The Just Foods program promotes a systems-based approach to a more sustainable food and fiber system. We work nationally and internationally.
- meaningful standards for organic agriculture
- comprehensive labels for products grown in environmentally sound and socially just ways
- improved certification programs
Through research, analysis, education, advocacy and coalition-building, we:
- educate farmers and consumers about diversity’s importance in agriculture,
- emphasize how GE foods could jeopardize long-term food security and farmers’ livelihoods,
- evaluate new technology based on economic viability, environmental soundness, and social justice
- create new and expanded production, marketing and research opportunities for sustainable and organic farmers.
At RAFI, our view is that organic offers the best agricultural approach for meaningful long-term solutions to the continuing and escalating environmental challenges facing our planet. As such, the organization has a very long history and body of work, tracing back to the early 1970’s, on the development, promotion and protection of organic farming, both domestically as well as internationally.
The national movement to protect and utilize crop diversity has, with RAFI’s coordination, been making slow but steady headway towards goals established during 2003’s Summit on Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century. That summit produced a comprehensive report, which set national goals and strategy. As a result, RAFI and its partners worked through the Congressional appropriations process to obtain funding for public, classical plant and animal breeding and preservation of genetic diversity. When the appropriations process failed to result in adequate resources, the coalition successfully campaigned for a congressional mandate for publicly funded classical breeding programs and research. As our 2011 report shows, this mandate has also failed to produce the USDA action that will be necessary to meet current challenges.
RAFI has built unprecedented relationships with members of the Administration, including key USDA leadership. In 2010, RAFI Program Director Michael Sligh attended lengthy meetings with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack as a representative of the organic movement during debate about GMO licensing. In 2011, we released a report in partnership with the National Organic Coalition (NOC). The first report documented the lack of federal research dollars devoted to classical breeding. RAFI staff met with Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and the head of the USDA research division to discuss this report.
RAFI joined the national Cooperative Grocers Associate in co-convening leaders in the organic industry to agree on a shared strategy to protect public crop varieties, prevent contamination from GMO crops, and ensure fair choices for farmers and consumers. In June 2011, we convened more than 60 organizations in Boulder, CO, to agree on common goals and a shared campaign for federal support. Attendees included such organic and sustainable agriculture industry powerhouses as Organic Valley, the Organic Trade Association, and Clif Bar. One of those common goals is the establishment of a federal body dedicated specifically to funding and supporting classical plant and animal breeding and protecting crop diversity.
Years of relationship-building and policy analysis have led us to new levels of access within the USDA and have built new, broader relationships between stakeholders. We need to respond to the lessons of the last decade, build popular awareness to complement policy gains, identify new strategies, and galvanize our partners.
Capitalizing on this momentum and bringing the right players to the table will preserve agricultural genetic resources and build the infrastructure needed to put them to work for the future.
Organic agriculture is now a billion-dollar industry. RAFI has been at the forefront of the organic movement for decades. We now develop practical strategies to promote and preserve organic integrity.
- The Benefit of Organic Agriculture for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Mitigating and Adapting to Climate Change (2009) A statement from the National Organic Coalition on the American Clean Energy and Security Act (H.R. 2454)
- Towards a National Organic Action Plan – Summit Discussion Paper (2009)
- NOC Transition Recommendations for the Obama Administration (2008)
- NOC Farm Bill Analysis (2007)
- Organic Agriculture and Access to Food (2007)
- Who Owns Organic? The Global Status, Prospects, and Challenges of a Changing Organic Market (2003)
Publicly-held plant varieties and animal breeds help meet increasing environmental challenges and changing consumer demands. We lead efforts to reinvigorate publicly-held seeds and breeds. Our overall goal is to ensure and expand farmer, business and consumer choices for more diverse and improved public seed variety options that can better respond to rapid climate change and growing new market opportunities.
- Seeds and Breeds for the 21st Century Coalition
- Conventional/Classical Plant and Animal Breeding Provisions of the 2008 Farm Bill (2008)
- Summit Proceedings: Summit on Seeds & Breeds for 21st Century Agriculture (2003)
RAFI is at the forefront of several national initiatives to create, support, and promote model fair food systems. We work for social justice along the entire production and marketing chain, from farmworkers to consumers.
- Agricultural Justice Project: Social Stewardship Standards in Organic and Sustainable Agriculture (2003-2008)
- Proceedings: Social Justice Workshop, Bangkok, Thailand, Nov 2003
We ask who benefits, who loses and who pays with the introduction of novel technologies in agriculture?
- Economic Implications of Plant-Made Pharmaceutical Production in North Carolina (2008)
- Farmers’ Guide to GM Contracts Brochure (2007)
- Farmers’ Guide to GMOs (2004)
Just Foods Program Director