Thursday, February 25, 2010


In the mainstream media we are inundated with statistics, surveys, studies, claims that purport to tell us the truth about developments in science, medicine, crops, foods, economics, climate, resource use. As consumers of foods, medicines, materials, and money, we need to read very carefully between the lines. Sometimes, we need to reject untruths, distortions, biases out of hand, and we need to be increasingly vigilant and smart at this, as ploys to make us consume more of the same swill are becoming increasingly brazen and devious.

The mainstream media has become an ethical minefield where we must tread very prudently to avoid explosive lies and deceit. This is the propaganda forum dominated by large corporate concerns with considerable clout. He who shouts loudest gets the point across to the widest audience. It is up to us as individuals to sift through the fallout of bad ideas and poor practice based on greed and fear-mongering.

We resist as individuals and groups, but above us, committees, councils, governments, blocs cave to the pernicious proddings of vested interests. We could give up, yielding to our collective powerlessness. Yet the world is filled with individuals who have started, and continue to start, unimaginably bold initiatives at the grassroots community level. The Grameen Bank, Gaia Hypothesis, the Hippocratic Oath, Slow Food, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, bio-dynamics, organics, non-violence, small is beautiful, truth and reconciliation were seeds started in the creative minds of individuals like Hippocrates, Vandana Shiva, Carlo Petrini, James Lovelock, E. F. Schumacher, Rudolf Steiner, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela …….. Each ethical code set roots and caught the imagination of a broad group of followers. Now, many codes have been co-opted, diluted, by those out to corrupt their followers and convert them to something totally at odds with the original pure precept.

In farming, bio-dynamics, permaculture and organics staked out the moral high ground. To my mind, organic certification should confer credibility to the way a farm operates in the eyes of the consumer. It should establish a level of trust that means that the customer does not need to dig deeper – she knows that the salad greens she is buying are natural, full of nutrients and devoid of chemical additives. She should not need to wonder if they have been bathed in chlorine or gassed with ethylene to last the long trip. To accommodate the big boys of rampant capitalism, regulators have diluted standards to such an extent that consumers don’t know what is organic any more, what natural means. How can they, with all the competing and misleading claims? When new pharmaceutical products lay out the results of their latest study (carried out by their own experts and specialists, and certainly not independently verified), and small-scale producers of natural remedies are prohibited by law from making any health claims, what does this say about the ethics of our society as a whole?