Now that their dinner is really ruined . . .

  1. The bottom fell out of that conceit last spring, when a massive study out of Britain concluded there is absolutely no evidence of any such benefits from organically produced foods over conventionally produced food.

    The study you're undoubtedly referring to only concluded that the nutritional content of organic and conventionally produced food were the same. It did not draw any conclusions about taste, health benefits, or environmental impact.

    • There's a broader debate than just the nutrition of 'organic' vs. industrial food. As Potter notes, other studies have noted the lions share of energy consumption is not as a result of global transport, which calls into question the automatic environmental virtue of buying locally. James McWilliams has written some interesting stuff on 'locavorism', farmers' markets and that sort of thing over at Freakonomics (the pieces are more glosses of his meatier writings, but give a good overview of things). I'm rather on the fence about the whole thing, but I sure find the social and cultural dynamics fascinating…

  2. "The jig has been up for organic for a while now. Originally promoted as the magic bullet of the produce aisle, with better taste, health benefits and environmental grades than regular food, organic has turned out to be none of those things."

    I would agree that the organic movement has been somewhat compromised by corporatization, but to say that organic agriculture provides no benefits over the status quo of pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, monocultures and the social consequences that accompany them is sheer lunacy

    • JimD, there are both consumer health and environmental benefits to using pesticides, herbicides, and GMO's as well as drawbacks.

      I'll agree with you though on monocultures, though even that has a benefit of allowing you to use less fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides because the monoculture is probably a GMO.

  3. So, Mr. Potter, do tell: why should we buy what food? You have a rather irresponsible habit of destroying your opponents and not proposing an alternative.

  4. I'm as one with Mr. Potter, especially after reading his work, on how irritating "radical consumerism" is, but does he accept the ethical premises of the radical consumerists, namely that such things as tastier, more environmentally friendly food are necessary? It does seem like he accepts them and is merely frustrated at the hypocrisy; otherwise why attack the radical consumerists over and over again? Or, if he does not accept them, what alternative standard of behaviour does he propose, and how is it any more compatible, if it is not apolitical, with the nihilism implicit in consumerism?

  5. Another example of politics attempting to trump all in decisions. It's food, do your homework. If the price, method or nutrition doesn't fit your desired habits than move on to the next option. If anything the split system of organics, naturals, gmo's and etc is adding to the waste and cost… but what the hay. People want choice.

  6. I don't think Andrew is saying that you can't wisely consume a better quality of product, Robert. I think he is just making the point that if you are a consumer, people are going to meet that consumer demand in the most cost-effective manner possible for the producer.

    There is always going to be a trade-off for various ways to producing. There are many ways in which commercial large-scale farming with pesticides and salt fertilizers is better for the environment than a farm that uses an increased amount of tillage and animal waste fertilizers. There is also cases where the vice versa is better for the environment.

    However, cutting back from a lifestyle of consumption and ensuring that government has decent environmental protection regulation so that businesses have to clean up after themselves is generally a good idea. Hence his anger at the left withdrawing from the political process and instead stressing ethical consumption.

    • You're reading an awful lot into my minor point about the conclusions of a study that Potter references.

      • So are you agreeing with what I'm saying?

        • I'm neither agreeing nor disagreeing.

  7. Nothing wrong with GMO food. Nothing at all. If anything, it's safer for the environment, as it usually requires less chemical inputs.

    • That is a complete fallacy. Most GMO food is designed to work in tandem with increased chemical inputs (e.g. Roundup Ready crops). Monsanto did it that way on purpose, because they sell the seeds, the herbicide, and the fertilizer.

      To say that the above is safer for anything than organic, which uses no chemical fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides, is foolish.

      • Actually, Round-up Ready canola supports Ranter's point, and not your own. If you'd ever grown canola, you'd know that. Before Round-up Ready Canola came on the market, canola crops had to be sprayed with two separate chemicals; a broad-leaf herbicide and a grassy-leaf herbicide. (Before they early 1990s and the first trizene-resistant canola, they couldn't be sprayed for broad-leaf at all, so yes, the earlier transgenic varieties did tend to increase chemical usage.) Monsanto's Round-up Ready Canola enables the farmer to use just one chemical, (Round-up). Not only that, Round-up is a much less toxic chemical than most other herbicides.

        • The premise of "Organic" would then trump the GMO, as the Organic designation would presumable allow NO herbicieds and the cost of the produce would reflect the reduced yeild. The danger of GMOs is that we don't know what the danger is. Genetic modifications are not precise nor discreet enough to change ONLY the trait sought after. You know this – I know this. The difference seems merely to be your tolerance of risk to what un-intended consequences there may be to the modification.

  8. Spurning imported produce also ensures greater poverty in desperate parts of the world. That doesn't sound all that socially progressive.

    But AP doesn't bring up the feel-good AND do-good merits of reducing our insatiable appetite for meat. I am not at all suggesting we turn on a dime and go all vegan, but we must all admit that the impact on the planet would lessen substantially if we stop feeding so much livestock to ultimately feed ourselves.

    • Yeah, our consumption of meat is exponentially greater than it was even 50 years ago.

      There are many reasons for this. The biggest being that meat is so much cheaper now then what it used to be. In the old days you would eat meat as part of a larger dish (in a soup or a casserole) and eating a cut of meat by itself (like steak) would be a treat.

      The second largest seems to be that for every vegan out there, there are 6 guys who refuse to eat anything else in their diet but meat and bread. At least I know 6 guys like that in my immediate social circle.

    • Years ago you either had to be wealthy to eat meat regularly or work very hard to get it. (Raise, hunt, trap or fish.) Now we hop on over to the local store and buy whatever they sell. Or better yet head over to local eatery and not even have to worry about the dirty dishes.
      I like my meat but my "choice" to buy from a neighbouring farmer means I do wait until he has something ready for market. Been a great arrangement but in a few years he will retire and we'll have no small hands on farmers left to buy from. Plus his land is getting interest from developers… no one will be farming his land soon.

    • "stop feeding so much livestock to ultimately feed ourselves"

      The only problem with this is that we feed them things humans could be eating (grain) instead of the grass which they have evolved to eat. Its pretty hard for Cargill and Tyson to make profits when they raise them on grass though.

  9. One part of good farming practices is having a crop rotation system,corn-soybeans-wheat being a common example.Herbicides should also be rotated to prevent weeds from developing a resistance to a herbicides particular mode of action.What do you do when, say, Round-Up resistant giant ragweed (which already exists) shows up in your field of GMO canola ? Too much reliance on one chemical is not a good thing.

  10. Anybody out there got the coordinates for the second study mentioned by Potter in his Dec 14 Maclean's column: "a new three year study showing that for a number of food staples, moving them around in huge container ships…is more energy efficient…"?