Saturday, July 25, 2009

Agriculture = Applied environmental protection

Professor Andy Kleinschmidt of Ohio State University Extension, also known as @akleinschmidt on Twitter, has honored me in a way that is as flattering as it is unusual. During a recent #foodchat session on Twitter (which alternates with the related #agchat series), I remarked: "Q7: I try to describe agriculture as applied environmental protection, just as agricultural economics is now 'applied economics.' #foodchat"

Professor Kleinschmidt very generously turned this Tweet into a t-shirt:

Agriculture t-shirtThe idea for this shirt came from Jim Chen, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Louisville, during a live Twitter discussion. Dean Chen’s (known as @chenx064 on Twitter) original quote was “I try to describe agriculture as applied environmental protection, just as agricultural economics is now applied economics.” I’ve known that agricultural economics is described as applied economics and also applied agricultural economics, so that was not new to me. BUT I had never heard agriculture referred to as ‘applied environmental protection.’ Brilliant! I thought the saying should be made into a shirt, and with Dean Chen’s blessing I made the shirt via Zazzle. . . .

This shirt is all-organic cotton. I spend 99% of my time working with conventional agriculture, so I specifically chose organic in an effort to support other choices in farming. In my view all farming is good, just different approaches. . . . The shirt is made in the USA by American Apparel. I’ve also added ‘via @chenx064 on Twitter’ to give Dean Chen appropriate credit and for you to show how ‘hip’ you are knowing about Twitter.

I invite you to order the shirt.



Update, July 27, 2009: Andy Kleinschmidt, the shirt's designer, directed Zazzle to make the shirt out of all-organic cotton. Professor Kleinschmidt spends 99 percent of his time working with conventional agriculture, and he specifically chose organic in an effort to support other choices in farming. He stresses that "all farming is good, just different approaches." If you prefer not to order an organic shirt, Professor Kleinschmidt has unlocked the shirt choices in Zazzle so that you may order a different style.

I can't resist adding my own commentary. Contemporary agriculture does indeed support a wide variety of choices, from production and pollination to processing and pricing. I address some of the issues raised by the Organic Foods Production Act in Beyond Food and Evil, 56 Duke L.J. 1581 (2007) (summarized on The Cardinal Lawyer).

Cotton offers an intriguing twist. Outside the agricultural community, relatively few people are aware that much of the United States' cotton crop has been genetically modified to express Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a natural pesticide. Even fewer people understand that the USDA-approved organic label represents, at least for the moment, the most reliable way of signaling that a cotton product does not rely on transgenic Bt technology. Such are the choices that consumers make, knowingly or not, whenever they buy food or fiber.

Regardless of its underlying production, the "Agriculture = Applied environmental protection" shirt sends a message that the entire agricultural and agribusiness community can and should endorse. Order yours now.

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