When Michele Obama planted an organic vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House during the opening months of her husband’s presidency, her actions reflected the growing concerns of many Americans with the safety and nutritional value of the foods commercially available for consumers in the United States. For many years researchers have been warning the public about the overuse of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, growth hormones and genetically altered species in American agriculture. Several decades ago such concerns spawned an organic foods movement that has since grown into a multibillion dollar industry. The marketing success of organic foods has begun to attract agribusinesses to the field, which has compromised many of the gains of the organic food movement. In turn, many now advocate the use of the locally grown produce of small farmers as a healthier, tastier alternative to supermarket fare.
This new encyclopedia examines the history of the burgeoning organic and local food movements. Many of the 144 entries explore sustainable methods of agriculture and organic gardening. The alternative methods featured include beneficial insects, crop rotations, hydroponics, intercropping, organic pest control, and vermiculture. These ideas are contrasted with the problems created by agribusiness and traditional farming, including extensive monocultures, concentrated animal feeding operations, water pollution, antibiotics, genetic engineering and herbicides. The roles of activists in promoting organic foods and sustainable methods are frequently demonstrated from Sir Albert Howard to dolphin–safe tuna. From the Rodale Institute to Newman’s Own, stories of pioneering firms and organizations highlight the history of the movement. Also featured are continuing efforts to educate the public, producers and policy makers on the value of sustainable and environmentally sound production methods. Family farms, heirloom seeds, marketing and fair trade are also subjects of discussion. Food, health and nutrition issues are reflected in examinations of high–fructose corn syrup, fast food, free–range poultry, and vegetarian diets. Coverage includes biodiversity, soil health, organic standards and related issues. The role of government in sustainable food production is explored in articles on food and agriculture policies, farm supports, safety testing and trade barriers. Four appendices summarize government efforts to study and standardize organic food production. A brief chronology highlights both government and grassroots efforts to promote the production of safe and nutritious foodstuffs. This informative guide is recommended for academic and public libraries.