By Amanda Kimble-Evans
Just two years into the process, 11 committee members have resigned from the development of a national Sustainable Agriculture Standard claiming unbalanced membership. The 47 remaining organizations participating in the Leonardo Academy’s process continue to work through their diversities to a truly sustainable collaboration.
“These groups relentlessly pushed for molding the Standard to validate industrial agriculture and high tech genetic manipulation,” says Jeff Moyer, Farm Director at the Rodale Institute and active member. “The model they propose confuses short-term profits for sustainability.”
According to the Leonardo Academy, their process of selecting members has been approved by the American National Standards Institute to provide a balance across diverse interest groups. The result is a board not weighted by production, but by a cross section of agricultural realities. This arrangement mirrors and harmonizes with the mission of the process to reduce “interest-group-specific sustainability standards.”
The departing organizations are a who’s who of big agri-business: American Farm Bureau Federation, American Frozen Food Institute, American Soybean Association, California Seed Association, CropLife America, Environmental Intelligence, Inc., Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council of America, and United Fresh Produce Association.
“When these groups walked off the board, it was like they took their ball and bat and went home rather than staying and toughing it through the hard work,” says Moyer. “It really is unfortunate because they do have a valuable voice to contribute and represent a constituency that should be heard.”
Despite the laundry list of “allied organizations” tacked onto their resignation letter, it is important to remember that they don’t represent the majority of farmers, asserts Moyer. Nor is their singular claim to “modern” agricultural techniques all it is cracked up to be.
“GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are probably the biggest bone of contention,” says Moyer. “But, again, it is dishonest to claim these as the only ‘modern’ techniques out there. Ecologically-minded farmers and researchers have developed things like hormone disruption, cover cropping and no-till rollers that are widely accepted and integrated on all kinds of farms. It is just biology instead of chemistry. And internationally organic agriculture has already been identified as the key to sustainability. "
Although the loss of these few participants is unfortunate, it is certainly not the death-toll for the Standard. Instead, Moyer stresses, it represents an opportunity to move the process forward in a manner that will represent sustainable agriculture as more than just "business as usual."