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.
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.