Newsweek upset and shocked readers by declaring, “The campaign for organic food is a deceitful, expensive scam.”1)http://www.newsweek.com/campaign-organic-food-deceitful-expensive-scam-785493 This opinion piece by Henry I. Miller was originally titled “The Organic Food Hoax” and published by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University.2)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax It claims consumers of organic food are victims of the industry’s conspiracy and “black marketing campaigns”.
Is Organic Food a Scam? Miller’s Five Reasons (aka Myths)
In “The Organic Hoax”, Miller lays out arguments to discredit organic food. Here are five his reasonings, as well as rationales to discredit them.
1. Lobbyists Influence Consumers
Miller writes that we have been duped by lobbyists to believe organic food is better.
We’re seeing evidence of that in the current effort to discredit and diminish genetically engineered foods and to attack their defenders in the scientific community. The chief perpetrators of this black marketing campaign are lobbyists for the organic agriculture and “natural products” industries and their enablers.
Those industries have deep pockets. In 2016, Jay Byrne, president and CEO of the marketing agency v-Fluence Interactive, examined the IRS filings, annual reports, and other financial sources of companies, trade organizations, and NGOs involved in the effort to discredit modern agriculture. Based on that information, he estimated that in 2011 the groups tracked by his company spent $2.5 billion campaigning against genetic engineering in North America alone. Globally, advocacy groups targeting agriculture probably spent over $10 billion – attacking other sectors as well, including vaccines, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals.3)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax
It is true that lobbyists have far too great power in US government. The NRA, Big Pharma, and the Defense Industry sway policy and heavily contribute to political office campaigns. Business Pundit identifies the top 10 lobbies in DC.
10 Biggest Lobbies in the US
- Big Pharma
Look at number four. The fallacy in Miller’s argument is that the power of lobbyists for GMO companies like Monsanto are far stronger and have much more money than the organic, natural food counterparts. Take for example the effort to pass GMO labeling in Washington state and California. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association spent $17.1 million to defeat I-522. In California, agribusiness spent $46 million to defeat GMO Labeling.5)https://ecochildsplay.com/2013/10/19/whos-the-grocery-manufacturers-association-no-on-i-522-gmo-labeling-companies-revealed/
Business Pundit states big Agribusiness spends $150 million a year lobbying.6)http://www.businesspundit.com/10-of-the-biggest-lobbies-in-washington/
2. “Green Myth” Organic Food is More Harmful to the Environment
What’s ironic is that though the organic lobby positions its industry as a green alternative to conventional agriculture, it’s actually more harmful to the environment.
A prevalent “green myth” about organic agriculture is that it does not employ pesticides. Organic farming does, in fact, use insecticides and fungicides to prevent predation of its crops. More than 20 chemicals are commonly used in the growing and processing of organic crops and are acceptable under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s arbitrary and ever-shifting organic rules. Many of those organic pesticides are more toxic than the synthetic ones used in ordinary farming.7)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax
Although it is true that “natural” does not equate non-toxic, it is false to claim organic farming is more harmful to the environment. The pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides used in organic farming support soil health.
But the fatal flaw of organic agriculture is the low yields that cause it to be wasteful of water and farmland. Plant pathologist Steven Savage of the CropLife Foundation analyzed the data from the USDA’s 2014 Organic Survey, which reported various measures of productivity from most of the certified organic farms in the nation, and compared them to those at conventional farms. His findings were extraordinary. In 59 of the 68 crops surveyed, there was a yield gap, which means that, controlling for other variables, organic farms were producing less than conventional farms. Many of those shortfalls were large: for strawberries, organic farms produced 61 percent less than conventional farms; for tangerines, 58 percent less; for cotton, 45 percent less; and for rice, 39 percent less.8)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax
Miller assumes industrial farmlands are superior to smaller, organic family farms when focused solely on yield. First of all, greater yield does not equal greater benefit for the environment. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Greater yield means more use of resources, like fertilizers and water. To call this “wasteful” is ludicrous. There is no evidence or support to suggest that the organic farmers use more water and more farmland to produce fewer crops.
Agribusiness crop yields may be greater, but at what cost? European researchers write:
Intensive agriculture has increased crop yields but also posed severe environmental problems. Sustainable agriculture would ideally produce good crop yields with minimal impact on ecological factors such as soil fertility .9)http://www.ask-force.org/web/Organic/Maeder-Organicfarming-2002.pdf
Miller ignores the importance of soil fertility. He ignores the heavy use of chemical fertilizers in conventional agriculture that deplete soil resources. According to “Soil Fertility and Biodiversity in Organic Farming”, a peer-reviewed study:
An understanding of agroecosystems is key to determining effective farming systems. Here we report results from a 21-year study of agronomic and eco- logical performance of biodynamic, bioorganic, and conventional farming sys- tems in Central Europe. We found crop yields to be 20% lower in the organic systems, although input of fertilizer and energy was reduced by 34 to 53% and pesticide input by 97%. Enhanced soil fertility and higher biodiversity found in organic plots may render these systems less dependent on external inputs.10)http://www.ask-force.org/web/Organic/Maeder-Organicfarming-2002.pdf
3. All Crops Are Already “Genetically Improved”
Perhaps the most illogical and least sustainable aspect of organic farming in the long term will turn be the absolute exclusion of “genetically engineered” plants that were modified with the most precise and predictable modern molecular techniques. Except for wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables, and grains in our diet have been genetically improved by one technique or another—often as a result of seeds having been irradiated or via “wide crosses,” which move genes from one species or genus to another in ways that do not occur in nature. (These more-primitive techniques of genetic modification are acceptable in organic agriculture.)11)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax
Once again, Miller is confused.
For example, the work of Luther Burbank in cross-breeding, hybridization, and grafting is not the same as Monsanto’s modern genetic modified organisms.
For instance, hybridization involves cross-pollination of plants to create a new variety. There’s a limit to what can be hybridized in this low tech process. Alternately, GMO varieties are made by gene splicing in laboratories and are patented.12)https://www.foodrenegade.com/hybrid-seeds-vs-gmos/ A GMO tomato contains genes from fish to improve frost resistance.13)https://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/adding-a-fish-gene-into-tomatoes-zmaz00amzgoe
4. Genetic Engineered Farming Is Superior
By improving weed control and reducing the need for plowing, genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops enable many farmers to adopt and maintain no- or reduced-tillage production systems, which results in important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.14)15)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax
Round-up ready crops have created superweeds. Improved weed control is short lived. In fact, now we have a “superweed crisis”. Weeds have developed glyphosate resistance, and thus big agribusiness is developing new herbicide-tolerant crops and new herbicides repeating the cycle.16)https://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/industrial-agriculture/the-rise-of-superweeds.html#.WqFxmrbMw6g
In fact, herbicide use has gone up in the US since the introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops!17)https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/images/fa/herbicide-increase-full.jpg
As glyphosate become ineffective, farmers turn heavily to other herbicides. According to Harvard University,
Additionally, because many of the superweeds can still be killed by glyphosate if it is sprayed in higher doses, many farmers are spraying more glyphosate and other herbicides to combat the weeds. The attraction is that this is much less labor intensive than plowing and handpicking weeds out of the soil . Consequently, a report drawing from US Department of Agriculture data on pesticide use estimated that an additional 383 million pounds of herbicides have been used than if Roundup Ready crops were never introduced . This increased use of glyphosate heightens the likelihood of higher concentrations of the chemical running off into nearby ecosystems. At these elevated concentrations, glyphosate may be capable of causing environmental damage.
Furthermore, the practices of tilling and increased herbicide use are similar to what they were 20 years ago (with even more reported herbicide use). This is both an environmental problem and a financial problem for farmers who must now revert to spending more on herbicides and labor costs to till the land .18)http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/roundup-ready-crops/
5. “The federal government is, unfortunately, part of the problem”
What’s remarkable is that the government’s involvement has been a hoax from the beginning, having nothing to do with agricultural sustainability, protection of the environment or food quality. When the organic seal was established in 1990, Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman emphasized the fundamental meaninglessness of the organic designation: “Let me be clear about one thing, the organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.” And the organic seal is a cynical marketing tool, because so many unsuspecting consumers are ripped off by the high prices of organic products, without palpable benefit.19)https://www.hoover.org/research/organic-food-hoax
In fact, the US government has watered down organic standards due to pressure from the agribusiness lobby. As organic food becomes a large market, corporations have influence. In fact, most organic food companies are now owned by the Big 10.
The Cornucopia Industry explains:
These issues have come to a head after years of allegations that the USDA, having been given the responsibility by Congress to protect ethical industry participants and consumers from fraud, is instead kowtowing to corporate agribusiness interests that want the organic label applied to industrial practices….The USDA has been quietly allowing large, multinational agribusinesses to produce enormous quantities of “organic” tomatoes, peppers, berries, and other produce in mammoth greenhouses, or large industrial buildings, sealed-off from the environment and under artificial lighting.20)https://www.cornucopia.org/2016/11/will-corporate-interests-water-down-the-meaning-of-organic-foodfarming/
Miller is correct that the US government is part of the problem; however, not for the reason of duping consumers. The USDA has failed to uphold standards based on organic farming philosophies in response to agribusiness.
Who’s Behind This Piece? What is the Hoover Institution and Who is Henry I. Miller?
The Hoover Institution “seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity, while securing and safeguarding peace for America and all mankind.”21)https://www.hoover.org/about Located at Stanford University, the library and archives of the Hoover Institution are world-renowned. Part of the mission is to “limit government intrusion”. GMO labeling is just such an intrusion according to Miller.22)https://www.hoover.org/about/missionhistory
Henry Miller was the “medical reviewer for the first genetically engineered drugs to be evaluated by the FDA”23)https://www.hoover.org/profiles/henry-i-miller. He is clearly a proponent of GMOs. Previously, he was busted for publishing an article under his byline that was actually ghost-written by Monsanto.24)https://www.ecowatch.com/monsanto-propaganda-newsweek-2528277875.html?utm_source=EcoWatch+List&utm_campaign=b60f94a064-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_49c7d43dc9-b60f94a064-85357185 Is “The Organic Hoax” any different? Certainly, his credibility is questionable. One has to question who is behind these ludicrous opinions.
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