Organic Farming?

Disclaimer: I’m not for or against, just don’t like how people are misled.

I follow a lot of plant scientists and it’s interesting to see their organic evidence vs the media.

Organic farming can be better or worse than non organic. There is good and bad. It’s hard to understand with few rules which vary in different countries.

Several claims though are clearly false despite being prevalent.

For example, “Organic doesn’t use chemicals or pesticides”

Yes it does, there is a list of approved chemicals. It’s not a secret. There are fewer, but they aren’t safer. Also, everything is a “chemical” so it’s not an accurate claim. Soil Association (SA)(who make organic rules) found 95% of people buying organic think there are no pesticides, which is untrue. Farmers acknowledge this happily, advertising does not. SA says pesticides from “natural sources” are acceptable.

Copper sulphate is a common natural pesticide but is very nasty. Harmful to humans and animals, lethal to pollinators but kills fungi and is heavily used in organic farming, particularly wine. 

By weight, organic farms sometimes use more pesticide than non organic (source: National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy). If used well this is fine, if badly it will be devastating.

Organic farming can do a lot of good things, proper field margins, rotations, avoiding monocultures, nature based solutions etc. But then so can non organic. Those are farming practises that vary widely between all farm.

Non organic can be pesticide free, organic can use tonnes. Organic is not more environmentally friendly or safer. That depends on the farmer. You could well argue it is worse as non organic pesticides are very specific in their action. Targeted to one species or issue. Organic are more broad brush, more like a generic poison.

Organic animal rearing is complicated with some refusing antibiotics when animals are sick and some not. SA rules say try “effective homeopathy” (clearly nonesense) before asking a vet. Many argue this is animal abuse as it causes unnecessary suffering.

Is it healthier? Organic marketing says yes. Scientific studies don’t have a consensus.

Advertising organic as somehow better, more healthy or more environmentally friendly is misleading. Organic also has a lower yield per hectare so to feed more people it will take more land area, land that may be providing ecosystem services already.

Depending who is labelling, “organic” can mean anywhere between 50% and 100% made up of organic ingredients. Like how “recycled plastic” can be 5% recycled and 95% new.

Summary: eat whichever you wish but don’t be misled by false advertising claims. Farming is a scale from good to bad, organic is just one aspect. Just because you favour one over the other doesn’t mean everything about it is better than the other.

Don’t confuse the words “organic” and “natural”, and don’t trust anything that says chemical free.

3 Comments on “Organic Farming?

  1. Love this! Our business relies heavily on both organic and inorganic products, and there is so much misconception and half-truths behind the “organic” market. I see that you touched on toxicity of organic products, which is awesome! They can be even more toxic than synthetic products! Naturally-derived still doesn’t mean safe for your bodies… ask uranium and heavy metals!

    However one aspect that is rapidly changing in the industry is the ecological impacts of synthetic vs organic pesticides. With new technology, we are seeing more and more pest-specific synthetic products hit the market, while organic products are still vastly broad-spectrum and kill both beneficial insects and pets.

    Liked by 1 person

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