Pinched between India and China, two of the most polluted and populous countries in the world, Bhutan is an anomaly: Tiny (in size and population), carbon-neutral, and committed to conservation, mandating that 60 percent of its forests remain protected.
But above all, this Buddhist kingdom, which measures its development by Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of GDP, recently gained newfound media attention for aiming to become the first organic country by 2020. With herbicides and meat farms on the rise and less than five years to go, that goal is still very much a green dream.
The idea first appeared in the National Framework for Organic Farming in Bhutan in 2006, a document that posited that organic farming offered a sustainable model and “a symbol of a healthy living with nature and respect for all sentient beings.” The plan called for a complete overhaul of Bhutan’s agriculture system, which historically had been subsistence farming and animal husbandry until the 1960s, when pesticides were first introduced to encourage development.
The plan called for the development of organic standards. A decade later, officials are still working on that, so most food goes from farm to market without labels. It also calls for the education of farmers in organic methods, such as composting and bio-pest control, the hazards of herbicides or fertilizers, and suitable crops…