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Agree or Disagree: 'Buying organic can harm the planet'

Organicfood02200px Most people I speak to are divided one way or the other about buying organic. There're those who think it's a no-brainer: cutting down on chemicals we don't necessarily know enough about can only be a good thing, both for the environment and our bodies. And then there are those who argue that the chemicals have been in the food chain for long enough without doing any serious damage and don't want to pay extra for what they see as needless caution.

Finally, there's the smaller group that takes a slightly more paranoid attitude, fearing scams and highlighting the relative ease of passing off non-organic food as organic and charging the earth for it (ocasionally with reason). But could the trend towards organics actually be harming the planet? That was a new one on me until I read the Times article today that claims locally grown, organic food may not be as environmentally kosher as it claims to be. (read on after the jump for a synopsis)

The claims have provoked an angry reaction from the Soil Association, and will no doubt re-open the debate once again. So how seriously do you take findings of this sort? Whose authority on organics do you feel you can trust?

The article cites figures taken from recent  DEFRA research. Its claims include:

  • C02 emissions produced by chicken production per kg are greater when organic methods are used. Non-organic comes out at 4,570g compared with 6,680g for organic.
  • The amount of energy used to produce the same chicken is also greater in organic: 12mj non-organic vs 16mj organic
  • The negative impact of road freight as a means of transporting food is questioned, although the report agrees that air freighting is uneconomical.
  • Overall, so little is known about the overall environmental impact of any single food produce that it is impossible to say which is the most environmentally friendly.

February 21, 2007 in Agree or Disagree? | Permalink


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There are some interesting points, but I think I still prefer organic. There's more than just carbon to worry about.

Of course, my favorite organic produce is still the stuff I grow at home...

Posted by: Stephanie | 21 Feb 2007 19:33:59

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