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Richard Wiswall: GMOs Are A Dark Cloud For Organic Farmers

Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, has high hopes for farmers. In a recent interview with Laura Klein from TriplePundit, Wiswall spoke about organic farming, and the future of food. From TriplePundit:
Sustainable agriculture is the fastest-growing sector of the food industry. On the other hand, less than 1% of American cropland is farmed organically. In light of this conundrum, what keeps the organic farmer going? I spoke with Richard Wiswall, author of The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff – and Making a Profit, to find out more about what it’s like to be an organic farmer in these tough economic times. “The future of organic is very, very solid in spite of level sales,” says Wiswall.  A farmer first and author second, Wiswall is seeing a groundswell of new organic farmers entering the marketplace, which he and others attribute to the writings of Michael Pollan, films like Food Inc., and the increased concern surrounding food safety issues in general. However, there are big speed bumps in the way of an organic farmer’s success. GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, provide what Wiswall dubs as a “very dark cloud” for the organic farmer. Not only do GMOs operate outside the boundaries of nature, they are the source of expensive lawsuits for farmers. Companies like Monsanto regularly accuse farmers of “stealing” their seeds, even though GMO-tainted pollen often lands in an organic farmer’s land unknowingly via mother nature. Other issues with GMO foods include:
  • GMO seeds are costly to patent and by law, can’t be saved for replanting. This is a far cry from the claims that GMOs help poor farmers from around the world
  • GMOs need increased levels of toxins to control weeds, an unsafe option both ecologically and from a human health standpoint.
  • GMOs are artificially injected with foreign proteins. Check out Robyn O’Brien’s book The Unhealthy Truth How Our Food is Making Us Sick – And What We Can Do About It to learn how foreign proteins are negatively affecting human health.
GMO “developers have not failed at making huge profits in a system where farmers are forced to market on volume, and have no market rewards for nutritional quality or penalties for ecological impact,” according to Timothy J. LaSalle. Another huge challenge for organic farmers are Good Agricultural Practices or GAP, which audits food growers for safety standards (see the debate about one such GAP program, the Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, which is raging on  While the premise is solid – to ensure food is safe – GAP certification can be cost-prohibitive for small organic farmers, ranging from $5,000-$10,000.  Plus, the strict standards of sanitization required by GAP are geared for big corporate agriculture – not organic farmers. With food safety issues on the rise, insurance companies are also heavily involved. “Insurers are pressuring retailers for GAP certifications, and retailers are pressuring farmers,” says Wiswall. […]
Read the entire interview here.

A Simple Way to Grow Fresh Greens Indoors This Winter

Just because the temperatures have started to drop doesn’t mean you have to live without fresh greens until next Spring. With author and gardener Peter Burke’s innovative method of growing soil sprouts indoors, you can grow nutrient-dense greens all year long at a fraction of the cost of buying at market. Burke’s new book, Year-Round Indoor Salad […] Read More..

A Day in the Life of a Homesteader

As Homesteading Month comes to a close, we take a look at what it means to live the homesteading life every day. Read through the question and answer below and be sure to check out any of the previous articles you might have missed:Why Acquiring Land Presents a Challenge for New Homesteaders Homesteading Q&A: Solutions […] Read More..

Go Lean: How To Eliminate Waste and Increase Efficiency on the Farm

Using the words “factory” and “farm” in the same sentence may seem sacrilegious, but today’s young farmers like author Ben Hartman are discovering that the same sound business practices apply whether you produce cars or carrots.In his new book The Lean Farm, Hartman demonstrates how applying lean principles—originally developed by the Japanese automotive industry—to farming practices […] Read More..

Why Acquiring Land Presents a Challenge for New Homesteaders

More and more often, young people are turning away from cities and urban life in order to live off the land and even start farms of their own. But while many have the desire to grow food for themselves and/or others, acquiring land, and the financial burden that comes with it, presents a difficult challenge […] Read More..

How to Distinguish Permaculture from Natural Farming

Just what are the differences between permaculture and natural farming? How are they connected, and where do they diverge in philosophy and principle?Those questions are answered in the following excerpt that is adapted from the newly released One-Straw Revolutionary, a book that delves into the philosophy and work of Japanese farmer and philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka […] Read More..