Why organic farming might not be quite such a good idea


You'll have noted that we're all supposed to chow down on only organic food now I suppose? It's better for the environment, better for us and better for the food itself we are told. That there are a number of contradictions in the story seems not to bother people all that much. If we're not to use "artificial" fertlisers that means requiring rather more animals around for their dung, something which seems to militate against the idea that we should be eating less meat and anyway, what about methane emissions and the atmosphere?

That organic farming requires much more land is also true: there is no way that the UK could feed its current population by such methods and "self-sufficiency" is something the same sort of people promote as well.

However, there's a much greater problem with the whole idea. A problem elegantly laid out here:

Influential food writers, advocates, and celebrity restaurant owners are repeating the mantra that "sustainable food" in the future must be organic, local, and slow. But guess what: Rural Africa already has such a system, and it doesn't work. Few smallholder farmers in Africa use any synthetic chemicals, so their food is de facto organic. High transportation costs force them to purchase and sell almost all of their food locally. And food preparation is painfully slow. The result is nothing to celebrate: average income levels of only $1 a day and a one-in-three chance of being malnourished.

The system doesn't actually work, doesn't actually do what a system of feeding people is supposed to do: feed people.

I've said it before and will no doubt have to say it again in the future. The problem with a peasant system of agriculture is that people have to live the lives of peasants: short, exhausting and hungry. As someone whose ancestors only escaped that fate in the last couple of centuries (I'm realistic about my dear yet departed forbears. Aristocrats they were not, illiterate potato farmers they were.) I simply do not regard forcing my descendants into returning to it as an advance in human civilisation. I don't in fact consider it an advance in anything at all to be frank.