Publication date: 24/05/2016


At one of the public brainstorming sessions for the New York Organic Action Plan, an organic farmer made an impassioned plea for support for “independent science” and told us that with 8.5 billion mouths to feed by 2050, we will need genetic engineering to prevent starvation.

I would like to examine these words carefully to decipher what they mean, how those words are used by this farmer and by others, and suggest how the movement for locally grown organic food in this country should respond.

What is the meaning of ‘independent science’? As co-chair of the Policy Committee for the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY), I have been an active participant in the coalition that is campaigning to pass GMO labeling legislation in NY State. In this capacity, I have spoken at public meetings, to the press and on radio interviews. A question that I have heard from proponents of biotechnology is “why do you organic farmers oppose science, like the climate deniers?”

The first time I heard this, I was startled and felt defensive. Had I ever opposed science?  I searched back through things I had written and reviewed all the policy resolutions the members of NOFA-NY had passed over the years. I found a few places where I criticized reductionist science and defended “indigenous knowledge” (that is things like composting and crop rotations that people who practice a craft know and pass on to their children that has not been proven by research at a university). But nowhere could I find any statement opposing science.

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