Organics just aren’t sustainable

This post was originally dated 30 September 2007; technical difficulties have prevented its publication until now. Publication should now resume as “normal”…

Following Elizabeth Finkel’s blistering critique of organic food (which suggested that organic food is not better for you or the environment), Cosmos Online has published an opinion piece from Craig Meisner, an American professor based in Bangladesh.

Professor Meisner’s intimate knowledge of the true conditions in a developing country refute the assumptions often made when researchers try to determine if organic farming can feed the world. According to Meisner, the assumption that organic fertilisers and mulches are plentiful, even for the poor, is incorrect. Any change to current agricultural practices would require major changes, such as sacrificing fields growing food for fields growing legumes for fertilisers (the bacteria in legumes’ roots can fix nitrogen), which is too risky for the very poor when it means they might go hungry.

To me, the solution is simple: since the evidence shows the organic farming isn’t really that much better than modern conventional methods, those promoting organics should get off their high horse a little bit. For those who want (and are able) to pay the extra cash for the feel-good sensation of food with no “chemicals” (but possibly extra parasites and insects), that’s great — even more so for the farmers making money from it. But there’s no reason to foist that on everyone else, particularly if they live in a developing country.

Of course, there are issues with the toxicity of pesticides in the quantities used by farmers, including language barriers preventing sufficient understanding of warnings, but this needs to be addressed separately to the issue of organics vs conventional farming. Farmers deserve the best they can get out of their land.

One thought on “Organics just aren’t sustainable

  1. welcome back to the blogosphere
    excellent post about the strange transformation of pseudo science of organics and anti-chemicals into a feel good groove