So when I hear the alarmists sweep into action and berate the means by which such essentials are achieved, my bullshit meter is activated. This meter reaches its zenith when there’s talk of anything being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for the environment.
Take ‘organics’. Organics are more expensive than conventionally grown foods so a marketing ploy had to be found to justify the higher price otherwise the producers would remain smallholders and cottage gardeners. The ploy was the ‘feel good factor’. Hence the media hype uses emotive terms like ‘better’, ‘healthier’, ‘good’, ‘bad’ and the ubiquitous, but highly questionable, ‘sustainable’.
The reality behind the hype is somewhat different as this excellent article in the Australian points out. The first part of the article debunks the myths around organics. It is well worth reading in full. The conclusion is far more sinister (my bold).
Organics is a rich world phenomenon, with 90 per cent of sales in North America and Europe. Despite a fivefold increase in sales on the past 15 years, just 1 per cent of global cropland is organic. That’s because almost half of humanity depends on food grown with synthetic fertilisers, prohibited by organics.
Norman Borlaug received the Nobel prize for leading the green revolution that gave food to the world’s poorest. He pointed out organic farming on a global scale would leave billions starving.
Unpick assumptions about organic food and what is left is the world’s wealthy spending more to feel good. While that is just as valid as spending it on holidays, we should resist any implied moral superiority.
Organics are not healthier or better for animals. Growing produce organically causes more nitrous oxide, ammonia, acidification, and nitrogen leaching. It takes up more land.
When we shop, we are rightly dubious of many advertising claims from big industry. Despite its great PR, organics is really no different. We should approach organic products with a healthy dose of scepticism.
Bjorn Lomborg is director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre.