Eric Schlosser at Colorado Conservation Voters

Eric Schlosser, the author of “Fast Food Nation” and other books, keynoted the Colorado Conservation Voters‘ annual luncheon today. The influential author was addressing an influential audience — Gov. John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, U.S. Reps. Diana Degette and Ed Perlmutter, regional EPA director Jim Martin, and a slew of state house and senate members enjoyed pork chops locally raised free range chicken and speeches in the Grand Hyatt Denver’s Imperial Ballroom. I was part of a two-table Beth Conover posse. Not sure there was a Republican in the hall, which is a shame. The biosphere knows no politics.

[Addendum, courtesy Beth: For the record, I’m pretty sure there were several Republicans in the room- including a weld county commissioner/ tea partier who spent quite awhile talking with Eric after the talk, some rancher/ land conservation folks and at least a few oil & gas reps who visibly cringed at several points (!).]

Michael Pollan writes about our relationships with food; Schlosser is about food’s relationship with the planet. While he views climate change as “a nightmarish possibility,” the storyteller recognizes a better yarn when he sees one, and urged the environmentalists in the room to move away from this “very abstract” problem and think closer to home. “Food is not abstract,” he said. “We eat three meals a day.”

Indeed, agriculture is his doorway into environmentalism. He reminded the audience that half of Colorado’s land is covered with farms and ranches. Of the farms, 100,000 acres are organic, he said. Sounds like a lot. But it’s 0.33% of the Colorado total, he said.

Schlosser said he views organic farming as embodying “a humility towards nature.” Ranchers call it “holistic resource management.” The focus is the soil because what’s in the soil is in the crops is in the animals is in the people. We are soil long before we reunite with it. Lester Brown and others have gone into great detail about the dire state of this eroding, compacting lifeblood.

Without naming names, Schlosser blasted Monsanto and its Roundup-Ready genetically modified crops. The crops give soybeans, alfalfa, corn, canola and sugarbeets superplant abilities to survive onslaughts of Roundup weed killer (active ingredient glyphosate). Farmers use eight times more of the stuff than they 10 yeras ago, he said, and despite assurance that it biodegrades, it’s showing up in soils, watersheds, even raindrops, Schlosser said.

He urged the environmental advocates to get involved with food issues. As his listeners finished hundreds of chops from feedlot-raised pigs their meals, Schlosser reminded: “We don’t need to be pure to be effective.”