Over at Eco Women: Protectors of the Planet! you can find eight resolutions for 2012. A few of them make sense: turn off any unnecessary appliance; choose tap water over bottled water; cut down on meat. These are, if not necessarily environmentally sensible, at least economically sensible. I have quibbles with their list but it has modest merit.
#4 on their list “Start buying the locally grown organic version of one thing you consume…Choose one product off your shopping list and commit to finding the locally grown or produced organic alternative” is wrong on all levels. Here are 10 reasons:
- There is no difference in nutritional value between organically grown and conventionally grown food. (see this by the Mayo Clinic)
- There is no difference in taste or texture between organically grown and conventionally grown food.
- There is no difference in food safety between organically grown and conventionally grown food. (see this by the Mayo Clinic).
- While some studies indicate similar safety, some studies indicate organic may be less safe than conventionally grown food. A UK Independent story notes, “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.” And a post on the Scientific American site notes, “Between 1990 and 2001, over 10,000 people fell ill due to foods contaminated with pathogens like E. coli, and many have organic foods to blame. That’s because organic foods tend to have higher levels of potential pathogens.”
- Both organic and conventional systems use pesticides. Organic farming is allowed to “natural” pesticides such as calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide, sodium hypochlorite, calcium polysulfide, copper hydroxide, copper oxide, soluble boron products, copper oxychloride, lignon sulfate; silicates of zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and cobalt, and host of other items. (The full list is available here in PDF)
- The pesticides used by organic farming can be worse for the environment. Whereas conventional farming can use synthetic pesticide that targets specific pests, organic farmers are left with choices that don’t discriminate and kill a broader spectrum of species. We know how this worked out for antibiotics.
- Studies show that eliminating pesticides diminishes yields. Eliminating pesticide use could cut corn yields by 30 percent, rice by 57 percent, soybeans by 37 percent, and wheat by 24 percent. That means to maintain our current level of food, it needs more land (forest or grassland) to be plowed up.
- Organic farming needs more land to grow its food and fiber.
- Organic farming needs more energy. More land takes more energy to cover. And, since they don’t use herbicides, organic farmers needs to plow more. Farmers plow to primarily control weeds (plowing harms wildlife, earthworms and such, in the soil).
- “Locally grown” is an arbitrary boundary. Why not eat only food that you produce in the window sills of your apartment if you want really local food? We’ve covered local grown before here. Buy stuff that makes sense. If someone is selling locally grown bananas near my place in Northern California, we know from the outset that it may well have taken lots of energy to produce—much more energy than growing it in its native habitat and shipping it to me.
Watch the video where Penn& Teller explain organic food. This is a piece from their show, Bullshit! (R-rated language)
- Organic Food Myths (skeptoid.com)
- The great organic myths: Why organic foods are an indulgence the world can’t afford (The UK Independent)
- Attention Whole Foods Shoppers (Foreign Policy)
- Mythbusting 101: Organic Farming (scientificamerican.com)