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Organic Food Is Not Always the Best
by Vyapaka dasa
Hare Krishna 
Hare Krishna 
Krishna Krishna 
Hare Hare 
Hare Rama 
Hare Rama 
Rama Rama 
Hare Hare

I have been a farm inspector for horticultural and field crops in the organic food industry for 13 years and appreciate much of what Lalitanatha Prabhu has written in his article entitled "Organic Is Certainly the Best."

However, I would like to point out that organic agriculture is not as ideal as many think. When I first started inspecting, the use of slaughterhouse byproducts was quite rare, but that has changed dramatically over the last several years with blood, feather, and bone meals becoming more popular. Of course, these products are used primarily on horticultural crops and not on grain. So we must be careful about saying that organic agriculture is in the mode of goodness because my experience tells me that for the most part it isn't. And, of course, not all organic growers employ these fertilizers.

You may also want to consider the use of compost or manure (from either organic or conventional sources), which is used generally on all types of organic production, i.e. both horticultural and field crops. Practically all of this manure is from herds (either beef, dairy, sheep, or poultry) which are destined for slaughter. So I would postulate that we have another check against classifying organic agriculture in the mode of goodness.

The practice of agriculture involves basically two components, which are fertility management and weed control. Weed control is mandatory otherwise weeds (unwanted plants) often outcompete food crops for available moisture and nutrients. Therefore, the ecosystem must be simplified in order to have the food-bearing plant thrive. Organic certification demands that diversity is reintroduced in the ecosystem through crop rotation in an effort to return diversity into the system. There are alternatives as proposed by Fukuoka and the general science of Permaculture (whose main proponent [Mollison] argues against vegetarianism in his prominent text book on the subject) but it would certainly be unlikely these systems came into play to produce the organic food you are purchasing at your local supermarket.

The point about growing a garden is getting more to the point. Srila Prabhupada definitely guided us towards organic practice but I do not recall that he ever told us to buy organic food as a guiding principle. He urged householders who weren't actively engaged in preaching to develop self-sufficient, Krsna-centered communities producing as much of our needs as possible. This is where the key is— Krsna. Living in a rural setting while producing our own food to offer to the Lord is really the alternative that Prabhupada encouraged. These rural communities ideally would produce enough vegetables and grains to support themselves while supplying the city-based preaching centres and restaurants. In addition to vegetables, if a devotee drinks milk and eats grains, then the city garden falls short of producing the required needs. This again directs us back to a broader vision of spiritual food production as a defining component of a Hare Krsna lifestyle. If this would be accomplished, then I would agree fully that our daily practice would be evolving to a level which is in tandem with our philosophy.

His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada instructs us that vaisya activity is taught through example and not via academia. However, our rural attempts have found very little success in this area. This seems from my vantage point to stem from ill-conceived attempts at cow protection. Please read the walk conversation between Nityananda dasa and Srila Prabhupada. Nityananda speaks about all of the crops being grown for the cows and Prabhupada queries why nothing is being grown for the devotees. Our cow protection programs have now denigrated into collecting from Indians to support the cows while we all wait for them to die. This is certainly far from ideal.

An ecosystem is divided into producers and consumers. The consumers are broken down into herbivores and carnivores. The producers are plants which carry on photosynthesis to transform sunlight to a food source (very simply put). Everything, including cows and humans, are dependent on these producers. The practice of utilizing this resource within a daivi-varnasrama society falls on the shoulders of the vaisya community. Anthropology defines the different types of society by how they produce their food. Without the vaisya component, sudras are not properly employed and the ksatriyas have no surplus to tax and therefore no wealth to manage for the benefit of society. So for our communities to evolve, the importance of the vaisya varna must be re-evaluated.

Until we are able to meet this challenge, it will be difficult to break our movement's classification in the minds of the ill-informed as being a cult. The real importance of eating organic food will be best highlighted when the bhoga offered to the Deities is grown organically by the devotees as Srila Prabhupada has instructed us. Everything else is a compromise.

Vyapaka dasa

© CHAKRA 15 February 2002

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