People have been producing organic food and using organic ways of farming for thousands of years. But the arrival of synthetic fertilizers and agrichemicals during World War II opened a path for heavy mechanization and chemically dependent farming methods so large in scale that they overshadowed centuries of organic-production practices.
Our first obsession report attempts to better understand the current controversies around organic solutions in global food affairs.
The history of food in Europe is long and storied. Deeply rooted agricultural and place-based food traditions are now experiencing renewed attention, as global interest in food origins grows. In 1986, the Slow Food movement was founded in Italy as a protest against fast-food chain McDonald’s encroachment on historic sites in Rome. Slow Food is now a vast, grass-roots international organization. As the food movement has grown in Europe, opportunities to study food have also expanded.
With members and hosts in almost 100 countries, there is very little international oversight for WWOOF. Instead, it is truly grassroots, with national WWOOF organizations in over 50 countries, and 45 more countries with independent hosts who are willing to take on volunteers. For a national membership fee, volunteers get access to anywhere from a few dozens to over 2,000 in-country hosts. After that, no money, not a single dollar, changes hands.
Everywhere, pesticides are wiping out bees and other pollinators. They are also losing their habitats and food sources because of development. The U.K. government is formulating a strategy, but critics are concerned that funding for proposed research might come from pesticide producers. As the debate goes on, one thing is clear: We all need to get planting.