Tag Archives: organic

Purchasing Green a Licence to Steal, Cheat

Just as a salad option on a menu increases the incidence of unhealthy orders, and national park visitors are less likely to support conservation charities later in life (as compared to hikers or backpackers), now buying green has been shown to increase bad behaviour.

It’s not all bad, though: merely being exposed to green products increases altruistic behaviour—it’s purchasing said products that is shown to increase bad behaviour such as cheating and stealing.

From the paper‘s Abstract:

Consumer choices not only reflect price and quality preferences but also social and moral values as witnessed in the remarkable growth of the global market for organic and environmentally friendly products. Building on recent research on behavioral priming and moral regulation, we find that mere exposure to green products and the purchase of them lead to markedly different behavioral consequences. In line with the halo associated with green consumerism, people act more altruistically after mere exposure to green than conventional products. However, people act less altruistically and are more likely to cheat and steal after purchasing green products as opposed to conventional products. Together, the studies show that consumption is more tightly connected to our social and ethical behaviors in directions and domains other than previously thought.

The Agri-Intellectuals and the Omnivore’s Delusion

Playing on the title of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Missouri farmer Blake Hurst pens an extremely well argued and reasoned response to the criticisms the ‘agri-intellectuals’ pile on industrial farmers and their production methods—particularly those rearing livestock.

Farming has always been messy and painful, and bloody and dirty. It still is. This is something the critics of industrial farming never seem to understand.

[…] I deal in the real world, not superstitions, and unless the consumer absolutely forces my hand, I am about as likely to adopt organic methods as the Wall Street Journal is to publish their next edition by setting the type by hand. […] Farmers can raise food in different ways if that is what the market wants. It is important, though, that [non-experts and critics] know that there are environmental and food safety costs to whatever kind of farming we choose.

Of course, this is not to say that Michael Pollan and his ilk are wrong; just misunderstood or wrong on certain subjects.

For example, Pollan’s excellent 2007 article is a fantastic and learned piece, and is still worth reading today (Ben Casnocha has a great summation of the article). His mantra, too, is as valid as ever (Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.).

It’s just worth remembering that there are two sides to every argument. More from The Omnivore’s Delusion:

[Critics expect] me to farm like my grandfather, and not incidentally, I suppose, to live like him as well. [They think] farmers are too stupid to farm sustainably, too cruel to treat their animals well, and too careless to worry about their communities, their health, and their families.

But farmers have reasons for their actions, and society should listen to them as we embark upon this reappraisal of our agricultural system. I use chemicals and diesel fuel to accomplish the tasks my grandfather used to do with sweat, and I use a computer instead of a lined notebook and a pencil, but I’m still farming the same land he did 80 years ago, and the fund of knowledge that our family has accumulated about our small part of Missouri is valuable. And everything I know and I have learned tells me this: we have to farm “industrially” to feed the world, and by using those “industrial” tools sensibly, we can accomplish that task and leave my grandchildren a prosperous and productive farm, while protecting the land, water, and air around us.

via Arts and Letters Daily

The ‘Benefits’ of Organic

After analysing all available evidence from the past 50 years, a study commissioned by the UK government’s Food Standards Agency has come to the conclusion that organic food is no healthier (in terms of nutritional value and any extra health benefits) than ‘ordinary’ food.

From the blog of the FSA’s Chief Scientist:

The most comprehensive review in this area that has been carried out to date […] concluded that there are no important differences in nutrition content between organic and conventionally produced food.

[…] It’s a fact that conventional production methods permit the use of a wider range of pesticides than organic. That said, some pesticides can be used in organic production.

[…] To me, the main take-home message from this report is that in order to eat a healthy diet it doesn’t matter if it’s made up of organic or conventionally produced food. Surely that’s good news for all of us?

From the FSA’s press release, which also links to the study itself (pdf):

What [this study] shows is that there is little, if any, nutritional difference between organic and conventionally produced food and that there is no evidence of additional health benefits from eating organic food.

The Soil Association (an independent body that certifies organic food) didn’t like the conclusions reached, but made a good point about the study:

Without large-scale, longitudinal research it is difficult to come to far-reaching clear conclusions on this, which was acknowledged by the authors of the FSA review.

It’s worth noting that there were a small number of nutritional differences found between organic and conventionally produced food but that these differences were “not large enough to be of any public health relevance”. It’s also useful to realise that people buy organic food for myriad other reasons.

For a short summation of the argument between the various parties interested in this research (specifically, the FSA and Soil Organisation), the BBC has a well-balanced news item.

Update: Seed Magazine‘s look at the issue is also worth a read.