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 | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay Wednesday: Brown and cerise bag from Love Eco

We seem to be featuring bags almost daily just now, and having spotted some of the fashionistas queueing up for Christopher Kane's catwalk show with their 'eco bags' yesterday, I think this may be the start of something big...

So today we bring you this stylish clutch bag, courtesy of Love Eco. It's made using leather remnants from the furniture industry, which would otherwise go to waste. There's no doubt in my mind that it's a fab design, and I particularly like the cerise lining and oversized vintage buckle. But how do you guys feel about leather accessories? To those of you who don't wear leather as a rule, do you feel differently about items like this?

February 14, 2007 in Agree or Disagree?, Fashion & accessories | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Fines for ciggy litter?


E Magazine reports that indoor smoking bans have unexpected negative environmental consequences.  Smokers are sent out without any new provision for what they're going to do with their litter, and smokers (as someone who's chewed a pack or two in her time, I admit, I'm no better) tend to be flick-happy with their butts in the first place.  Result, according to anecdote (which I've also observed myself) is a lot more litter which takes between one and ten years to biodegrade.  Worsted Witch notes a disturbing statistic indicating this is no small amount of trash: it is estimated that cigarette butts account for 50 percent of all litter in the world.  Also, animals eat the butts and suffer various ill effects, from indigestion to suffocation.  The Witch proposes a heavy fine for those who toss their butts in the street.  Yay, Nay or other?  [GT]

COMMENTARY: Indoor Smoking Bans [via Indoor Smoking Ban: Smoke’s on the Environment? at Worsted Witch]

More Yay or Nay


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February 7, 2007 in Agree or Disagree? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Driverless Electric Bus


Exhibiting at the London Science Museum right now is a driverless hybrid bus that you hail with your mobile.  It seats up to 24 people and follows its route based on magnets embedded in the pathway.  It uses considerably less energy than normal cars and buses, and costs half as much as a normal bus does to operate, since it has no driver - making it theoretically possible to double the number of buses available, especially in remote areas.  However, since it has no driver, there have been glitches: an unmanned bus in France ran over a sleeping dog and killed it.  Commenters have also expressed concern about vandalism, thuggery and other unsavory behaviour taking over the buses.  Can these logistical problems be solved easily enough to reap the benefits of expanded public transport at reduced environmental impact?  Vote yay or nay!  [GT]

The driverless bus you hail with your mobile [via BornRich]

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January 24, 2007 in Agree or Disagree?, Transport & travel | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Engineered chickens make cancer drugs


Science has given us the ultimate argument in favour of genetic modification: chicken eggs containing skin-cancer-fighting antibodies. Altering the hens to lay eggs containing the antibody means it can be produced en masse and far more cheaply than through conventional methods. (Simply eating the egg doesn't get you a straight dose of the drug: it gets you the drug in egg form, from which it should be extracted to work properly.) This is the first time an animal has been successfully genetically modified to produce raw prescription medication, and could lead to inexpensive drug distribution in areas where factories are less feasible than chickens. However, what happens if these modified animals get loose in the traditional breeding bloodlines? What do you think, Hippyshoppers? Yay or Nay? [GT]

Skin cancer breakthrough in an egg

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January 17, 2007 in Agree or Disagree? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Would you eat this potato?


Scientists found that the carcinogen acrylamide forms in deep fried foods, particularly chips.  Another problem with potatoes is that the longer they're stored, the more they break down, becoming mushy and unpalatable.  Simplot in Idaho hopes to change that, with their GM potato that 'rebuffs' acrylamide when fried, and stays firm and fresh longer in storage.  Would you eat this superior-tasting, less-carcinogenic, but genetically-modified, potato?  Post yay or nay in comments.  [GT]

Genetically modified spud healthier, creators say

Related stories: Yay or Nay: Should Al Gore give it away? | Yay or Nay: Would you eat a grey squirrel? | Organic, humanely grown veal: Yay or Nay?

January 11, 2007 in Agree or Disagree?, Food & drink | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Should Al Gore give it away?


Michael Eakes is a geek who knows his stuff, so it's not surprising he hit on a good way to get more people to see An Inconvenient Truth: he wrote a letter asking Al Gore to give the movie away free via BitTorrent.  "The film should be free (as in beer)," he wrote.  "Any fee is an economic inconvenience that guarantees a limited distribution.  You must reach everyone, in a way only “free” can.  I humbly urge you to give it away."  What do you think, Hippyshoppers?  Yay or Nay?  [GT]

An Inconvenient Distribution: A Web 2.0 Geek’s Letter to Al Gore

Related stories: An Inconvenient Truth nears theatres | Tuesday blog roundup: Inconvenient truth 2 et al | Schools Reject Free Copies of An Inconvenient Truth

December 29, 2006 in Agree or Disagree? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Naturally Decaf Coffee Plants


While the techniques described probably go beyond home application, the latest issue of Cold Spring Harbor Protocols includes techniques for the creation of transgenic plants, which includes rice spliced to yield extra vitamin A, coffee plants designed to be naturally decaf, and cotton that resists being eaten by pests.  Obviously seeds like this would obviate the need for pesticides and enable us to hustle over to much cleaner growing methods tout suite, but what are the long term implications?  Would you drink black tea spliced with cinnamon to be a natural chai?  Post yay or nay in comments.  [GT]

Decaffeinated Coffee Plants? New Methods Permit Functional Gene Studies In Plants [via Futurismic]

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December 6, 2006 in Agree or Disagree? | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Is nuclear power not so bad?


[A] risk/benefit analysis of nuclear power indicates that it is a safer choice than the fossil options that now dominate electricity generation.

In a nutshell, the proposition is that given no large-scale alternatives to current fossil fuel energy generation, the long-term risks posed by nuclear waste are not as serious as the present damage being done.  If fossil fuels burned today result in global climate change in 50 or 100 years, there will be no way to reverse these effects.   So should we switch over to nuclear power today, positing that it will fix today's problems, and stave off tomorrow's to a point where we can figure out what to do about them?  Is that a step toward responsible behaviour, or continuation of a trend of robbing Peter to pay Paul?  Read Nuclear Waste and the Distant Future and also how the IEA Energy agency backs nuclear power and post your responses.  [GT]

Nuclear Waste and the Distant Future | Energy agency backs nuclear power

Related stories: Is recycling utter rubbish? | Yay or Nay: Boycott Breast Cancer Awareness Month? | Alternate Energy Sources For A Flourishing Future

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November 15, 2006 in Agree or Disagree?, Energy saving | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Yay or Nay: Boycott Breast Cancer Awareness Month?


It's impossible not to have seen the tidal wave of pink gear that's part of breast cancer fundraising, especially with October, Breast Cancer Awareness month, having just passed.  However, The Assertive Cancer Patient, a breast cancer survivor, says she simply feels exploited and many other breast cancer survivors feel the same way.  She says often only a small percentage of the pink product cash goes to the cancer fighting efforts, so it's really just a way for companies to sell more stuff.  We need health care, she argues, not junk with a feel-good pink paint job.

The thing I've always wondered about the whole pink campaign is, why do feminists tolerate it?  There are hundreds of kinds of cancer, yet the one that gets the most airtime is breast cancer.  How is that not objectification of women?  The implication has always been to me that our breasts are the most important part of us, therefore let's not bother to address brain cancer, heart disease, AIDS, etc.  How can splintering types of cancer research, and forcing breast cancer to compete for public attention (therefore, funds) against other kinds of cancer, be desirable?  Why doesn't October apply to all kinds of cancer - at the very least?

I realize people like the whole pink thing because they've had some female friend die of breast cancer and it lets them memorialize.  There are a lot of sharp responses I can give to that kind of muddy thinking, but it boils down to that living people are more important than dead ones, nearly every time.  Charity fundraising has splintered in the most alarming way over the past 20 years; it seems everybody has a bracelet, chocolate bar or random bit of foil-covered plastic we're supposed to purchase so that some cut of the take goes to send albinos to band camp or fight Tourette's Syndrome in carpet layers.  Any businessman alive will tell you you don't split your R&D budget into blue widgets, green widgets and red widgets; you have a widget budget and design them so they can be painted afterward.  (And then you add in a pink widget so you can say you're interested in women.  I bet you are.) 

Post Yay or Nay on Boycotting Breast Cancer Month.  [GT]

The Assertive Cancer Patient

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November 9, 2006 in Agree or Disagree? | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack