Claims For Organic Agriculture Need More Sunlight, Less Shade

Posted: January 7, 2015 at 11:42 am

Organic agriculture is the most expensive, expansive hoax perpetrated on consumers during the past half-century. An affront to the environment because its low yields arewasteful of water and farmland, organic agricultureconfers no advantages except for the feel-good factor for true believers. It only survives because of massive government subsidies and promotion, and black marketing that dishonestly disparages the competition .

My exposs of the many shortcomings and waning credibility of the organic agriculture industry have received a prodigious amountof attention. A 2012 Forbes column got more than a quarter million views. My most recent one on this subject, last month, attracted not only tens of thousands of readers but also a complaint from Jessica Shade, who bills herself as Director of Science Programs at The Organic Center. Thats something of an oxymoron, inasmuch as science holds little sway atthe advocacy organization she works for.

Shades preamble establishes her lack of credibility: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards are based around the principles of sustainability and health. In addition, organic farming has many environmental advantages when compared to conventional farming.

None of that is true. Let me be clear about one thing, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman said when organic certification was being considered, the organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is organic a value judgment about nutrition or quality.

Organic standards are wholly arbitrary, and in any case, as a recent report in the Wall Street Journal described, they are not being enforced very effectively: An investigation by the newspaper of USDA inspection records since 2005 found that 38 of the 81 certifying agentsentities accredited by USDA to inspect and certify organic farms and suppliersfailed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards. More specifically, 40% of these 81 certifiers have been flagged by the USDA for conducting incomplete inspections; 16% of certifiers failed to cite organic farms potential use of banned pesticides and antibiotics; and 5% failed to prevent potential commingling of organic and nonorganic products.

In December 1997, when USDA tried to set standards for organic agricultural production, the original version was rejected by the organic enthusiasts, largely because itwould have permitted the use of organisms modified with modern genetic engineering techniquesquite sensibly, in the view of the scientific community. In the end, modern genetic engineering, which employs highly precise and predictable techniques, was prohibited, while genetic modification with older, far less precise, less predictable and less effective techniques got waved through.

The resulting standards, which are based on a sentimental back-to-Nature, technological progress is evil ethic, arbitrarily define which pesticides are acceptable, but allow deviations if based on need. Synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibitedalthough there is a lengthylist of exceptions listed in the Organic Foods Production Actwhile most natural ones are permitted. The application as fertilizer of pathogen-laden animal excreta to the foods we eat is not only allowed, but in organic dogma, virtually sacred.

Dont let anyone confuse you: Organic pesticides can be toxic.As evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcoxexplainedin a 2012Scientific Americanarticle (Are lower pesticide residues a good reason to buy organic?Probably not.): Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones.

The designation organic is itself asyntheticconstruct of activists and bureaucrats that makes little sense.Moreover, organic standards are based on sets of principles and techniques which have nothing to do with the ultimate quality or composition of the final products. For example, if prohibited chemical pesticides or pollen fromforbidden genetically engineered plants wafts onto and contaminates an organic field, guess what? The farmer gets a mulligan: He does not lose his organic certification.

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Claims For Organic Agriculture Need More Sunlight, Less Shade

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