Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The costly fraud that is organic food

By Lord Taverne. Excerpts:

"Organic farming is a billion-pound industry. It is promoted by a stream of propaganda from green lobby groups, notably the Soil Association, and subsidised by government. Supermarkets like it because premium prices increase profits. Every lifestyle magazine regards organic food as synonymous with healthy living and every TV chef tells us that organic food tastes better. To question claims made by the organic lobby is not just akin to doubting the virtues of motherhood, but to reveal indifference to the poisoning of the nation and the fate of the planet, perhaps even to be guilty of corruption by American multinationals and of support for George Bush.

It is claimed that organic food is more natural and that its reliance on natural chemicals makes it safer than food grown with the help of synthetic ones. This is nonsense. There is nothing wholesome about natural chemicals like ricin or aflatoxin or botulinum toxin, or especially dangerous about synthetic chemicals like the sulphonamides, isoniazid that cures TB, or the painkiller paracetamol.

We are told we should eat organic food because pesticide residues harm us. As the FSA has pointed out, there is a disparity between public fears and the facts. Dietary contributions to cardiovascular disease and cancer probably account for more than 100,000 deaths a year; food poisoning for between 50 and 300. There are no known deaths from pesticide residues (or GM foods). A cup of coffee contains natural carcinogens equal to at least a year's worth of carcinogenic synthetic residues in the diet. If people are worried about the effect of pesticides in farming on wildlife or human health, they should promote pesticide-resistant GM crops, which reduce their use.

It is said that organic farming benefits wildlife. True, many people become organic farmers for environmental reasons, and achieve their aim. But studies show that environmental effects depend on the style of management, not the system of farming. In general, integrated farm management achieves the best results. What is most beneficial to birds and wildlife is low-till farming, which is made possible by cultivating GM crops. Organic farmers depend on the plough, which disturbs the ecology of the soil, releases more carbon dioxide, uses more fossil fuel and drives out nesting birds..... "

(Via Adam Smith Institute)


An excellent post on The Commons: "In a column for The Guardian, Jeremy Rifkin promotes the "Precautionary Principle" as an alternative to what he calls "Enlightenment science," which he says is too "primitive" to address the potentially global risks created by modern technological societies. The Precautionary Principle (PP) takes many forms, but a common statement of it by proponents is "When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically."

But Rifkin is selective about when he thinks the PP should be invoked. For example, last year Caltech scientists published research showing that widespread use of hydrogen for energy has the potential to damage the ozone layer and alter global climate. The results are uncertain and have been challenged by other researchers, but that's immaterial, for the PP requires a halt to any technology at the first hint of danger. Yet Rifkin, a hydrogen proponent, responded to the Caltech research by arguing that "when you move into a new energy source you have to assume there's going to be some environmental impact," but that replacing fossil fuels with hydrogen "is our hope for the future." Whatever principle Rifkin is following, it isn't the PP. In fact, Rifkin's statements about hydrogen sound much more like traditional risk assessment, based on the "primitive Enlightenment science" that's ostensibly no longer applicable in the modern world.

For Rifkin and other activists, the Precautionary Principle is not really a principle at all, but merely a political and rhetorical tactic to ban technologies and activities to which environmental activists are ideologically opposed".


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else.

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