Wired magazine is taking on the 10 Inconvenient Truths of the environmental movement this week, and “Green Heresy” number 3 is especially noteworthy: Surprise! Conventional Agriculture Can Be Easier On The Planet! Now that organic food marketers and their devotees are having a harder time using bogus health claims to make their case, the consensus seems to be that the “green” bandwagon is the path to acceptance. Only that doesn’t seem to be working out either. Wired’s Joanna Pearlstein is the latest bearer of bad news:
The path to virtue, we all know, begins with organics. Meat, milk, fruit, veggies — organic products are good for our bodies and good for the planet. Except when they’re not good for the planet…
Take milk. Dairy cows raised on organic feed aren’t pumped full of hormones. That means they produce less milk per Holstein — about 8 percent less than conventionally raised cattle. So it takes 25 organic cows to make as much milk as 23 industrial ones. More cows, more cow emissions… That double whammy — more cows and more emissions per cow — makes organic dairies a cog in the global warming machine.
That’s right, not only isn’t the organic-only darling, “rBST-free” milk, better for your health, it isn’t better for the environment either. As Pearlstein suggests, it’s probably worse. Moving on:
[E]ven organic fruits and veggies are a mixed bushel: Organic fertilizers deliver lower-than-average yields, so those crops require more land per unit of food.
Setting aside her misconception that organic foods are pesticide-free, Pearlstein does touch on something very interesting when she points out that Big Organic ships its food thousands of miles. Whole Foods shoppers in Washington, DC were shocked recently when they were approached by reporters from a local news station, who told them to take a closer look at the labels on some of their organic products:
One woman interviewed asked the obvious question: “So you have to ask yourself the question, how would they ever know if the organic rules are being followed?” Whole Foods declined to be interviewed.
To recap, then: Organic foods aren’t necessarily healthier, “greener,” or locally produced — and, apparently, some of them might not even be organic at all!
So … why should we pay $7 for milk again?