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.”

2 Comments

  • Neeti Pawar Posted October 24, 2011 12:07 pm

    Thanks for this overview, Todd. I don’t know how you confirmed that the chicken was free range, but that was the first thing I wondered when we sat down..what are they going to feed us?! I thought there was ham on top of the chicken, too, but I didn’t want to get too close to find out. I’m veg, so I didn’t have it anyway, but I thought it would have been nice to see a recognition of the farmer if it was local, or maybe have Udi’s Organics cater it. I thought he did a great job of respectfully calling out the CCV’s failure to place more emphasis on agriculture and the food industry. Roundup Ready in raindrops was a shocker, as was residual of it in most pregnant women’s umbilical cords!

  • Todd Neff Posted October 24, 2011 3:00 pm

    Neeti, yes, Beth sent a note to the CCV folks and confirmed the chicken. A bad assumption on my part — I try to keep this to a reasonable journalistic standard and clearly screwed that up. So mea culpa. They’d meant to announce the chicken’s origins and forgot to do so, apparently. Tells me how different free-range organic chicken tastes than the stuff we’re buying at supermarkets, though the leg bone should have been a giveaway.

    Yes, the umbilical cord bit is a shocker. Is Roundup an issue at ppb levels, which I assume we’re talking about? Maybe not. But then, it’s so pervasive, as BPA has been pervasive, and BPA was supposed to be benign until, oops, it wasn’t anymore. Today’s reports of BPA’s impact on young girls’ behavior (http://lat.ms/u3CV08 and many others) is a case in point. So yes, Schlosser was excellent (as was the chicken).

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