# Organic food is a 'deceitful, expensive scam'

## Main Question or Discussion Point

"Plant pathologist Steven Savage of the CropLife Foundation analyzed the data from the USDA’s 2014 Organic Survey, which reported various measures of productivity from most of the certified organic farms in the nation, and compared them to those at conventional farms.

His findings were extraordinary. In 59 of the 68 crops surveyed, there was a yield gap, which means that, controlling for other variables, organic farms were producing less than conventional farms. Many of those shortfalls were large: for strawberries, organic farms produced 61 percent less than conventional farms; for tangerines, 58 percent less; for cotton, 45 percent less; and for rice, 39 percent less.

As Savage observed: “To have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014 would have required farming of 109 million more acres of land. That is an area equivalent to all the parkland and wildland areas in the lower 48 states, or 1.8 times as much as all the urban land in the nation.”

Perhaps the most illogical and least sustainable aspect of organic farming in the long term will turn be the absolute exclusion of “genetically engineered” plants that were modified with the most precise and predictable modern molecular techniques.

Except for wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all the fruits, vegetables, and grains in our diet have been genetically improved by one technique or another—often as a result of seeds having been irradiated or via “wide crosses,” which move genes from one species or genus to another in ways that do not occur in nature. (These more-primitive techniques of genetic modification are acceptable in organic agriculture.)

In recent decades, we have seen genetic engineering advances such as plants that are disease-, pest-, drought-, and flood-resistant. The result has been higher yields for farmers and lower costs for consumers. As genetic engineering’s successes continue to emerge, the gap between the methods of modern, high-tech agriculture and organic agriculture will become a chasm, and organic will be increasingly unable to compete."

http://www.newsweek.com/campaign-organic-food-deceitful-expensive-scam-785493

Drakkith

Related General Discussion News on Phys.org
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
I understand the "expensive" side. I do not understand why this is "deceitful" and a "scam".

We are so used to cheap, tasteless food. And farmers are not being paid enough to sustain their farms. I'm not advocating organic food. I'm advocating quality food, because in the end, that is the goal.

Zz.

Greg Bernhardt
russ_watters
Mentor
You forgot "environmentally harmful", but yeah.

["ha egg mful"? Go home, autocorrect; you're drunk!]

Nugatory
russ_watters
Mentor
I understand the "expensive" side. I do not understand why this is "deceitful" and a "scam".
When you are paying for something you aren't getting, you are being deceived. Setting aside quality concerns because they can cut both ways, organic is marketed as being healthier and more "sustainable", both of which are generally false.

. And farmers are not being paid enough to sustain their farms
evidence?

russ_watters
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
When you are paying for something you aren't getting, you are being deceived. Setting aside quality concerns because they can cut both ways, organic is marketed as being healthier and more "sustainable", both of which are generally false.
But there ARE organic farms that fit both! We also can't say ALL organic farms and produce are not "healthier" and "more sustainable", because I can show you TWO farms that I've visited in northern Indiana that fit the bill. Do I claim that ALL of them are such? No, because it definitely depends on the type of "farming" that they are doing, and also who's doing the trumpeting.

But I do not understand why the entire industry is being given that label. I do not buy organic products all the time. I find many "organic broth", for example, to be bland and awful. But I have had some of the best tomatoes and many other produce that are organic, so much so that I'd buy them even if they are not. Again, the issue here is quality, and I'd like to see a one-on-one comparison of those.

Zz.

How does the use of synthetic fertilizers and certain pesticides (organic uses pesticides as well) make produce taste worse?

OmCheeto
Gold Member
How does the use of synthetic fertilizers and certain pesticides (organic uses pesticides as well) make produce taste worse?
I ran across this statement a few weeks ago;
"Most produce available now has been bred or engineered to last through rough handling in distribution centers and long distances in trucks–not for taste." [ref]​

So, synthetic fertilizers aren't the problem there.

Another thing I ran across recently, regarding environmental impact;
"A record-breaking, New Jersey-sized dead zone was measured by scientists in the Gulf of Mexico this week—a sign that water quality in U.S. waterways is worse than expected.
...
Preliminary reports from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) align with the observation, estimating that 165,000 metric tons of nitrate–about 2,800 train cars of fertilizer—and 22,600 metric tons of phosphorus flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers into the Gulf of Mexico in May.
" [ref]​

And this;

"This is no small economic matter. A single low-oxygen event (known scientifically as hypoxia) off the coasts of New York State and New Jersey in 1976 covering a mere 385 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of seabed ended up costing commercial and recreational fisheries in the region more than 500 million. As it stands, roughly 83,000 tons (75,000 metric tons) of fish and other ocean life are lost to the Chesapeake Bay dead zone each year—enough to feed half the commercial crab catch for a year. "More than 212,000 metric tons [235,000 tons] of food is lost to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico," says marine biologist Robert Diaz of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., who surveyed the dead zones along with marine ecologist Rutger Rosenberg of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. "That's enough to feed 75 percent of the average brown shrimp harvest from the Louisiana gulf. If there was no hypoxia and there was that much more food, don't you think the shrimp and crabs would be happier? They would certainly be fatter." [ref]​ So, it strikes me that conventional farmers could learn just a little bit from organic farmers. Personally, I've started growing my own food. Haven't figured out how to control the aphids yet. Little b*****d's! Crop yield to date, after 18 months: 8 lemons. But, at least I'm trying. russ_watters Mentor But there ARE organic farms that fit both! We also can't say ALL organic farms and produce are not "healthier" and "more sustainable"... Well that's nice, but totally meaningless, right? You can replace "organic" with "conventional" in both sentences and it is equally true and meaningless. Individual cases are not the point here: the point is that it is not generally true - and more importantly, not required by the standard - that "organic" means healthier or more sustainable. Contrast that with the "low sodium" label, which literally means the product has less sodium than a comparable product without the label. I ran across this statement a few weeks ago; "Most produce available now has been bred or engineered to last through rough handling in distribution centers and long distances in trucks–not for taste." [ref]​ So, synthetic fertilizers aren't the problem there. Right, its a non-issue relative to organic vs. conventional produce Another thing I ran across recently, regarding environmental impact; "A record-breaking, New Jersey-sized dead zone was measured by scientists in the Gulf of Mexico this week—a sign that water quality in U.S. waterways is worse than expected. ... Preliminary reports from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) align with the observation, estimating that 165,000 metric tons of nitrate–about 2,800 train cars of fertilizer—and 22,600 metric tons of phosphorus flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers into the Gulf of Mexico in May. " [ref]​ And this; "This is no small economic matter. A single low-oxygen event (known scientifically as hypoxia) off the coasts of New York State and New Jersey in 1976 covering a mere 385 square miles (1,000 square kilometers) of seabed ended up costing commercial and recreational fisheries in the region more than500 million. As it stands, roughly 83,000 tons (75,000 metric tons) of fish and other ocean life are lost to the Chesapeake Bay dead zone each year—enough to feed half the commercial crab catch for a year.

"More than 212,000 metric tons [235,000 tons] of food is lost to hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico," says marine biologist Robert Diaz of The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., who surveyed the dead zones along with marine ecologist Rutger Rosenberg of the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. "That's enough to feed 75 percent of the average brown shrimp harvest from the Louisiana gulf. If there was no hypoxia and there was that much more food, don't you think the shrimp and crabs would be happier? They would certainly be fatter."
[ref]​

So, it strikes me that conventional farmers could learn just a little bit from organic farmers.
You would prefer it was an equivalent amount of manure? All agriculture has environmental issues, and nitrate runoff is an issue but organic farming is not the solution. Animal s*** is polluting as well plus there simply is not enough natural fertilizer to feed everyone. Most credit the invention of synthetic fertilizer as saving more lives than any other single advance of civilization

Personally, I've started growing my own food.
Haven't figured out how to control the aphids yet. Little b*****d's!

Crop yield to date, after 18 months: 8 lemons.
But, at least I'm trying.
So about 2 in produce Drakkith Staff Emeritus Science Advisor But I do not understand why the entire industry is being given that label. Because the organic food industry as a whole, and many of those who support the industry, employs deceitful ads, promotes misinformation about nutrition and health, actively opposes scientific progress in improving food quantity and quality, and a whole slew of other things. There's a local food market that shows up about once a month or so at my college that I always avoid because of the heavy marketing of organic foods. I'll stop and buy a watermelon from the guy selling them from the back of his truck on the side of the road before I buy from anyone labeling their foods as organic. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I hate it. There aren't enough text modifiers I can throw on that word to emphasise it enough. But I do not understand why the entire industry is being given that label. I do not buy organic products all the time. I find many "organic broth", for example, to be bland and awful. But I have had some of the best tomatoes and many other produce that are organic, so much so that I'd buy them even if they are not. Again, the issue here is quality, and I'd like to see a one-on-one comparison of those. But do they taste good because they're organic? Because they were grown locally? Because of another reason? I seriously doubt their taste comes from being organic. I believe it comes from being grown locally or because it's a different type which tastes better but isn't as well suited for mass marketing. Really the problem comes down to the widespread belief that "natural" products are better than "artificial" products that's become entrenched in an alarming number of people. That is the primary reason the label "organic" even exists. Evo, BWV and russ_watters russ_watters Mentor Just in case the previous response wasn't direct enough: Another thing I ran across recently, regarding environmental impact; "A record-breaking, New Jersey-sized dead zone was measured by scientists in the Gulf of Mexico this week—a sign that water quality in U.S. waterways is worse than expected. ... Preliminary reports from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) align with the observation, estimating that 165,000 metric tons of nitrate–about 2,800 train cars of fertilizer—and 22,600 metric tons of phosphorus flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers into the Gulf of Mexico in May. " [ref]​ So, it strikes me that conventional farmers could learn just a little bit from organic farmers. [Synthetic] Fertilizer was used as the measuring stick example, but quite obviously the active ingredients in synthetic fertilizer and "natural" fertilizer like manure have to be the same. So the article could have easily used manure as the measuring stick....but I suppose that wouldn't fit the typical bias. http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/ma.../manure-impacts-on-surface-water-quality.html OmCheeto OmCheeto Gold Member Just in case the previous response wasn't direct enough: [Synthetic] Fertilizer was used as the measuring stick example, but quite obviously the active ingredients in synthetic fertilizer and "natural" fertilizer like manure have to be the same. So the article could have easily used manure as the measuring stick....but I suppose that wouldn't fit the typical bias. http://www.mass.gov/eea/agencies/ma.../manure-impacts-on-surface-water-quality.html That does make you think. I like the fact that they point out solutions, which both parties can adopt. Btw, I use totally synthetic fertilizers in my outdoor crops. Until I figure out how to get cow manure into my gutter gardens, I'm sticking with MiracleGro®. So about2 in produce
Actually, that's just my indoor-outdoor crop. My outdoor crop yield has been quite a bit higher. But I've only been doing this "effective" gardening thing for about 3 years now, and the learning curve is much steeper than I expected. And with fewer years that I will survive, than years before I figure this out, I moved the experiment indoors. I've a VERY short growing season here.

hmmmm.....

One of only two farmers I follow is someone who named their farm Polyface.
According to some googling, his farm has revenues of ≈>$1,000,000 and consists of 500 acres[wiki]. That's$2000/acre.

According to the USDA, the average farm generates only $450/acre. [ref] According to my calculations, from my flower pot size(30 cm diameter), my$2 annual yield, yields a net of \$114,000/acre.

hmmmm......