Published on July 21st, 2011 | by Aaron Fown13
Is Organic Agriculture a Myth, or a Viable Reality?
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.