Can eating organic keep you healthier? An organic diet is what Paul Hawken, author of "The Ecology of Commerce", credits for his good health. “I’m a 44-year experiment in eating organic food,” he said at a keynote talk this morning at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s annual Sustainable Foods Institute event, part of the aquarium’s well-respected Seafood Watch program.

In a talk titled The Taste of the Future, Hawken talked about how a concern about local, organic, and sustainable food isn’t simply a niche topic for the well-off, but a concern for everyone. Pointing out that “taste is there to heal us and protect us,” Hawken called on the audience to take back our mouths and taste buds to build biological and social capital instead of financial capital.

People become more discerning out taste and quality when food actually reflects its true cost, Hawken pointed out. “The day of expensive oil is coming,” Hawken said — which will mean that people who are localizing food production will soon be given a competitive advantage, instead of the disadvantage they currently have due to cheap fuel.

Once that happens, locavores — and local food producers — will finally see financial benefits in addition to health and environmental ones. Of course, I find that getting my organic fruits and veggies in season through local community agriculture program and farmers markets already saves me money. But not every community is like mine in Santa Monica, where people have competing CSA programs and numerous farmers markets to pick from. Hopefully soon, more people and more communities be able to readily and conveniently taste the kind of food future that Hawken is talking about.

Hawken was the first speaker at the Sustainable Food Institute event, where I am and will be for the next couple days learning more about mainstreaming sustainable food and organic cuisine. The lineup of speakers and panelists includes Dr. Marion Nestle, CEO of Stonyfield Farms Gary Hirshberg, representatives from sustainable food companies, and, of course, scientists and educators from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I’ll be writing about what they share here — so if you have a burning foodie question you’d like me to ask a sustainable food expert, let me know in the comments!

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