Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - Page 9 News List

The myth of organic agriculture ignores human consequences

By Henry Miller

An anomaly of how “organic” is defined is that the designation does not actually focus on the food’s quality, composition, or safety. Rather, it comprises a set of acceptable practices and procedures that a farmer intends to use. For example, chemical pesticide or pollen from genetically engineered plants wafting from an adjacent field onto an organic crop does not affect the harvest’s status. EU rules are clear that food may be labeled as organic as long as “the ingredients containing [genetically modified organisms] entered the products unintentionally” and amount to less than 0.9 percent of their content.

Finally, many who are seduced by the romance of organic farming ignore its human consequences.

US farmer Blake Hurst offers this reminder: “Weeds continue to grow, even in polycultures with holistic farming methods, and, without pesticides, hand weeding is the only way to protect a crop.”

The backbreaking drudgery of hand weeding often falls to women and children.

Of course, organic products should be available for people who feel that they must have and can afford them. However, the simple truth is that buying non-organic is far more cost-effective, more humane, and more environmentally responsible.

Henry Miller, a fellow in scientific philosophy and public policy at the Hoover Institution, was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the US Food and Drug Administration.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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