Last year my mother, along with hoards of other parents, hippies and health-obsessors, rejoiced when South Africa joined organic-loving OECD countries and finally got her own green sticker and chief sticker of stickers, the South African Organic Sector Organisation.
The SAOSO claims that “Existing chemicals based farming methods are…unsustainable.” and that organic is “the only sustainable farming method”. Nutrition, the environment and worker’s wellbeing are the banners of the green crusade. But, with organics charging an average of 50% more for food and 30% more for clothes, do those reasons justify the costs and more importantly, are the claimed benefits proven facts or simply clever marketing?
Data from the USDA reveals that the average organic farm under produces by 20% and that bio wheat yields are lagging half a century behind normal farms. Consequently, organic farms require 16-33% more land than usual, land that cannot be spared. In fact, if it wasn’t for neighboring conventional growers curbing the spread of pests and disease (much like vaccines protect non-vaccinated individuals) then bio-farms would be even more inefficient.
One out of two people’s lives are indebted to synthetic fertilizers. Friends and family, who in an organic world would have starved to death, or simply not been born. Despite claims that “natural” fertilizers are more energy efficent because they do not make direct use of fuels, it has been calculated that roughly half of organic fertilizer requirements are met— through a round about, conventionally fertilized corn-cow-organic compost, cycle which is both wasteful and illogical— by the haber-bosch process.
And unlike conventional farms which are reducing their reliance on fossil-based fertiliser by using sterilized human sewage, thereby closing nutrient cycles, organic farms shun what governments consider “The best practicable environmental option.” because of squeamish customers— and no, you shouldn’t be one of them because the standards for human sewage treatment are stricter than thoose for animal manures which can be applied raw.
Compost, the fuel that runs this machine of misinformation, releases almost quadruple the amount of CO2 per field in comparison to synthetically fertilized crops.
The insecticide Rotenone, which is prohibited in the EU and US because of its extreme toxicity to fish, and Copper Sulphate— a fungicide which is linked to liver disease in workers, bioaccumulates in the soil and is also deadly to fish— are both approved by the SAOSO even though there are much safer synthetics available.
There is no evidence that organic food differs from standard produce nutritionally, except regarding pesticide residues which are always well below safety limits.
An organic world would not be green. Thankfully, an organic world will only ever be a dream.
The main ingredient of organic agriculture is 100% natural nonsense. Naturally, like everything else, 21st century agriculture has its heaps of dirty dung and there are many fields in need of growth. But unlike stubbornly conservative organics, they welcome seeds of change.
For once we can be proud of our government, for standing by GM. While hysterical, irrational europeans retreat back to the days of horse and plough (haven’t they had enough potatoes famines etc?) and prohibit GMs, we will eat our way to the dream worth our money, a truly sustainable, scientifically proven sustenance available to all.