For my “White Paper” I wanted to focus on a topic that I personally feel does not get sufficient attention from the media or society in general. I have decided to look into our nation’s policies on organic and sustainable food sources. The term “organic” is used to describe food or other agricultural products that are produced following a set of approved guidelines in an attempt to promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic food and beverage production is growing and many social movements have been introduced to promote sustainable food practices. There is a direct correlation between organic label products and a reduction in childhood obesity and diabetes.
The audience that I will be focusing on will consist of the heads of the Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and various policy makers in congress. These individuals have the power to alter current policy and impose certain regulations that can seriously improve our nation’s stance on organic and sustainable food sources. Our current position does not support organic production as much as it’s cost effective genetically modified counterpart. These large commercial farms often receive government subsidies that the small farms (utilizing sustainable practices) do not. It is extremely expensive to
The biggest societal issue I see within this topic is the limited accessibility of healthy organic food sources to low income communities/families. We live in a world where fast food is convenient, cheap, and accessible but have serious financial limitations imposed on high quality, sustainable, healthy food production. The government has put in place certain programs to “incentivize” healthy life choices. For example, programs like Chefs Move to Schools (part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative) has created a partnership with the culinary world and schools in underprivileged communities to promote healthy eating. However, simply calling attention to the problem and implementing these programs is not sufficient in creating change. The NPO, Local Foods Connection, has highlighted the most prominent barriers preventing low income families from obtaining healthy organic food alternatives:
- Financial Restrictions
- Preparation and Storage of Food
- Distribution of Food
- Lack of Knowledge and Education
- Fulfillment of Government Nutritional Standards
My goal with the “White Paper” is to have policy implemented that will completely overhaul the current system. I will attempt to show why the FDA and Department of Agriculture should be fighting to reallocate government subsidies to locally grown, organic, and sustainable food producers. By highlighting potential benefits, analyzing inequality in accessibility, stressing current issues, and describing financial plights of organic farmers I will present a call to action for policy makers to reshape our nation’s agricultural focus.
Through preliminary research on the Department of Agriculture website, non profit organizations, and the organic trade association I have compiled a significant amount of relevant statistics:
- The cost of vegetables and fruit rose 120% between 1985 and 2000, while the price of junk like sodas and sweets went up less than 50% on average.
- U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2010 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 11.8 percent over 2009 sales.
- Organic food and beverage sales represented approximately 4 percent of overall food and beverage sales in 2010. Leading were organic fruits and vegetables, now representing over 11 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales.
- The world market for organic food is predicted to exceed $88,000 million by 2015, a near 50% increase in five years.
- Greater care is given to ensure organic food labels are not misused, with a possible $10,000 fine for food producers and retailers who mislabel or sell organic products that do not meet the standards imposed by the USDA.
I think that the most exciting aspect of this topic is the fact that it can fit in to all three of our major components; business, government, and society. I am interested in demonstrating how this issue could impact social change, how businesses can benefit from adopting organic/sustainable practices, and how the government needs to intervene. This topic is becoming increasingly important and I look forward to dissecting it.