Dispelling the myths about organic farming

If I had live off the food I grew myself, I would starve to death.

It’s that simple.

One of my husband’s favourite jokes is that if somebody wants to kill a plant without using any herbicides, all they have to do is ask me to look after it:  within days of my most ardent efforts to meet its every need, the plant will simply give up and die.

We have a most beautiful rock garden in our front yard:  my husband and kids made it, because (they said) they could not take yet another year of dead plants in front of the house as I tried over and over to grow some flowers…

Even the rabbit refuses to eat plants I try to grow for him in the back yard:  he’ll eat their farm-bought equivalents, but not the ones from the backyard…

(The only exception to this rule is a rosebush I have:  I have tried to kill it for years – even digging up all its roots and everything – but it just keeps coming back bigger and stronger…)

I explain this to underscore the wonder with which I regard all humans who are actually capable of growing food.

When I was little, my grandmother and her boyfriend grew most of their food:  this was unusual in the industrialized part of the world I came from, but organic farming was his passion and both were really, really good at it.  I always wanted to help – but I was only permitted to help with harvesting, banned even from watering plants (see reason above).

Ever since I had a choice, I have been buying my food from local farmers:  most of it organic.

Yes, I had heard all the things about ‘organic farming’ not producing better or tastier food than other farming methods.  Yet, for me, this was a conscious indulgence!

I really did not care if the peach tasted better because it was organic or because I thought it was organic…

And I did run experiments on my family by buying identical cuts of meat from the supermarket and local farmers and cooking them identically (say, the barbecue, and so on):  they very consistently preferred both the taste and the texture of the meat I purchased from local (‘organic’ or ‘near-organic’ or ‘least-harmful-practices) farmers.

This suited me very well:  I like the idea of supporting local farmers directly, eating food that was not shipped here across large distances, of knowing and developing a trust relationship with the people I got my food from… (I even went out to the farm where my beef came from, to see that yes, the cows actually walk around in the field and eat grass, and so on.)

While I would not think less of people for not following these practices, I relished in being able to do so myself.  I was not doing it because I was convinced my kids would get sick from eating supermarket food – I did it because I could and I enjoyed doing it.

Of course, whenever I could help it, I would never touch genetically modified foods:  the ‘safety tests’ performed on these are woefully inadequate and I do not believe they demonstrate these foods are safe for human consumption.  For example, most tests are run for less than 10 years – which means that cumulative damage which would show up after 15-20 years of consumption of these foods has never been examined, much less demonstrated to be safe.

In addition, the predatory practices by ‘some’ GM developers have truly very frightening implications.  For example, inserting the ‘terminator gene’ (which prevents 2nd generation seed from germinating, thus ‘protecting the IP’ of the seed’s developer – and ensuring the farmer must purchase new seed every planting season) into the highly mobile pollen rather than the location-controllable egg part of the seed is understood (by IP patent lawyers – I asked) to be an overtly aggressive move, signalling the conscious potential for the weaponization of GM seeds.

But, that is a different story altogether…

Perhaps it is with a bit of satisfaction that I read the following article:

“The results are in from a 30-year side-by-side trial of conventional and organic farming methods at Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming outperformed conventional farming in every measure.”

“But even without a price premium, the Rodale study found organic systems are competitive with the conventional systems because of marginally lower input costs.”

I do not know how good this study is and if the article is representing its findings accurately. But, it is interesting and worth the read.

If it is even partially true, we may need to re-evaluate what we think we know about organic farming…

One Response to “Dispelling the myths about organic farming”

  1. Heidi Says:

    Very interesting viev on organic produce. I am shortly going to be doing some research into this area to explain the different views of what organic really means and discover what motivates people buy organic over conventional products.

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