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Agriculture better agriculture organic or conventional

Published on July 21st, 2011 | by Aaron Fown

12

Is Organic Agriculture a Myth, or a Viable Reality?



better agriculture organic or conventional

Please forgive me for the long piece. But as someone with a lot of knowledge of pesticides and their use, and organic, new and novel farming techniques, I found this article by Scientific American to be an appalling hit piece against non-conventional agriculture. It’s so laden with misdirection, half truths and outright lies that I feel the need to address it directly. The ‘myths’ that the author presents are already very much on the minds of people concerned about the future of our food system, but the way they are used here is highly deceptive, and twists what could be a thoughtful criticism of the industrialization of organic agriculture into a broad and baseless attack upon non-conventional agriculture as a whole. Allow me a moment, and let me demonstrate how these myths, though grounded in truth, are distorted into slanderous lies by the author. But, before I even get to the myths, a few statements in the opening paragraph deserve some scrutiny.

“In the past year or two, certified organic sales have jumped to about $52 billion worldwide despite the fact that organic foods cost up to three times as much as those produced by conventional methods. More and more, people are shelling out their hard-earned cash for what they believe are the best foods available.”

This statement sets up the central premise of the article: that if you spend your money on organic food, you are a fool who is being ripped off. But at its core is a lie. Indeed, if you go to a supermarket, and buy organic food from the veggie section, you might pay up to three times more for foods which are labeled organic. You won’t necessarily, but you certainly could. However, if you go to a farmers market, enroll in a CSA, or grow the food yourself with your own sweat equity, you can actually pay less for food grown with organic methods than you would pay for some flawless but tasteless conventional veggie in the grocery. If you grow it yourself, you end up spending a tiny fraction of what you would pay at the store. You can even grow heirloom varieties that taste great, and are great for you, but can’t be easily transported to the store regardless of whether they are grown conventionally or using organic methods. As a corollary example, if I go and buy batteries at a supermarket, or a photo shop, I might pay far more than I would pay if I bought equivalent batteries online, but that doesn’t mean I am a fool for buying batteries at all.

A huge misdirection is hardly a good way to start an article out, but it gets worse from there. Let’s address each of these ‘myths’ one by one.

—-> On to “Myth” #1

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About the Author

I am a plant biologist and documentarian who loves to write, photograph, explore, and discover.



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  • Minaz Aslam http://wp.me/Z0jI

    Very informative article!! and for those people who are crying that the yield is not comparable to conventional farming and may not be enough to provide for huge population, they should read more articles on food wastage. In the UK alone, £10.2bn of food is waste every year according to The Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP). They also estimated that average UK household throws away 18% of all food purchased, while families with children throw away 27%.

    Its more about sensible use of resources.

  • Joeblow

    As bugs would say to you crazy organic zealots, “what a bunch of maroons”

  • Georg Hauser

    There is enough organic waste to produce organic fertilizer “Power Soil” (with the anaerobic procedere). One Unit in Size of a 20′ container produces 7 tons per week.
    To same time it is a very good disposal for all the organic waste as manure of all animal growing plants as for chicken, pigs, turkeys, and so on.
    All harmfull substances were destroid from the different bacterial cultures.
    It is absolutly harmless even in concentrated state.
    It has 30 times more soil bacteries than normal good soil and can reactivate every karstified soil or desert by work in 2.5kg /sqm.
    By modifying the procedure conditions the ferilizer can be designd for several uses an optimized for special plants.

  • Anonymous

    Good post. Organic Farming cannot replace Farming with Chemical Fertilisers and pesticides. In a limited way organic farming can meet the needs of those who prefer organically grown food.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  • Markdanielhenry

    Ladies and gentlemen, if your purpose is to convince someone of your point of view, insulting them is an ineffective way of going about it. Bystanders are similarly not swayed by such attacks.

  • http://twitter.com/roosgoesgreen Rozemarijn van West

    Thanx a lot for taking the time to invalidate the twisted myths of this appalling article. Glad someone responded with enough knowledge to do that!

  • Texasred_54

    Ain’t it a bitch when science slaps the crap out of a religion like the “Organic” Movement.

    • Anonymous

      I suppose that would be true, if it actually happened.

      But it hasn’t, so drink your great big cup of FAIL….

    • Anonymous

      umm, did you read the article at all?

  • Barrie Bain

    You miss a key point. There is only so much organic fertilizer available, and not enough to maintain current food production, let alone future food needs. To get the best yields you need to supplement organic nutrients with mineral fertilizers – something restricted in organic agriculture. By refusing the benefits of nitrogen fertilizer produced by fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere, organic agriculture wastes valuable productive land growing nitrogen fixing crops. Yields and crop quality are damaged by not applying correct amounts of mineral phosphate and potash. Integrated nutrient management looks to optimise crop production in a sustainable way using both organic and mineral nutrients. Organic agriculture is grossly wasteful of the scarcest resource of all – good agricultural land.
    Barrie Bain

    • Marhbro

      Maybe reread the article Barrie…. “In some cases, organic methods have been shown to have significantly higher yields than conventional methods.
      Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/12Tay)”

      PS Organic farming does allow a restricted range of mineral fertilisers.

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