The organic marketing myth
RECENTLY the ABC reported on the discovery of benzene and possibly synthetic nitrates in organic food, with suggestions there are other contaminants as well.
The company involved has pointed out that the levels are well below those that cause harm, but in the organic world that is not relevant. Organic certification tolerates no deviation.
Quite regularly I hear stories about organic farmers who have had to resort to spraying their crops or treating their livestock with pesticides in order to avoid a catastrophic loss.
Those concerned, not surprisingly, keep quiet about it and in most cases it makes no difference. The food tastes the same and is quite safe to eat.
But the fact that organic certification relies so heavily on honesty is ironic given the response of Scott Kinnear to my earlier article describing support for organic food as akin to a religion.
While he implied I am beholden to my company’s clients, naming two that no longer exist and two that produce organic-approved pesticides, he neglects to mention the strings pulling him.
Kinnear is not only director of Safe Food Foundation, he is a former chair of the Organic Federation of Australia, a former director of Biological Farmers of Australia, owns and runs two organic stores in Melbourne, and was a candidate for the Greens in the 2001 federal election. In that campaign he supported a blockade of the logging industry and an end to woodchip exports.
Various Labor leaders recently accused the Greens of being intransigent, lacking flexibility, and having a “complete incapacity to take a mature approach on key issues.’’
Others said they were "extremists not unlike One Nation" and “they can promise everything, claim it can be achieved overnight and refuse to compromise”.
Kinnear barely disputed my points about the low productivity of organic cultivation, that the tiny residues of pesticides are harmless, that organic production is worse than conventional production for the environment, or that organic production is not a viable alternative to feed the world.
There is a good reason for that – they are objective facts.
However, he did make one legitimate point. The growing and consumption of organic food is a matter of choice. I completely agree and have never said any different.
But like smoking and taking drugs, some choices are not wise. Those who choose organic food are doing nothing for their own health, nothing for the environment, and nothing to help those who are less prosperous.
Instead, they are encouraging an industry that offers non-existent health benefits, leads to soil damage through unnecessary cultivation, and causes increases in food prices and the farming of additional areas.
It also relies on non-existent honesty.
David Leyonhjelm is an agribusiness consultant with Baron Strategic Services.