager at Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW), also known as the German Association of Organic Farmers, Food Processors and Retailers while Ed Stockman is a fourth generation farmer and co-founder and education director of Regeneration Massachusetts.
The event began with Friedhelm Von Mering explaining more about BÖLW. BÖLW is an organization of farmers that works towards ensuring that the organic food industry’s achievements are represented in German society. They specifically do this through lobbying, research and knowledge transfer, communications, events and service for member associations.
Von Mering highlighted how organic farms in Germany are increasing in number and organic food sales are also increasing. There was previously a major wave of organic movements throughout the 1900s. Currently, organic farming is thriving all across Europe. This is due to the fact that the European Union is densely populated, a number of food scandals that propelled people to think more about organic farming, environmental degradation, structural changes and culinary traditions. Von Mering described how organic farms are better for the environment because they produce much more biodiversity, allow for clean water, produce healthy and fertile soil, allow high standards for animal welfare, create strict, legally defined standards and have independent annual inspections of all operators and allow for better food.
The event then continued with Ed Stockman explaining his background in farming and issues that he is passionate about. Stockman began by explaining how agriculture is the largest polluter in the US. According to him, Americans are so removed from their food supply that they are not aware of this. Stockman became aware of this when he purchased a farm in New Hampshire in the 1970s and began to read more about organic agriculture. He heard about GMOs that were going to make farmers rich at this time, however, GMOs were actually a let down. According to him, “the hype around GMOs is not true.”
Stockman also highlighted how labeling in the US is another problem as there is a lack of labeling of genetically modified foods. A bill was passed during the Obama administration regarding regulation of GMO food labeling, however, according to Stockham, nothing has been done since then to actually create changes. This bill, known as the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), has sparked much controversy throughout the United States. GMO pesticides are systemic, meaning that once they are sprayed on the plant, they are in the plant and part of the cellulose structure of the plant. Based on testing, there are high concentrations of herbicides, specifically glyphosate, in most of the food consumed by people in the US. Glyphosate is the most abundantly used herbicide throughout the world. As Stockman explains, “when you are eating a corn seed that has been sprayed with a pesticide, you are also eating the pesticide.” He also highlights that consumers are the ones who can put pressure on the government to make changes. This information is important for consumers to know as when we consume food, our bodies may be polluted by pesticide residues.
Stockman lastly explains that many farmers are converting to regenerative agriculture and techniques to rebuild soil. Specifically, the focus of Regeneration Massachusetts, the organization that Stockman co-founded, is to educate people so that they can make wise decisions when purchasing food and push for transparency in food labeling. In the end, it is important to think about what we are putting in our bodies.