Organic Food Myths Debunked

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I am not against organic foods per se. In fact, I buy organic foods at our local farmer's market all the time–usually because I think they taste better, especially the heirloom tomatoes. That being said, I am strongly against over-hyped sustainability and nutritional claims for organic foods. 

http://www.biology-blog.com/images/blogs/6-2007/organic-food-usda-9451.jpg

The Independent is running a good article on "The great organic myths." I highly recommend reading the whole article, but below are some highlights:

Myth one: Organic farming is good for the environment

The study of Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs) for the UK, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, should concern anyone who buys organic. It shows that milk and dairy production is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). A litre of organic milk requires 80 per cent more land than conventional milk to produce, has 20 per cent greater global warming potential, releases 60 per cent more nutrients to water sources, and contributes 70 per cent more to acid rain….

Myth two: Organic farming is more sustainable

Organic potatoes use less energy in terms of fertiliser production, but need more fossil fuel for ploughing. A hectare of conventionally farmed land produces 2.5 times more potatoes than an organic one.

Heated greenhouse tomatoes in Britain use up to 100 times more energy than those grown in fields in Africa. Organic yield is 75 per cent of conventional tomato crops but takes twice the energy – so the climate consequences of home-grown organic tomatoes exceed those of Kenyan imports…

Myth four: Pesticide levels in conventional food are dangerous

The proponents of organic food – particularly celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, who have jumped on the organic bandwagon – say there is a "cocktail effect" of pesticides. Some point to an "epidemic of cancer". In fact, there is no epidemic of cancer. When age-standardised, cancer rates are falling dramatically and have been doing so for 50 years…

Myth five: Organic food is healthier

To quote Hohenheim University: "No clear conclusions about the quality of organic food can be reached using the results of present literature and research results." What research there is does not support the claims made for organic food.

Large studies in Holland, Denmark and Austria found the food-poisoning bacterium Campylobacter in 100 per cent of organic chicken flocks but only a third of conventional flocks; equal rates of contamination with Salmonella (despite many organic flocks being vaccinated against it); and 72 per cent of organic chickens infected with parasites…

The Independent article concludes:

In a serious age, we should talk about the future seriously and not use food scares and misinformation as a tactic to increase sales.

Amen to that. Go ahead and buy organic foods, but just don't do so under the illusion that you are somehow helping to save the planet.

My own deconstruction of one overhyped study on the alleged sustainability of organic farming here

You can ferret out the remaining myths by going to the Independent here.  

Disclosure: I wish I still owned those 50 shares of Monsanto considering that they have more than doubled in value in the last year. 

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  1. The inefficiency of organic farming has been out there for anyone to see for years.

    How anyone could think “organic” is anything other than a narcissistic fad is beyond me.

  2. A customer of mine, an oncologist, told me many years ago that the reason we see so much cancer these days is that we live long enough to get cancers.

    -jcr

  3. Anecdotally, the people I know who’ve bought into the Organic craze do it primarily because of a wish to avoid the “chemicals” that they perceive exist in abundance in non-organic foods.

    I’ll buy something labeled as “Organic” if it tastes better than the alternative, otherwise, count me out.

  4. man. it’s shit like this that made working at a self-described organic co-op unbearable

  5. And the secret Myth #3:

    Organic Farming prevents zombies from eating your brains.

    In point of fact, organic farming techniques speed the process of human AND bovine zombification, placing all of mankind at risk.

  6. Those “organic” animal cookies from Costco are pretty damn tasty. And they give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

  7. Disclosure: I wish I still owned those 50 shares of Monsanto considering that they have more than doubled in value in the last year.

    Ron Bailey is shilling for Big Walter Mitty!

  8. I will never forget working in a health food store as a teen and watching the fools come in and buy granola because it was “healthy”. And then the owner informing me that the granola was carbs fried in shit oil and was loaded with saturated fat and calories.

    It’s the same today with the same people, just a different fad.

  9. The one product I’m willing to spring for organic on is rice. The reason is that, since it grows in pools of water, conventional farming means they dump a lot of pesticides on it – much more than for other crops.

  10. And they give me a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.

    The rest of us call that “food poisoning”.

  11. The “shopping where black people without fake dreads aren’t” aspect of this consumer trend is underacknowledged.

    And $10 instant ramen that tastes like used violin strings in mop water doesn’t move in the ‘hood, so if you’re buying it, you know you’re not there.

  12. I lost interest in the movement when I found a jar of preserves labeled, “No Preservatives Added.”

  13. I’m with Ron here, I buy organic coffee from the local market almost exclusively, primarily because it taste significantly better than Folgers. (It’s also ‘fair trade’ if you all want to kick around a tangentially related topic).

    However, I do get annoyed by the non-stop organic proselytizing that goes on in the store – everything from the sniffles to cancer to being unattractive are apparently caused by commercial farms and consumerism. To be fair, I usually stop by after visiting the mall. I like the Gap too…

  14. I will never forget working in a health food store as a teen and watching the fools come in and buy granola because it was “healthy”. And then the owner informing me that the granola was carbs fried in shit oil and was loaded with saturated fat and calories.

    Well it was still probably healthier than Froot Loops!! 🙂

  15. LarryA: One of my bemused Whole Foods moments is when I picked up a package of cookies in which “dehydrated cane juice” was an ingredient.

    “Dehydrated cane juice” aka “unrefined sugar”.

  16. I’m much more likely to buy something that’s “natural” than “organic” for just the reasons described above. If you prefer foods that you consider to be “real” as opposed to frankenfoods, you can still buy them without having to go all organic. The problem is that a lot of natural foods are also organically produced because there aren’t enough people like me who don’t care whether or not its organic.

  17. Once upon a time, farmers happily abandoned “organic” farming, because they called it by a different name: “inefficient.”

  18. I’ll buy something labeled as “Organic” if it tastes better than the alternative, otherwise, count me out.

    Exactly. The cuts of meat at Whole Foods are far tastier than their Winn Dixie counterparts. Organic bacon is the shit too.

    But outside of taste, I could care less…

  19. Organic bacon is the shit too.

    Organic pork is for pussies. Real men go feral hog hunting.

  20. I read a article in a magazine (that wasn’t reason) that ranked which foods inferred the largest differential health benefits between their conventional counterparts by buying organic and which ones gained the least. That has certainly affected a few of my trips to the grocery store.

    But buying organic due to its impact on the environment? Screw that. Too expensive even if it were true.

    Full disclosure: I, too, enjoy tomatoes that actually taste like something. So much so that I grow my own. Organically. As well as beans, corn, lettuce, zucchini, cucumber, strawberries, and a variety of herbs. But I would never buy an organic root (think carrots) or tuber (think taters) unless it was cheaper than its conventional counterpart.

  21. I strongly encourage people to eat organic if it has a greater potential to shorten their lives and thin their wallets. Suckers are your best entertainment value.

  22. Organic pork is for pussies. Real men go feral hog hunting.

    Organic bacon is good because it goes bad quickly, so you have to eat the whole package in one sitting and you have a valid excuse…

  23. Ahhh…

    Smugness.

    Tastee.

    But of whom do I speak?

  24. But of whom do I speak?

    Look in a mirror.

  25. I consider homegrown tomatoes (at least mine) to be a delicacy. You just can’t get something that good at the store… you can’t.
    I eat them like apples, sometimes with a little salt shaker.

  26. “Dehydrated cane juice” aka “unrefined sugar”.

    Well, some say refined sugars get processed by your body too quickly and fuck it up in various ways. I don’t come close to knowing enough about the biology involved to know if there’s any truth in it or if it’s utter crapiola. I’m sure we know which way the peanut gallery here would go. But know that there is a logic behind that seeming madness, though whether it’s based on good or faulty premises I sure don’t claim to know.

  27. Organic pork is for pussies. Real men go feral hog hunting.

    Move over bacon here comes something meatier!

    Sizzaline!

  28. So if organic farming uses more fossil fuel, then organic produce would be harder hit by a carbon tax. That would be interesting!

  29. then organic produce would be harder hit by a carbon tax

    Making it even more expensive. But hey, since it’s already just a hair shirt, that should make it even more appealing, right?

  30. When age-standardised, cancer rates are falling dramatically and have been doing so for 50 years…

    Age-standardised??

    There has to be a better way of saying this.

    “cancer rates, when adjusted to our aging population, are falling…”

    I don’t know…just any thing but “age-standardised”…who fucking says that?

    Hell even my web browser expresses its displeasure with it and puts a red line under it.

  31. Is there a connection between the organic movement and the farm lobby?

    On one hand, I see organic boosters pressing for an end to farm bills and so forth because such programs support industrialized agriculture at the expense of the environment and small farmers in the US and abroad. On the other hand, I see the possibility of the farm lobby co-opting the organic movement: being forced to pay more for locally produced stuff for dubious reasons of food security, health, morality, etc. fits the farm lobby’s and the organic movement’s modus operandi perfectly.

  32. Making it even more expensive. But hey, since it’s already just a hair shirt, that should make it even more appealing, right?

    Heh, LOL, but if that were the case, organic products would already have the “hair shirt” factor built into their pricing! But if organic farmers raised their prices more than conventional produce in response to a carbon tax, they’d be all but admitting their un-greenness! I imagine there’d be some Greens would recognize this and some who would refuse to….

  33. Farmers have the lowest risk? What about farm workers? The farmers sit in the tractor while the sprays are going out – the farm workers are actually picking the veg/fruit from the sprayed fields. See this controversy in NC from awhile back:

    http://www.newsobserver.com/1188/story/442930.html

  34. I bought some pita bread a Trader Joe’s even though it was labeled as containing no preservatives.
    When I got home, I noticed that mold was growing on it. Last time I bought preservative free bread.

  35. Episiarch,

    Oh my own smugness is the most flavorful…that is for sure.

    One of the reasons I am more smug than thou.

    =/8^)

    Just a thought.
    Since the main argument I hear from organic farming advocates looks something like this:

    Large corporate farming has a small short-term efficiency advantage, but larger long-term negative externalities when compared to organic farming (I think this is a fair summary at least of the short term efficiency data, recognizing that the topic is still close to equivocal in the literature).

    Given that argument, it seems disingenuous at best to counter that argument with this:

    But corporate farming is more efficient in the short term.

    Of course anyone who makes their food choices based on environmental impact should look at the impact of each particular product and buy the one with the best long-term results. It would be ridiculous to assume that many who advocate organic methods due to long-term environmental impact know about this issue and choose accordingly. Right?

  36. I avoid like the plague anything labeled “organic” because I don’t like paying extra, but I resent, I bitterly resent, the Independent’s gratuitous and utterly unmerited attack on Gwyneth Paltrow, apparently the only celebrity airhead in the world. There are lots of celebrities dumber than Gwyneth!

  37. Personally, I like my food grown with reasonable levels of pesticides but without antibiotics.

  38. Sorry but this article is running very light on facts and sources. The author is making unsubstantiated claims in each section. I’m not buying into it without at least one reputable source.

  39. organicAli,

    Indeed it is poorly sourced.

    A quibble I have always had with Ron Bailey’s posts is that he will link to any article that shares his views no matter how poorly sourced…

    But I guess that is part and parcel of working for an advocacy organization. You see the same tactics on the other side.

  40. I’ll buy something labeled as “Organic” if it tastes better than the alternative, otherwise, count me out.

    Agreed. Or if it’s the same quality, but costs less or if it’s more convenient. For example the local coop where I used to live had cheap pine nuts in bulk.

    I always thought of going into the place as being like going into someone else’s church. I couldn’t help chuckling to myself a little bit, but I tried to remain respectful on the outside.

    Heck, if the Catholics increased the accessibility, portion size and quality of their sacramental wine, I’d partake without telling them that I think transubstantiation is a load of crap.

  41. Rome in Flames: smug thug mugs, chug-a-lugs

    film at eleven

  42. I thought all food was organic. I mean, it’s all derived from once-living organisms, isn’t it?

  43. The author is making unsubstantiated claims in each section. I’m not buying into it without at least one reputable source.

    An organic supporter whining about unsubstantiated claims? I almost fell out of my chair laughing. So I suppose your buying into unsubstantiated claims stops at those supporting organic farming (gotta draw the line somewhere!). Neu Mejican gives a great example of one:

    Large corporate farming has a small short-term efficiency advantage, but larger long-term negative externalities when compared to organic farming

  44. larger long-term negative externalities when compared to organic farming

    Like population growth? Longevity? Higher protein intake?

  45. Seamus beat me to it.

    I was working for a grocery store in the early 90’s when a customer asked me about where the “organic foods” were located. It was the first time I had heard the term and thought he was screwing with me. “Um, sir, *all* food is organic.”

    The joke was on him though. We didn’t stock any!

    litre of organic milk requires 80 per cent more land than conventional milk to produce…

    Well, this explains the $6 gallon of TJ organic milk the wife insists on buying. It sits right next to the $3 gallon of non-organic milk, which tastes pretty much exactly the same to me.

  46. Like population growth? Longevity? Higher protein intake?

    I’ll play too.

    Cheap, plentiful food? A larger variety and greater choice of foods? An end to famines?

    If you meant ethanol, Neu, then I’m right there with you.

  47. Please everyone,

    Don’t confuse my restating of a potential argument that someone could have made with my own view on a subject.

    I think that “sustainable agricultural practices” are a good thing to discover and use. I don’t think those are in anyway equivalent to “organic” farming, but they also don’t overlap with all modern farming methods.

  48. I am not a farmer, but spent all my summer’s as a kid working on a farm.

    Anyone who argues that modern farming techniques are the best-possible way to do things is talking out of their ass.

    Case by case particulars are needed before you can compare methods.

    Sometimes “organic” will win.
    Sometimes “conventional” will win.

    Often “conventional” is used because it is, well, conventional rather than because the farmer has actually explored the evidence base for an alternative approach.

  49. Seamus beat me to it.

    I have to say that the twisting of words like “organic” so that they have little or no connection with their original meanings is one of my pet peeves. Another example is the term “affordable housing,” as in “there’s a shortage of affordable housing in Fairfax County.” When I first read that, I thought it made no sense. If houses were being priced so high as to be unaffordable, then they’d either go unsold, or the price would drop to the point where they would be affordable. In fact, it apparently was precisely because *so* many people could afford them that the prices were being bid up into the stratosphere.

  50. Neu–We’ve had this discussion before. Give someone a reason to change other than your version of the new world order. Make the economics work in their favor and you’ll have converts. I would guess that “conventional” farming is the most cost-effective method of farming, the best bang for the buck. They’re in it for the money, not the fame and glory of farming. These guys are businessmen.

    You want me to drive a hybrid? Price them competitively and provide the same utility and safety that my non-hybrid does. I’m on board as soon as someone makes my dream car: a sedan or wagon with a small, ultra clean turbo diesel powering 4 big, honking electric motors, one at each wheel. It would scream and be kind to Gaia, all at the same time. It could conceivably be built today with current tech.

    Price it well, make it as safe as the safest car and make it useful to someone with kids. Give me a reason to buy it, a real reason that has value to me as an individual. I’ll buy it.

  51. I concede that organic farming is not entirely viable on a large scale at this point in time. However, here is point that I rarely see addressed in the ongoing debate.
    One of the main tenets of organic farming is to compost, compost, compost. Compost enriches the soil and adds valuable trace minerals (leading to that better taste/higher nutritional content thing). My hubbie and I produce an amazing amount of compost, just from kitchen scraps (coffee grounds, egg shells, carrot tops, etc.) for our home garden.
    Chemical fertilizers do nothing for the soil. In fact, chemical fertilizers will, over time, add salt to the soil and greatly decrease soil quality. Also, chemical fertilizers are the culprit in producing “dead zones” in bodies of water, such as the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, from all the fertilizer washed from farm fields into the Mississippi river. Also responsible for excessive algae blooms, that in turn kill off fish, etc.
    No time for producing references, so look it up if you are interested. I could go on, but don’t want to inject a too lengthy commentary.
    Just food for thought, pun intended.

  52. More on the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone.” (And others.) Apparently, it is getting bigger:

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/asiapcf/04/20/eco.waterpollution/

    “The huge size of the “Dead Zone’ is due to the increase in nutrient pollution flowing down rivers, including the Mississippi, which is estimated to have risen threefold in the last fifty years as chemicals become more and more common on farms.”

  53. JW,

    That’s why I used the term “evidence base.”

    Farmer’s are business men who are, on the whole, risk aversive and conservative. Doing it wrong can lead to disaster so evidence needs to be provided that the new way is better. BUT the farmer also needs to be looking for that better way. Often they are looking for a better version of the same way…a better fertilizer a better machine to harvest, whatever. More radical approaches that look entirely different have an uphill battle. The benefits need to be obvious and well demonstrated to get past the risk-aversive conservative nature of the typical farmer business (actually true of most businesses I suspect).

    So, a better way can be better and still not be adopted widely simply because it has not overcome the bias against trying the new thing out.

    Make the economics work in their favor and you’ll have converts.

    What that means is not that I have to make the economics work to get converts, but rather to convince them that the economic do, in fact, work in their favor. This is a much higher bar…

    And one often missed by the folks ’round these parts.

  54. You need to get some education on the subject.

    For starters, “USDA Organic”, well, isn’t. Their certification is a the biggest running joke in the industry. QAI leads the charge on real certification, as does most Tilth orgnaizations.

    Second, I would investigate certain web pages with lots more information than Bailey has. Dr. Mercola is a place to start that I’d recommend.

    Third, conventional mass monocrop agriculture is a major contributor to greenhouse gases and soil depletion, which leads to the nutritional deficiencies that are found in modern conventional crops. The greenhouse gases come from the leaching of pertochemical fertilizers into the soil emitting the gas. BTW, those chemicals also make their way into the runoff and ground water and tend to kill things downstream, so they screw with ecosystems. (See Dead Zone comments above)

    Fourth, conventional madd monocrop agirculture is becoming unsustainable due to the war. The increase in oil prices affects these farmers in many ways, the biggest of which is the increased cost of diesel for their equipment, and the increased cost of the petrochemical fertilizers to try to make up for the badly managed soil’s lack of nutrients to help the plants grow better. I grew up with farm family and I married an agronomist. I see this firsthand.

    Fifth, recent studies readily available online indicate that organic priactices can reach a 90-100% yield of a comparable conventional crop. Inefficient is a non-factor.

    Sixth, what is not mentioned in complaining about orgnaics is the sustainability factor. Sustainable agriculture includes composting, vermiculture, crop rotation and cover crops, seed saving, companion planting, beneficial insects and nematodes, natural fertilizers, and soil nutrient complementation. Conventional farming can but rarely does these things, and the result is that they get stuck in the Monsanto-petrochemical rut that does nothing except cause soil decline and eventually failure.

    Besides all of that, decentralization is the future. Plant your own garden, raise your own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. It’s cheaper and better than store-bought, gets you out in the air and exercising, and benefits you much more than drivign a shopping cart. You don’t even need a home or a yard–you apratmetn-dwellers just need a balcony, or window, and a planter, soil, seed, and watering pitcher or can to get started.

  55. What that means is not that I have to make the economics work to get converts, but rather to convince them that the economic do, in fact, work in their favor. This is a much higher bar…

    That was the royal you, not “you.”

    I never said it would be easy, but why should any business take an unwarranted risk on methods without a payback? No farmer am I, but these guys aren’t hayseeds. Show them that they can grow a crop with half the fertilizer, pesticides, labor, etc. and still get the same or an acceptable yield that they can make bank on and you might get somewhere. They’re rational people and will respond to rational signals. Less time in the field is lower costs for them.

    Of course, a lot of GM crops have these benefits, but I’m guessing that the organics won’t take that into consideration.

  56. Another thing to consider to your “better ways not being tried” complaint, there is always research going on in agricutlture, usually by the state Ag. dept and colleges. It’s not like the average farmer just sits around and waits for the tractor to rust out. They are aware of this research.

    You want them to try an “alternative?” OK, then put your money up and show them. Establish a working farm of alternative farming methods and record the yield data. I’m sure this has already been done.

    If this is the case, and it’s not being adopted, then it’s a safe bet that there isn’t anything in it for them to warrant the change of or the investment required is too high to merit the risk.

    So, yeah, if there were a “better” way, it’d already be done on a larger scale. According to the post below yours, the data is out there. Maybe it is being done, just not on a scale to be noticed; it may be too soon. Just the same, neither of us is in a position to make the judgement of whether or not alternative farming methods are being used in large enough numbers for your sake.

    Besides all of that, decentralization is the future. Plant your own garden, raise your own fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. It’s cheaper and better than store-bought, gets you out in the air and exercising, and benefits you much more than drivign a shopping cart.

    There’s this new theory out there, called “the division of labor.” It turns out I can pay someone to grow my food for me, saving me the labor and expense to do it myself. They tend to do a better job than I can.

    Same goes for fixing my car and curing my illnesses. I hear you can pay someone to build a home for you too, which is good, since I don’t want to have to learn another craft. I can better use my time to do other productive things.

    Keep an eye out. It may catch on.

  57. JW,

    I have no problem with anything you wrote. Except for this one unsupported assumption.

    So, yeah, if there were a “better” way, it’d already be done on a larger scale.

    Labeling the new idea a “myth” or a “scam” while the jury is out may slow the adoption of a better method despite its benefits. This doesn’t mean advocates for a different way don’t have a duty to demonstrate those benefits…

    and a quibble with this…

    Show them that they can grow a crop with half the fertilizer, pesticides, labor, etc. and still get the same or an acceptable yield that they can make bank on and you might get somewhere.

    There are degrees of better way below this bar that many farmers would take if they were shown the evidence for them, and provided resources to learn the methods.

    Ron Bailey, or at least the author of the article he linked to makes a common error in evaluating the issue…

    Lack of evidence is not evidence of lack.

    Likewise current usage patterns among farmers is not evidence for or against a different way of doing things.

  58. I thought all food was organic. I mean, it’s all derived from once-living organisms, isn’t it?

    AFAIK, all but salt.

  59. I’ve seen Johnson’s article linked around the libertarian blogosphere, the general attitude displayed (especially by Bailey) being “Aha! I knew it all along!” I’ve seen plenty of that reaction in this thread who “always knew” organic was a crock, and welcome confirmation that the dirty fucking hippies were wrong–despite making it clear by their comments that they never knew jack shit about organic farming aside from what they were spoon fed in puff pieces like Johnson’s.

    Unfortunately for them, Johnson’s article is a very weak reed to lean on. For one thing, he repeatedly contrasts “conventional farming” with “organic farming,” with absolutely no acknowledgement of the diverse array of farming methods and scales of operation falling under the “organic” umbrella.

    Since he quotes a wide range of studies without any detailed bibliographic information, there’s no way of knowing the methodology actually used. But the generalizations in this article itself are essentially meaningless unless we control for scale and method. In general, small-scale intensive methods of farming, both organic and chemical, are more efficient in terms of output per acre than is large-scale commercial production. So there is an inverse relationship between size and efficiency of land use that most likely cuts across the organic-“conventional” distinction, rendering Johnson’s generalizations absolutely meaningless.

    To repeat, there is a wide range of operating scales and methods that all fall within the technical definition of “organic,” but differ greatly in the inputs required and the intensiveness with which the inputs are used.

    At one end of the spectrum, we have enormous, mechanized cash crop operations that use essentially the same methods as conventional agribusiness–with the sole exception of substituting organic for synthetic fertilizers and pest control. A good example is the giant California “organic” operations that produced the tainted spinach scare in the U.S. two years ago.

    At the other end is raised-bed horticulture, the most efficient being the Biointensive technique developed by John Jeavons. This technique maximizes output per square foot and intensively returns all organic materials to the soil through composting, and is intended primarily for household use. Jeavons’ techniques can, if utilized to full efficiency, feed one person on 4000 sq. ft. (about 1/10 acre).

    Johnson refers to organic pesticides like rotenone as if they were universally used, when in fact many organic growers shy away from such potent neurotoxins. And a variety of other techniques exists, like companion planting, insecticidal soap, Bt, etc.

    The issue is further complicated by scale, in the sense that the most efficient form of farming in terms of use of labor inputs is household subsistence production. Ralph Borsodi showed in the 1930s that the total cost (the labor of growing and canning, electricity inputs, amortization cost of equipment, etc.) of growing and canning vegetables at home was about a third less than the grocery store price. The reason was that, even though unit costs of production were slightly lower for plantation farms and commercial canneries, this was more than offset by the zero distribution costs of producing at the point of consumption. The average person can not only get superior quality produce, but reduce his total work week, by growing vegetables at home and reducing his wage labor by the amount he previously worked to pay for them at the supermarket.

    Johnson’s article has the air of an intellectually lazy person just looking for confirmation of what he knew all along.

  60. Wasn’t there a study showing that people who are told a product costs more taste better? I think they did this with wine.

    Could be the same thing for organic shit.

  61. Another thing I heard that I haven’t read here (excuse me if I have missed it..it’s been a long day) is that in countries like Kenya which grow food for UK supermarkets the non-use of pesticides is increasing malaria infection. That’s a pretty big anti for me. Does any one know if this is true? Sounds like common sense but then I’m always suspicious of sentences that start with ‘sounds like…’.
    On the pro side organic diary cows are free range aren’t they? Thats why it takes up more room. That’s good isn’t it? Yay animal welfare?

  62. I once found a bag of salt in my Grandmother’s house labeled “Fair Trade, GM Free, Organic Salt.” (From Fresh and Wild, that bastion of pretentious ass-patting for the ‘environmentally aware’ middle classes) Which, as well as being the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen written on a food packet, is clearly a lie. There’s no carbon in sodium chloride, unless my chem teachers lied to me.

  63. Although the USDA stamp of approval doesn’t mean as much as people ascribe to it does not mean that all organically produced milk, grain, or otherwise meets the US’s minimum requirements. I’ve read into this subject, and although there are gains and losses associated with “organic” I think that you are demonizing a practice that if anything has a substantial capacity for helping heal the earth as well as modern food machinery.

  64. To be honest with you, it’s not entirely about the environment in some cases when it comes to organic. It’s about the treatment of the cow itself, to eat basically what it’s supposed to eat, to not have any hormones or any other chemicals.

    heated bla bla in Great Britain bla bla, Hi, that’s another country. There are different ways to grow organic other than using a greenhouse.

    It’s not about pesticides in conventional foods, it’s about the use of pesticides and the fear that through evolution bugs will evolve, therefore a stronger pesticide will be necessary. Remember DDT, pesticides are bad and until Green chemistry evolves as a technology, who are you to say these chemicals aren’t harmful.

    Buying organic does help the environment, Mr. Bailey just did the research to argue organic foods instead of realizing the pros do outweigh the cons.

  65. I don’t buy this argument at all.

    While I don’t have doubts that the food that ultimately gets to our table is certified to contain safe levels of pesticides, this doesn’t excuse the tactics used to grow it. Majority of the four key industrial crops grown, i.e. corn, soya, cotton, and canola, and many other crops are currently genetically engineered. Growing these genetically engineered seeds is a wonderful thing — no need to worry about pests or affects of herbicides! Guess what, without those worries, the “farming” can be then taken down to a simple “patented” process where all one has to know is when to spray toxins to ensure that the fields are sterile, drop seeds “on” the ground (nothing is alive to eat them before the seeds germinate), and, then, follow a prescribed regimen of one poison after another to ensure that your monoculture GE crop doesn’t catch one disease or another parasite. This is the catch — your field after field after field all over the U.S. is one and the same crop. No genetic variation to worry about because 1) farmers don’t own the seeds — Monsanto does; 2) because you depend on pesticides and herbicides entirely to ensure the survival of the crop. Environment is destroyed, but farmer is happy because the profit margins for conventional farmer are miniscule, all due to the seed licensing costs and pesticides/insecticide costs.

    As soon as weeds or pests adopt, hence the term “superweeds” or “superbugs”, you are ready to run to Monsanto for the cure — now Monsanto is coming out with stacked gene traits in their GM seeds because RoundUp no longer works and farmers must brew their pesticide “coctails” of whatever works.

    So, “conventional” agriculture, the way that the big agra-business sees it, is total warfare with no middle ground and organic agriculture that focuses on working with environment is the only sustainable answer.

  66. So…why do you want chemicals in your food?
    I buy organic foods that are less processed and have less chemicals in them. That is the “hype” that I buy into. Tell me what’s wrong with being more natural?

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