No topic is so ethically charged as agriculture as it’s closely linked to all we hold dear – food and fashion. It is the subject that often yields the most passionate of debates, particularly the question of whether organic really is better for us.
One only needs to read the Facebook comments on Emma Watson’s recent Met Gala photo, to learn how intensely people will debate “organic” agriculture. Despite the show-stopping off-the-shoulder pants/dress ensemble prominently displayed, organic farming took centre stage in the Facebook comment thread.
I happened upon the sustainability debate surrounding the outfit – a creative collaboration between Calvin Klein and Eco-Age – when Wendy, a stylist girlfriend of mine, tagged me on Emma’s Facebook photo.
An ethical fashion style icon.
Now I worship at the alter of this ethical style goddess and feminist, and agree with most everything Emma had written on the post, if in fact she had written it (with my background in digital marketing, I am only too aware that this job may have been outsourced to a creative agency).
So you can imagine my wide-eyed interest when I saw this comment by a “Simone”:
Love the dress and the sustainability , but the chemical and organic thing…Fact is, organic usually uses even harsher chemicals, but they are just labelled as organic, are usually less effective, and more toxic than many non-organic chemicals.
What ensued were more comments in support, like this one by “Roshni”,
“Organic” does not mean spray-free or “chemical” free. They just use different sprays and chemicals, usually unregulated and not tested as rigorously as conventional sprays.
which instigated a response from a Paige:
Agreed Roshni, they are practically not tested at all. I exchanged emails with someone in the USDA pesticide residue testing program asking about which pesticides they test for and found out that they don’t actually test for organic pesticides on their organic crops. They test for conventional pesticides in order to see if conventional pesticides have been used. Which is then where they get the ‘organic crops use “__”% less pesticides than conventional’ propaganda. Which if you think about it, it makes sense that there is less residue on organic from pesticides that aren’t supposed to be used on them
And of course, it wouldn’t have been a social media debate if the copying and pasting of URLs to prove one’s point wasn’t in the mix, which in this case it was. The link to a web page with the meta title Pesticides in Organic Farming was conveniently shared, although when I saw it, I did think that the URL itself https://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~lhom/organictext.html is misleading, making it seem like a research paper conducted by the university of Berkeley when in fact it is a blog article by a Berkeley grad named Louis Hom, a highly intelligent researcher/scientist type given his admission to working at “Cornell Vet School, studying reoviruses.”
So where do I sit on this organic farming debate?
As a critical thinker and a freelance writer, I have an in-built bullshit detector. I like to question everything. As I am fond of saying, beliefs are just that, beliefs. Our beliefs are usually biases borne out of our own experiences and our environment. Sometimes we change and edit our beliefs as we receive more input. And sometimes our ego clings harder to beliefs, even when faced with hard evidence that proves our beliefs are hogwash.
Now most people would readily assume that as I live on an organic farm which is currently undergoing the process of certification with the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia, that I would automatically justify my pro-organic farming position. Most people would be wrong.
Related Post: So You Think You Can Farm?
However as no one had provided links to research papers proving that “organic farming is worse” than conventional farming, I needed to press them in case there was a gap in my extensive research and own thinking.
So it is in this spirit of coming to a greater understanding of these opinions so clearly alternative to my own – that I added my own comment to the thread, (intended for the original commenter Simone):
“I’m interested to learn more about your point of view. As it so happens my partner and I are currently certifying our small farm as “organic”. We are based in Australia. We chose to go down this route of organic certification as we decided that the system of farming promoted by organic is aligned with our agricultural philosophy that balances human, environmental and animal welfare. Also consumers are beginning to care about how things are grown and we thought certification makes perfect sense – even if a little more expensive and paperwork adds more work. While it is all new to me as I don’t have a background in agriculture or farming, I am unsure as to what you mean by organic being “worse” as I would have to make this determination based on many other studies. Are you able to provide some so that I may understand how you arrived at your conclusion? We use crop rotation to help with soil management and pest control and the inputs used on the farm are locally produced and also certified organic which isn’t to say that they don’t contain harmful residues, but I would imagine much less than in conventional farming.”
No responses as yet. But stay tuned.
Two hours later I still haven’t received a response which is fair enough given that I am unsure as to where in the world Simone is based. Also, who’s to say I will even receive a reply given that her comment did garner, at the time of this writing, 42 replies. She may not feel like providing justification for her beliefs.
But if I do receive a response, I will update this post so that you may learn with me and perhaps together we can increase our knowledge of organic farming, or perhaps, increase our awareness of how to handle the naysayers.
Now after writing my response, I decided to read further and noticed a comment from “Alex” pertaining to the same organic case:
This time though, I decided not to comment. Not because I think Alex is right – although he does raise some valid points about the yield in organic farming and demonising technology that may improve sustainability – but because I really only have room for one deep discussion on Facebook at a time.