21 May 2012, 2.09pm AEST
Is organic better? That depends.Jeff Krauss
Food is an emotional topic. Everyone cares about what they eat. Food often has a strong cultural, religious or even political meaning attached to it. Organic food is no different in that respect. People buy organic out of hedonistic values of pleasure and health as well as out of altruistic values of environmental sustainability, social justice and animal welfare.
In addition, organic food is also part of the political debate on how to feed the world sustainably today and into the future. Agriculture is currently one of the major threats to the environment. We know that some drastic changes in our food system are needed if we want to ensure that the many hungry people on this planet have access to sufficient nutritious food and at the same time reduce the environmental impact of agriculture.
Organic agriculture is often proposed as a solution to some of these challenges. It promises to produce food in a more environmentally friendly way and to provide accessible means of increasing yields in smallholder farming systems in developing countries.
Refer also the following extracts from Join the conversation
1. In reply to Tim Scanlon, about 7 hours ago
Ian Donald Lowe
Seeker of Truth (logged in via email @live.com.au)
I watched the video, so that I could reply to you in context with all the information that you have supplied.
I am not anti farmer. In fact I have worked on farms in many parts of Australia (WA, SA, Vic, NSW and Qld)and in my time I have worked with agricultural chemicals as well. I have usually got on well with the farmers I have worked with and for. We share a common language and history in many cases. Being naturally cautious, I have never poisoned myself but I have been subjected to exposure of some spray drift and chemical residues on occasion, so I also have direct personal experience with one of the major downsides of chemical use in agriculture.
Tim, good for you for supporting your industry but this is not really a competition. Organic agriculture will still need skilled and hard working farmers to make it work. It will also need the support of scientists, engineers and other support industries to really reach full potential. So I promote organics in my small way but I try very hard not to denigrate farmers for doing what they do. I know what they do and why and in most cases their intentions are to look after the land, their families and produce the best crops that they can. I respect that.
Some of your comments, such as "organics are relying on work that is 50 years old", or "they are essentially running on outmoded production technologies, hence the yield gap", or "Organic farms tend to be low input, which degrades nutrition profiles in many instances" are fairly anti-organic and are also basically wrong. (I could explain why but I feel it would be wasted energy)
It seems like you are more interested in denigrating the organic movement than you are in supporting farmers sometimes, so I have wondered about your motivations at times (this isn’t the only site I have seen you post on recently) and where that motivation comes from. Big chemical companies are the only real losers if organic farming were to become the norm, so that is why I asked the question. You have answered and I will take you on your word. I apologise and I will not insult you in that way again. But please don’t insult my intelligence by spouting garbage about organics, okay
about 1 hour ago
(logged in via Twitter)
I’ve often wondered whether we should work towards becoming an organic farm but two things have held me back: first of all – animal welfare. I’d hate to tell the vet I won’t use a treatment that will help one of my cows get better and let her suffer instead. We don’t allow antibiotic residues into our milk as the article implies however! That is totally illegal.
Second, I don’t want to see our precious land wasted.
In our aim for sustainability, we plant at least a thousand trees each year, use antibiotics only when needed, have built soils high in organic matter and minimise the use of chemicals on farm. We’re not organic but I’m not sure that’s 100% ethical either.