Posts tagged ‘organic farming’

Bland, Corporate Wares

Often, the dominance of markets by bland and uninteresting mass-market products is blamed on capitalism.  This makes no sense to most business people, since if there really was a pent up demand for variety and smaller-batch products, someone would try to make money doing so.  One only has to look at the explosion of craft beers over the last 30 years to see this effect, and its one that is only being reinforced by modern technologies that allow lower costs for smaller batch production.

If one wants to put the blame anywhere, one might look at the government, where there is an interesting clash brewing on the Left between those who like local, small-batch products and the regulatory state the Left built.  For example, via Overlawyered

Homa Dashtaki [a producer of small-batch yogurt] was eager to demonstrate that her yogurt was safe and healthful, but complying with California regulations turned out to be not so easy. In fact, authorities told her that she would face possible prosecution unless she established a “Grade A dairy facility” employing processes more commonly found in factories. A highlight: she’d have to install a pasteurizer even though she made her yogurt from milk that was already pasteurized. What’s more, California law makes it illegal to pasteurize milk twice, so there went any hope of continuing her straightforward way of obtaining milk, namely bringing it home from a fancy grocery store.

Ms Dashtaki is pondering whether to move to another state, one whose rules allow for artisanal products. She would not be the first entrepreneur to flee the Golden State.

This is sort of like the old Mad magazine Spy v. Spy, but relabeled Left vs. Left.  Exactly the same dynamics are at work in organic farming as well as hand-crafted artisan toys (which are affected substantially by the recent toy regulations passed after the Chinese lead panic).

Norman Borlaug on Organic Farming

Reason asked Norman Borlaug about the claim that organic farming is better for the environment and human health and well-being.  His answer:

That's ridiculous. This shouldn't even be a debate. Even if you could use all the organic material that you have--the animal manures, the human waste, the plant residues--and get them back on the soil, you couldn't feed more than 4 billion people. In addition, if all agriculture were organic, you would have to increase cropland area dramatically, spreading out into marginal areas and cutting down millions of acres of forests.

At the present time, approximately 80 million tons of nitrogen nutrients are utilized each year. If you tried to produce this nitrogen organically, you would require an additional 5 or 6 billion head of cattle to supply the manure. How much wild land would you have to sacrifice just to produce the forage for these cows? There's a lot of nonsense going on here.

If people want to believe that the organic food has better nutritive value, it's up to them to make that foolish decision. But there's absolutely no research that shows that organic foods provide better nutrition. As far as plants are concerned, they can't tell whether that nitrate ion comes from artificial chemicals or from decomposed organic matter. If some consumers believe that it's better from the point of view of their health to have organic food, God bless them. Let them buy it. Let them pay a bit more. It's a free society. But don't tell the world that we can feed the present population without chemical fertilizer. That's when this misinformation becomes destructive...

I want to add a big "ditto" to this answer in reference to the whole food miles and locally grown food movement.  There is a lot of evidence that trying to get all of our food locally will actually increase energy use.  It will certainly harm the environment by increasing land use.

Why?  Because currently, economic incentives push farming of a particular food item towards the land that is best-suited and most productive for that item  (government subsidies, both direct, e.g. farm programs, and indirect, e.g. subsidized water for agriculture in arid areas like Arizona and SoCal, interfere with this, but that is a different subject).  The locally grown food movement seeks to shift crops from large productive farms located in the best soils and climates for that crop to smaller farms located in sub-optimal growing areas.  This HAS to increase agricultural land use, prices, and in many case, energy use.  More here.