Thursday, March 01, 2007

Organic food report

I've just been catching up on the government report about the production of organic food and its effects on the environment. It makes for peculiar reading, particularly when you read that the production of organic tomatoes, milk and chicken is much worse for the environment than 'conventional', ie, non organic food. Many of the points link to the energy efficiency of growing organic produce and how it takes so much more energy to come to fruition than the other 'conventional' food produce. Also, it's not necessarily the case that organic food is better for you either.

I'm sorry to sound so obvious, but of course it will take more energy and land to grow organic tomatoes, to sustain herds of cows for organic milk, and to keep chickens alive longer and so that they naturally grow properly. I could have told the government that for nothing. Unfortunately, that's the natural way of things, and it's only because we've become so hooked on quick and easy food, sold in bulk and grown artificially, that the report could consider the process of growing organic food as having bad energy efficiency.

I think it's important to know how much impact the growth of food produce has on the world, particularly with the blossoming world populous, but it's more important to be realistic about our future. We need to be realistic about what we need to eat week in week out and where we get it from; and we need to be realistic and ethical about the way we live and interact with the environment.

If the carbon footprint of growing natural, organic food is larger than 'conventional' food, then that's something we have to live and deal with. So walk to the supermarket instead of driving there to counter it's effect.

If the energy efficiency of natural and organic animal husbandry is worse than 'conventional' animal husbandry techniques (such as battery farming), don't fly to Thailand for your holiday this year - instead get the Eurostar to Paris.

I don't see how we can determine these food issues in relation to how energy efficient, or nutritionally beneficient they are - it's the ethics that count, and our principles. And they're the only thing that matter, in the end.


Melanie Rimmer said...

I think the report looked at too narrow an idea of what is "good or bad" for the environment. It didn't, for example, consider the environmental and energy cost of manufacturing artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. It didn't consider the environmental and energy cost of cleaning up the pollution caused by those substances, or the financial and human cost of illnesses caused by them. And most particularly it didn't consider the effect of soil erosion caused by "conventional" farming practices. In a nutshell, the report got it wrong.

Gee W said...

I completely agree with what you have to say, plus of course the comment is spot on too. Focusing on a narrow band of evidence is bound to give results from a narrow perspective. Isn't that how science got us into this mess?
I really like your site and where it's coming from - it's really well organised too!
I have started a little gardening blog of my own recently. Haven't linked to any others yet - could I put up a link to this one?

Adam Fletcher said...


I really enjoy reading your blog; I especially enjoyed reading your recent post ‘A thief gets a good telling off’

Would you be interested in a link exchange with my website @


vegmonkey said...

Well said!

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