Blog: Heather Carmona

Heather Carmona is Executive Director of the Woodward Avenue Action Association and a life-long Detroiter. She is also founder of Pure, an organic product consulting and consumer advocacy company. Heather will be writing about the interdependence and relationship between quality of life, sustainability and community.

Post 5: The Organic Revolution

There’s evidence that my generation, those of us in 30-45 will outlive our children. We will outlive our children. Children are being born predisposed to disease at higher rates than just 10 years ago. Childhood obesity and cancer rates are soaring. I’m convinced it’s because of the toxic ingredients in food and the consumption of non-foods. If that isn’t scary I don’t know what is. 

I became interested in organics when my sister-in-law, a young vibrant 26-year-old was dying from a genetic disease. She knew she didn’t have much longer to live. One night when visiting her in the hospital, I picked up a magazine. There was an article about the growing number of chemicals in food and topical products and how many of these chemicals are now linked to cancer, infertility, ADD and other ‘common’ diseases.  I remember being very moved. Here was a young woman, knowing whatever she did to her body at that time wasn’t going to make much difference, but was still concerned about what she put in it and her continual drive to learn. She fueled my interest and passion for knowledge about the world of organics. 

Michael Pollan’s recent book, In Defense of Food explores how and where our food system has gone very wrong. The demand for more food ‘like’ products is driving the wedge between real food and government policies in the interest of profit over purity. 

Science has provided many advances. But the science of food engineering is dangerous. Genetically modified food is the beginning of a culture in which our food won’t come from the ground or a tree, but a test tube. Scary. Because of  government subsidies, the push to develop the latest and greatest low-fat snack crackers is of course driven by profit. Something Pollan calls ‘nutritional inflation’. 

I was excited to see last weeks’ Crain’s front page article on a growing organic business and editorial on the urban garden movement in Detroit. Attendance at local farmer’s markets is increasing, membership in CSA’s (community supported agriculture) is increasing. Organic and raw food classes at the Detroit Evolution Laboratory are popular.   

Michigan is in the throws of trying to diversify the economy in the technology sector, alternative energies and bio fuels, creating jobs and opportunities and a shift in our way of thinking and living. Organic agriculture needs to be part of the equation and Michigan has wonderful resources to position itself as more people demand locally and organically grown food. Eco’pure’neurs are emerging with this shift and will lead the way creating environmental and community-based, sustainable, healthy & ethical businesses. 

It’s interesting how we’re so worried about gas prices, but not so worried about the world’s food shortage. The two are interchangeably linked. It’s not getting better with the world’s food demands increasing.  China and India consume 1,000 acres of farmable land every day to build new automotive plants. Many economics believe that in the next 10 years, China will see a famine. 

I’m often asked about the price and value of organics. Organic is not a trend, it’s a lifestyle and a realignment of priorities. Ask anyone whether they’d rather eat an apple that’s grown with or without pesticides. It’s an obvious choice, but for many it comes down to cost and perceived value.  It’s the ‘pay it forward’ principle.  

Now, I don’t mean to sound elitist or snooty. I do eat non-organic food or I’d starve in Michigan and I realize that there are many people, many here in our own town that cannot afford a simple meal yet alone buy organic. And, that is part of the problem. That’s where education comes in helping to drive demand and drive down price.  

For more information visit the Organic Consumers Association