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Maria Rodale

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Organic Author and Advocate

In this interview, CEO and Chairman of Rodale, Inc. Maria Rodale takes you inside her new book, Organic Manifesto, and explains why she demands organic--and why you should, too.


Q: You recently published a new book entitled Organic Manifesto. What is the significance of this title?

A: I have been concerned about all the confusion about organic (is it worth the extra money? Is it better than local? How is it different than natural? Is it possible to feed the world organically?) and felt compelled to find the answers and share my vision for an organic future with the rest of the world.

Q: Tell us a bit about the book. Where did you inspiration to write it come from, and what are some of the main issues you tried to address in it?

Since the organic movement has been a part of my family for over 60 years, I have always been interested in it’s progress. However, recent scientific results from our long running Farming Systems Trail research at the Rodale Institute on how organic agriculture significantly sequesters carbon compelled me to delve more deeply into what this means for us as a civilization on the brink of extinction.

I wanted to get to the root of all the major issues and points of contention...can organic feed the world? Yes. Can farmers farm organically in a modern way? Yes. Are organic foods healthier? YES!

I also wanted to show that while the traditional environmental movement talks about saving the planet — the truth is that the planet will survive long after we are gone. Chemical agriculture is destroying our ability to SURVIVE on this planet. Therefore, we don’t need to save the planet, we need to save us. And our primary way to do that is to heal the planet through organic agriculture.

Q: What did you find to be the most surprising/compelling part of your research for this book?

I started the book thinking the strongest health case for organic would be that organic foods are more nutritious. What I was astounded to realize is just how much scientific research exists on the health DANGERS of agricultural chemicals. And it’s not just on the food we eat (and you can’t just wash it off). It’s in our water, our air, our bodies and our babies bodies. It’s in our breast milk and in developing fetus’s. (Anyone who is pro life needs to be pro organic!)

Agricultural chemicals are strongly linked to everything from cancer, diabetes, obesity, autism, ADHD, Parkinson’s Disease, childhood leukemia, asthma, infertility, miscarriages, organ failure and accelerated aging. These chemicals have only ever been tested on humans in use right now. We are the guinea pigs. Our children are the guinea pigs. The results are in. We are in big trouble unless we demand organic.

Q: What message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: That not only is demanding organic, buying organic, growing organic and going organic the most important thing you can do to improve your own health and the health of our planet...but it’s essential to our survival.

Q: What role can/should schools play in communicating this message?

A: Schools are a major part of the solution! Young children need to learn how to grow and cook and eat food and where it comes from — and that they are responsible for the future care of this planet and our soil — which is filled with living organisms that are essential to life on this planet and need to be protected just as much (and maybe even more than) as polar bears!

Q: From your perspective, what makes organic worth it?  

A: Good health is priceless. Life is priceless. Life on this planet is priceless. Eating organic is completely possible and affordable.

About Maria Rodale
Maria Rodale is the CEO and Chairman of Rodale Inc., the world’s leading multimedia company with a focus on health, wellness, and the environment, and the largest independent book publisher in the United States. Rodale reaches 70 million people worldwide through brands such as Prevention and Men’s Health; through books such as The South Beach Diet and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth; and through numerous digital properties. She is founding editor of the company’s newest online venture, Rodale.com, which features the latest news and information about healthy living on a healthy planet, as well as her blog, Maria's Farm Country Kitchen.

Rodale is the author of three books. Her most recent work is titled Organic Manifesto: How Organic Farming Can Heal Our Planet, Feed the World, and Keep Us Safe (scheduled to be released in March 2010). Organic Manifesto cuts through the confusion and misinformation to provide an indispensable and highly readable look at why chemical-free farming unquestionably holds the key to better health for our families—and the planet.

Maria Rodale joined the family business in 1987, first working in circulation and direct marketing and eventually leading Rodale’s in-house direct marketing agency. In 1998, she served as director of strategy, where she led the strategic review, planning processes, and management changes that refocused the company on publishing information on healthy, active lifestyles. She also led the company’s Organic Living division, Rodale’s first integrated brand division, where she was the Editor-in-Chief of Organic Gardening and oversaw all of Rodale’s gardening books. She joined the Rodale board in 1991 and was elected Chairman in 2007.

She has won numerous awards, including in 2004 the National Audubon Society’s “Rachel Carson Award” and in 2007 the United Nations Population Fund’s “Award for the Health and Dignity of Women.” In 2009 she was named to Pennsylvania’s “Best 50 Women in Business” List. She is also a member of the board of Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, co-chair of the Rodale Institute, and a board member of the Lehigh Valley Health Network.

Maria is a mother, an activist, and a businesswoman and has made promoting the benefits of an organic lifestyle both her personal mission and her business. She lives in an ecologically friendly house in Bethlehem, PA, with her husband, three children, one dog, one cat, and six guinea hens.