The First All-Organic Country?

One country has announced plans to go 100% organic.  No, it’s not the U.S.  It’s a tiny country of 700,000 people situated in the Himalayas between China and India: Bhutan.

Going 100% organic may sound like a big deal.  After all, less than 1% of the food produced in the world is certified organic.

Bhutan Flag

Can a whole country go organic?

But Bhutan is already a good part of the way there.  Most Bhutanese are small farmers, and few of them use chemicals to begin with.  Most chemical pesticides and fertilizers are too expensive for these remote, cash poor farmers to afford.  So these farmers farm the way mankind did for thousands of years: chemical-free.  The few who do use chemicals mostly grow export crops: apples, oranges, potatoes.

But it’s these last few farmers who may be tough heads to turn.  While a main driving force behind Bhutan’s 100%-organic mission seems to be increasing its ability to feed itself–it recently became a net food importer for the first time in recent history–these larger farmers are competing in international markets dominated by non-organic growers.  Even if these farmers can produce their crops at prices competitive with  the world’s non-organic growers, without the use of chemicals, it may take them some time to figure out how to do this.

They simply may not want to.  Also, they may tend to be influential within the industry because, if they’re growing crops for export on a comparatively large scale, they’re likely where the money is.  The rest of the nation may not succeed in bringing them behind the national mission.

Time will tell.  This isn’t of huge weight to the world, given Bhutan’s small population and minute agricultural economy.  But it would be neat to see Bhutan achieve its goal, if only for the sake of symbolism, and because it’s great fodder for the media.  Even if it only helps to get the word out that people in all corners of the world are taking organic seriously, it can help to accelerate the rate of change in the rest of the world as well.

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