June 23, 2014

273 The Luxury of Organics? [23 June 2014]

I recently came across a commentary by Stuart Smyth, a research scientist at U of S, titled “Can world afford luxury of organics?” It was published in October 2013 on the Ag-West Bio blog site (www.agwest.sk.ca/blog) and reprinted in the November 28, 2013, Western Producer.

Smyth quoted a meta-analysis that concluded that organic yields are 34% lower than for conventional [chemical] farming. He then argued that with the world population expected to increase by 2 billion over the next 20 years, “the time has come to question the merits of continuing with an agricultural system that is critically inefficient” and that “organically produced food is a luxury that is only affordable to the upper-and-middle-income classes…”

If we accept Smyth’s implied premise that agricultural land should be used to maximize food production for a growing world, I wondered what other land uses – both within and outside of agriculture – should also be questioned. Here is my list:
• land used to grow tobacco (an easy target)
• grain grown for beer & liquor (perhaps not so popular)
• corn grown for high-fructose corn syrup (a cause of obesity)
• sugar beets for sucrose (much worse than just empty calories)
• wheat milled into white flour (devoid of nutrients)
• potatoes grown for fries (reduced if not negative food value)
• growing of any food that is over-processed before consumption
• land used for urban sprawl and wider highways

If we question whether we can afford organic farming, which at least tries to produce more healthful food products, we must also question these other practices which take land out of food production or reduce the value of food grown on it. I believe there is room for organic food production for those willing to pay the premium. I also believe that not all the social costs for conventional farming are included in the grocery bill.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner. See this article on my website for links to sources and further reading.

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