Organic foods currently make up less than one percent of the food consumed in China. Meanwhile, China's environmental challenges are growing -- as carbon levels in the atmosphere increase, droughts threaten, food prices rise and international pressure to find an answer to global climate change grows. But organic agriculture offers a solution, a way to conserve water and capture carbon from the atmosphere, while increasing yields and lowering prices.
Gary Hirshberg (CEO, Stonyfield Farm), Beth Keck (Sr. Director, International Sustainability, Wal-Mart) and Orville Schell (Director, Asia Society Center on U.S.-China Relations) discuss if China is ready for a change in the way it produces its food.
What effect would an organic China have on world markets and the world's climate?
Gary Hirshberg is the president and CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, the world's largest manufacturer of organic yogurt. Hirshberg has overseen the company's growth from infancy as a 7-cow organic farming school in 1983 to its current $200 million in annual sales. This growth has been built with innovative marketing techniques that often combine the social, environmental, and financial missions of the company.
One of the company's five missions is "to serve as a model that environmentally and socially responsible businesses can also be profitable." In the early days of Stonyfield, Hirshberg wore many hats, from yogurt-maker to bookkeeper. He served as director of the Rural Education Center, the small organic farming school from which Stonyfield was spawned.
Before that, he was executive director of The New Alchemy Institute, an ecological institute devoted to organic agriculture, aquaculture, and renewable energy systems. Early in his career, he was a water-pumping windmill specialist, an author, environmental education specialist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a manager of environmental tours to the People's Republic of China.
Hirshberg was one of the first graduates of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. He has received four honorary doctorates. He serves on several corporate and nonprofit boards including Homegrown Naturals, Honest Tea, and O'Naturals, a new chain of natural fast food restaurants he cofounded. He co-chaired The Social Venture Network for five years and is the founder of the Social Venture Institute, a "boot camp" for community-minded entrepreneurs.
Hirshberg has won numerous awards for corporate and environmental leadership including the 1999 Global Green USA's Green Cross Millennium Award (inspired by Mikhail S. Gorbachev) for Corporate Environmental Leadership. He was named "Business Leader of the Year" by Business NH Magazine and New Hampshire's 1998 Small Business Person of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Beth Keck is Senior Director of Sustainability for Walmart.
Orville Schell is the Arthur Ross director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He is a former professor and dean at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Schell is the author of 14 books, nine of them about China, and a contributor to numerous edited volumes. His most recent books are Virtual Tibet, The China Reader, and Mandate of Heaven. He is also a contributor to such magazines as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times Magazine, and many others. He is a fellow at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, a senior fellow at the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Southern California, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a recipient of the Overseas Press Club Award and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize for Asian Reporting.