By Caitlyn Collins | February 11, 2012
Director: Kip Pastor
Like most people, I consider myself a big fan of food. But it’s not just the eating part that I love. I thoroughly enjoy reading about food from news articles to recipes; shopping for food at grocery stores and farmers’ markets; and I find immense pleasure being in my kitchen cooking or baking. I’m also mindful of what I eat, and I try to purchase organic produce when I can. According to In Organic We Trust writer/director Kip Pastor, 73% of Americans eat some organic food. That number is a pleasant surprise. But Pastor’s biggest question, what exactly is organic food?
Pastor starts by interviewing people in various locations – Washington D.C, New York City, California – and asking them if they eat organic food and why. Not surprisingly, most of them state that they do eat some organic food. The reasons hardly vary, “it’s better for me” or “it’s better for the environment”. However, when Pastor begins to ask people what organic actually means, many have a difficult time coming up with a definition.
It’s no wonder the word is difficult to define given its introduction into agricultural vernacular began during the 1940s. The word has evolved even more within the last decade. Pastor begins interviewing organic farmers, organic certifiers, farmers’ market directors, and restaurateurs for their take on the term. He also interviews several academic researchers in fields such as nutrition and biology in order to understand the impact of organic food v. non-organic food on our health and environment.
Most of the organic famers Pastor interviews, such as Judith Redmond of Full Belly Farms, believe that organic food starts with the soil. It’s about sustainability and working with nature. But when the U.S. government gets involved, nothing — including food — is simply about one thing or another. Craig McNamara, an organic walnut farmer in California, makes the true yet awful statement that “nothing is more political than farming.” Pastor begins to explore this and enlightens his viewers on the big business of USDA organic certification. Farmers must go through a lengthy and rigorous process in order to become certified organic farmers, and rightly so. Jessica Morrison of Organic Certifiers explains a few of the requirements necessary in order to become a USDA certified organic farmer: 1) three year transition period for all the pesticides to leave the soil; 2) certified through an agent; 3) go through an annual inspection; 4) only use allowed practices and substances approved for organic farming.
But with all the hoops and paperwork that must be filled out as well as with all the money the United States stands to make as more and more consumers seek out the “organic” label, many have been misinformed about the true meaning of organic food. The U.S. grows a wide variety of crops yet we import a large amount of produce as well. Is something truly organic if it’s been flown in from half way across the world?
There is a bit of a kitschy quality to Pastor’s documentary. He’s a young, fit, and slightly goofy narrator. His documentary is peppered with brightly colored moving graphics meant to catch your attention. Yet, he focuses on the right questions, and ultimately concludes that we as consumers need to better educate ourselves about what we put in our bodies. This is not only necessary for the health of future generations, but also for the future sustainability of the environment. It’s a lesson worth repeating.