Monday, September 17, 2007

SEJ Conference report

I spent September 5-12 in California at the Society of Environmental Journalists. More than 900 members and affiliate members attended, bringing together an amazing group of people. Check out the site at, which leads to conference reports and the blog. My report on the Salad Bowl Tour is posted there, under Comments on the right-hand side. Click on my name.

It was an eye-opening tour, and gave us insight into the iimpossible position for growers and wildlife: In order to eliminate E. coli contamination, processers require assurances that no wildlife can enter the fields. Fences are being built and all wildlife habitat is being removed. The Nature Conservancy and others are working with growers and processors to find some middle ground that protects the public without eliminating wildlife and the watershed protections of riparian corridors.

As one of my colleagues said, "They are trying to put a bigger Band-Aid on the problems of industrial agriculture."

Unfortunately, government agencies are inclined to regulate in favor of the industry that speaks loudest to them. However, more consumers are demanding local food and the issues are open to discussion. As more people tend vegetables in their gardens and collect eggs from their own hens, or buy eggs from neighbors and other local farmers, our food system moves away from industrial to sustainable. Better days are coming.

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