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(Apologies for duplicate postings.)

The Soul of Agriculture: a New Production Ethic for the 21st Century

"Currently there are two agricultural paradigms in our society, each laying
to the allegiance of the hearts and minds of the citizens of planet Earth.
One is the
industrial agriculture paradigm, which is urging society to amplify our research
and application of intensive, high-input agriculture in the interest of feeding
an expanding human population while saving land space for wildlife and other
species.  The other is the ecological agriculture paradigm, which suggests that
if the human species is to survive, agriculture must be folded into the larger
task of restoring the health of local ecosystems.  Ecology students suggest
this not only requires a redesign of farming but of the whole food and
agriculture system."

        Fred Kirschenmann, introductory remarks, Soul of Agriculture project
planning session, March 1997

The Center for Respect of Life and Environment (CRLE), a U.S. non-governmental
organization, has launched a national effort to develop a new agriculture
ethic and a plan of action designed to encourage public participation and
broad public support for its adoption.

The project was inspired by "The Spirit of the Soil:  Agriculture and
Environmental Ethics,"
a new book by Paul B. Thompson, Professor of Philosophy and Agricultural
Economics at
Texas A&M University.  He is the director of the university's Center for
Science &
Technology Policy and Ethics.  The book examines environmental problems in
agriculture and challenges environmentalists to think more deeply about the
ethical dimensions of agriculture's impact on the environment (see review in
Winter, 1996 WSAA newsletter).

Thompson argues that current land use ethics are polarized between farmers
who have
unwittingly adopted a productionist ethic (produce as much as possible
regardless of cost)
and environmentalists who have gravitated toward a preservationist ethic
everything in its natural state).  He concludes that this polarization
leads farmers to
align themselves with chemical, seed and equipment manufacturers against
environmentalists despite the fact that it is farmers and environmentalists who
share a common interest in protecting the earth.

Fred Kirschenmann, North Dakota biodynamic farmer and sustainable
agriculture leader,
proposed the project.  Kirschenmann, a member of CRLE's board of directors,
also is a
World Sustainable Agriculture Association board member and officer.  He
chairs the
project's planning committee, and Roger Blobaum, a member of WSAA's executive
committee, is the project's coordinator.  WSAA is one of several supporting

Thompson and Kirschenmann were among more than 20 environmentalists, farmers,
ethicists, church networkers, sustainable agriculture leaders, and others
brought together March 22-24 to draft the project's vision statement and
call to action.
The draft will be made available for public review and comment this summer
and fall
and will be further refined at a national conference November 14-16 at the
Humphrey Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Kirschenmann, in remarks opening the drafting committee session, pointed out
that the polarity between farmers and environmentalists is a barrier to
a common social ethic with an agriculture that can meet society's
production needs and
protect the earth at the same time.

"Unfortunately many environmentalists have focused solely on achieving
balance by creating wilderness areas devoid of humans.  This assumes that the
presence of the human species is necessarily destructive to healthy ecological
neighborhoods," he said.  "Most farmers, meanwhile, are prevented from
ecological farming methods because so few ecologists are interested in

CRLE, established in 1986 in response to the growing environmental crisis,
economic and social develoment programs that recognize the links between
spirituality, and sustainability.  This new project is entitled "The Soul
of Agriculture:
a New Production Ethic for the 21st Century."  Further information,
including a copy
of the vision statement and plan of action draft, can be obtained by
writing to Roger
Blobaum at 3124 Patterson Place, N.W., Washington, DC 20015, or contacting him
directly at Tel: (202) 537-0191 or Fax:  (202) 537-0192.

Linda L. Elswick
Washington Office
World Sustainable Agriculture Association, 2025 I Street, NW#512, WDC, 20006
Phone: 202-293-2155
Fax: 202-293-2209
Email: wsaadc@igc.apc.org
Web Site:  http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/wsaa