23rd November 2010
Organic farming: a rip-off #2
A few weeks ago I wrote this piece, entitled, “Organic Farming: a rip-off“. Here’s further confirmation that the money we pay for organic foods is not worthwhile.
Farming systems such as organic that seek to share land between crops and wildlife inflict greater damage on biodiversity than conventional approaches that maximise crop yields, a major study has revealed.
Growing organic vegetables may be better for the environment, but eating them may not necessarily be more healthful. (Discovery News,22 November 2010)
“[A] new study … found no difference in antioxidant levels between organically and conventionally grown onions, carrots, and potatoes.
“[T]he experiment was part of a bigger project that was so systematic and rigorously controlled that the findings likely apply to other crops, too, said lead author Pia Knuthsen, a senior research scientist at the Danish National Food Institute’s department of food chemistry, based at the University of Copenhagen.
“Giving preference to organic products because they contain more bioactive components is doubtful and not supported by scientific evidence,” Knuthsen said.
The following scientific conclusions would generally (not always!) hold:
1. Organic farming is generally not cheaper than modern farming, being less productive. It cannot therefore (in general) be a solution to mankind’s food production problems.
2. Organic foods are generally not healthier than food grown by modern farming.
3. If fresh produce is washed thoroughly, one is not likely to imbibe more than microscopic level of pesticide. At such microscopic levels, virtually no harm is caused. The best way to minimise pesticide use is to shift to pest-resistant GM crops that have been tested and proven to be safe.
By all means pay more for organic food – if you can afford it. That money goes to farmers and I don’t envy farmers getting rich at the expense of the rich who have money to throw on unnecessary things . But it is self-evident that organic can’t help prevent widespread hunger among the poor. I’d rather teach the poor to wash their food before eating, and have them live, than have them starve to death because of thoughtless imposition of expensive organic food on everyone by eco-imperialists.
We should focus on ensuring that no one goes to bed hungry in India. That can’t be done by organic farming. It is a luxury good that has no policy implications for India – except that no subsidy should ever be applied towards organic food.