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August 1, 2000


Organic farming


Dear All,

I'm all for healthy food and saving the environment but there is no
scientific evidence that organic food is healthier than conventional food.
Consumers who want to eat organic can already do so. However why the
deliberate misinformation campaign to malign conventional agriculture and
its'recent cousin genetic modification? The claims of the organic movement
are not based on science just wishful thinking. All studies on the safety,
healthiness, and taste of organic produce have shown no difference between
organic and conventional produce (see USDA and advertising standards
watchdog in the UK).

What is dangerous about this? After all it's a free world. It is fine for
wealthy Americans to throw away their money if they like (they already do
so for other mystical reasons such as horoscopes, naturopathy etc.) but
does this attitude have other more serious implications? Yes I think it
does. Food is not really something we can choose to have or not - all
people have to eat. Global food resources are straining under the weight of
population growth. Forecasts are that the population will reach 9-12
billion by 2050. We cannot feed this many people even if all food is
equitably distributed. Organic farming takes up 2 to 3 times as much land
as conventional farming. It is estimated that 6 billion cows are needed to
provide all the organic fertilizer organic farming will need. All arable
land on Earth will be needed - including all the remaining wilderness areas
on Earth. If these wild lands are considered "sacred cows" then only one
option remains - the death of at least 6 billion people. Where are these to
come from? Who is offering their child as a sacrifice on the altar of
organic farming? Nobody in their right mind would consider sacrificing
theirs or anybody elses child based on nothing more than hearsay.

What will happen if people living in other parts of the world see or hear
that organic produce is the only safe food? Well they will want some too.
Pretty soon the whole world wants organic food, but there's not enough to
go around. Why should the US have healthy food and nobody else? Now we have
the potential for conflict and I can tell you that Iraquis, Chinese,
Indians etc. can fight just as hard for food for their children as
Americans can - and all over food that is not any better for you than what
we've been eating for centuries. Society can function without reason and
logic, but not well. Decisions are made for ad hoc reasons and
accountability is non-existant. Basically we're back to the witch hunts of
Salem and a society where nothing is certain and all are suspect. This is a
recipe for war and conflict. Truth may be the first casualty in this debate
but maybe not the last.

Malcolm Livingstone

The views expressed in this article are my own and in no way represent
those of my employer.

Malcolm Livingstone

Northern Grains Improvement Ph: (07) 3214 2___
CSIRO Tropical Agriculture Fax: (07) 3214 2288
306 Carmody Rd Int.Ph: +61 7 3214 2___
ST LUCIA QLD 4067 Int. Fax: +61 7 3214 2288