Not as green as they’re painted

Organic production is better for the planet, isn’t it?

The Green Party which advocates for a far more organic production would have us believe it is but University of Waikato professor of agribusiness Jacqueline Rowarth says that isn’t so:

. . . People’s first consideration when buying food was price, despite claims they might buy based on factors like organic growth, she said.

While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said.

A lot of so-called environmentally friendly policies, including buying local, organics, and recycling aren’t nearly as green as they’re painted.

Support for them are often based more on emotion than science.

The need for more of the latter was another point Prof Rowarth made:

. . . The future of ensuring the world’s population was nutritionally well fed was incorporating all the best technology, including the strategic use of genetic engineering, she said during a public lecture at the University of Otago yesterday.

There also needed to be a greater research and innovation culture so advances could be made to feed the world’s ever-growing population.

”That is why in New Zealand we need to encourage everybody to become involved in science,” Prof Rowarth said.

The downsizing of the Crown research campus at Invermay and the discussions about making science elective at school in year 11 did not meet that brief, she said.

”Nutrition depends on agriculture which depends on an understanding of the soil.” . . .

Scientific research and advances have and will continue to improve agriculture and nutrition.

There were plenty of examples of how the past few hundred years of science had helped increase the yield from plants and animals, improving human nutrition.

Advances in wheat and milk production were prime examples.

The benefits of this were highlighted in the fact that the percentage of the world’s population that was malnourished had dropped significantly from 34% in 1969 to 17% in recent years, even though the population had grown massively.

”More people are fed to a better level of nutrition. It is a triumph of agriculture.” . . .

A triumph of agriculture based on science and hard work.

Prof Rowarth also dispelled a few modern-day myths on modern food consumption, pointing to literature showing in real dollars food was cheaper than it had ever been, even though it ”didn’t feel like it”.

People could now afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, as they were more affordable than ever, and what they should be worried about was their consumption of highly processed foods.

”Back in 1912 you were lucky to get vegetables, maybe a carrot or potato.” . .

Cheaper doesn’t mean cheap but we have a far wider range of food at prices which make the cost of feeding ourselves a lower percentage of most household budgets than it was for previous generations.

An increase in organic production and buying local will reduce yield, choice and increase prices and the environmental worth of such practices isn’t backed up by science.

 

 

 

21 Responses to Not as green as they’re painted

  1. robertguyton says:

    “Agribusiness spokesperson criticises organics”

    What an astonishment! Who would ever have guessed!?!

    Ele, you’ve made your anti-organic position clear repeatedly and each time revealed your ignorance of the issue. Talk about emotion shunting science into the background – your attacks are a perfect example of that. They’re as sound as Willy Lefrinks” “Climate change is neutral” – nothing more than emotive pish.

  2. robertguyton says:

    “An increase in organic production and buying local will reduce yield, choice and increase prices and the environmental worth of such practices isn’t backed up by science.”

    Utter nonsense (pish).

    Take vegetable growing for example – have you even heard of the French bio-intensive system?

    Thought not.

  3. Gravedodger says:

    Ask a committed (pity we dont do that any more) organic idol worshiper what they understand “organic” to mean and the answers will confound and astound an intelligent person.

    Now be a good person and look up Organic vs Inorganic, surprised, you dam well should be.
    Just as the social manipulators hijacked “gay”, that in my childhood and youth had a very good descriptive quality, into a word I hesitate to use, in its historical context, the sly, crafty, mind benders have grasped Organic, chewed it and spat it out with a whole new conceptual meaning.

    “no sprays” except say copper, sulfur,???
    I have a friend who has an allergy to free sulphur and If I used an Organic treatment containing soluble sulfur of my grapevines to suppress Mildew she would react within 100 meters of the treated vines yet if I used the systemic chemical treatment, no problems.

    Soil fertilizers: Batshit is OK, perfectly understandable really, and guanno or bird droppings also, yet put sulphuric acid on ground Phosphate rock and many of the zealots are horrified.

    Consider the views of those opposed to addition of Fluoride to water already treated with Chlorine to kill disease bearing organisms, because our water is internationally low in natural fluorine and reasonable becomes a very scarce commodity.

    When shopping, appearance and price are my concerns, as to food being “toxic” I rely on integrity, regulatory control and good luck.
    If an “organic” product appeals then I will buy it on the aforementioned parameters.

    Organic too often represents lower quality, yet is priced dearer, why I ask myself and get no sensible answer.

  4. jabba says:

    a few days agao our Gween friends slammed the UN and now it’s a lowly professor .. it’s a tough life trying to tell a Gweenie that they are wrong

  5. robertguyton says:

    Ele introduced the word “organic” into today’s discussion, Gravedodger – are you criticising her for being a “social manipulator”?
    I think you “get no sensible answer”, GD, because you have yet to ask a sensible question.
    Try it.
    You might enjoy the response.
    Jabba – still thrilling to that hilarious mis-pelling? As someone else pointed out, that quality of humour never gets old and we never tire of it, so erudite and down-right belly-wobblingly funny it is!

  6. Dave Kennedy says:

    I have listen to Presentations from Jacqueline and have personally chatted to her and we actually agree on a lot:
    -The government underfunds R&D
    -Understanding the soil and natural processes are key to ongoing farming productivity.
    -Focussing on literacy and numeracy in schools is shortsighted when science and technology are so important.
    -Agriculture will always be hugely important for our economy.

    We actually agree more than we disagree but the areas where we are in conflict are:
    -the ability of the environment to withstand current intensification practices.
    -There have been few benefits so far from GE compared to natural genetic modification. The commercialization of GE is probably more hazardous than the potential environmental risks. Monsanto is an excellent example of the worst elements of this industry. This company has single handily crippled the agricultural economies of many countries by abusing its patent rights on GE products. http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/files/monsantoexsum1142005.pdf
    -Our current and future food exports are reliant on our reputation for safety and our ‘green’ image, it is extremely important we don’t compromise on this.

  7. robertguyton says:

    Whenever this “organics is baaaaad pish re-emerges, I think about cow manure and dairy farmers. It wasn’t so long ago that dairy farmers in New Zealand were getting rid of cow shit from the milking-shed by sluicing it into the nearest creek – out of sight out of mind. All the while, the organic farmers were saying, “cow-shit is a valuable fertilizer that should be returned to the field’. They’d been saying that for decades and been ignored by conventional farmers all the while. What have we now? Dairy farmers, returning the cow shit to the field because it is a valuable fertilizer. Do we then, hear them praising the organic farmers for their foresight and wise advice? No. We get the likes of Ele and co, slagging organics and organic farmers off in the time honoured tradition.
    Short-sighted
    Short-sighted
    Short-sighted.

  8. willdwan says:

    Rubbish Robert, everyone knows manure is fertiliser, they just lacked the machines like slurry spreaders to utilise it.
    Good effort attacking the messenger though.

  9. Dave Kennedy says:

    As for organics nearly every farming publication I have read recently is promoting organic, biological and natural practices:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/agribusiness/9497859/Organic-meat-demand-outstrips-supply

    http://www.organic-world.net/fileadmin/documents/country_information/new-zealand/OANZ-2013-report-2012-data.pdf


    http://naturalfarmnz.co.nz/our-story
    http://www.nzfeatrust.org.nz/media_releases/id/533
    http://www.biologicalfarmers.co.nz/

    Not all farms can easily become organic but more and more the New Zealand’s farming culture is moving in this direction. Any farmer I talk to likes to explain how they are using more natural/organic practices.

  10. robertguyton says:

    “Lacked the machines…”

    Nonsense, willdwan. Farmers are innovators, we are constantly told. If they wanted to spread, they’d have quickly found a way. The will was not there. “Natural-system” farmers have been showing the way forward for such a long time and they still are. When do you think conventional farmers will come to recognise the vital importance of biodiversity? Ever? Never? Biological farmers have been alerting the conventional farmers to this for ever.
    Such a looooooooong lag-time. I wonder how they can bear it.

  11. Mr E says:

    I love this:
    ‘While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said.’

    I am left wondering if organic, farmers market types, can now be labeled as ‘climate change deniers’

    Apparently science suggests so. Are these people burying their heads in the sand? Ignoring their polluting ways?

  12. Dave Kennedy says:

    ‘While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said.’

    I’d love to see the evidence of this 🙂

  13. Mr E says:

    I’m also left wondering about the Green Party.
    They want 50% of farmers to be organic by 2020 and the rest to be transitioning. But they also want a reduction in carbon emissions.

    Given Professor Rowarth’s comments, the Greens policies seem to be in conflict with each other.

  14. Dave Kennedy says:

    I found these paragraphs in your link useful, Mr E, it is easy to cherry pick research to support a sweeping statement but without the qualitative detail I have no idea what the conclusions were based on.

    ” ‘The literature survey revealed a lot of variation between the different environmental impacts of farming, which is the result of very different management practices at different organic and conventional farms. This suggests that there could be a lot to gain by moving beyond the simplistic “organic” versus “conventional” debate and look at how to combine the most environmentally-friendly practices from both types of farming.’

    The researchers suggest that reducing the environmental impacts of farming is a priority, as is biodiversity conservation on farmland. They also conclude that introducing new techniques could help to reduce the environmental impact of all types of farms: anaerobic digesters could be used to convert animal waste into biogas for heating and electricity, livestock could be selectively bred to reduce nitrogen and methane emissions, and new crops could be developed to reduce the need for pesticides or harness nutrients more efficiently.”

    What was meant by ‘simplistic organics’ isn’t explained and was used to condemn all organic practices.

  15. robertguyton says:

    If you accept Professor Rowath’s comments…but they are wrong, so relax, Mr E and wonder no more about the Green Party, you are only tying yourself in knots when you do that.
    The real conflict, and one you should apply yourself to, is in National’s claim that they will reach their greenhouse emissions targets – complete and transparent lies of course. In fact, under their direction, we will seriously breach the target, but hey, National MPs are deniers anyway, so there’s no angst in that caucus.
    That’s something you might like to “wonder” about, Mr E.

  16. JC says:

    “As for organics nearly every farming publication I have read recently is promoting organic, biological and natural practices:”

    Fair enough. And at about 1-2% of agricultural exports it needs all the help it can get.

    JC

  17. Dave Kennedy says:

    1-2% of agricultural exports it needs all the help it can get.
    Too right JC, there is huge potential (as most of my links supported) and would add huge value to what we currently export. It’s where the rest of the world is going and we don’t want to be the last cab off the rank. 🙂

  18. JC says:

    “Too right JC, there is huge potential (as most of my links supported)”

    Then again organic farming has had 9000 years to prove its worth and the best examples of it remain in Africa, the Middle East and other parts of Asia.. not good.

    Fortunately programmes like Country Calendar have given us a fair exposure to organic farming and the takeaway has to be the extensive use made of fossil fuel to create something viable on some scale.

    I suspect that increased organic farming will show show a quite tight relationship to increased use of such fuels.

    JC

  19. robertguyton says:

    You suspect wrongly, JC. In any case, you haven’t defined what you mean by ‘organic farming’ and as Gravedodger points out, that makes your claims nonsensical. The reason sound and sustainable farming/gardening practices were superceded, was because of petroleum. Powered machines, fertilizers made from gaseous petroleum, herbicides and pesticides made from petroleum all changed the way farming was undertaken, temporarily, as petroleum is a finite resource and the damaging effects of a ‘pumped up’ industry on the environment mean that much fertility has been lost, world-wide. It’s a matter of energy and when that energy source is no longer accessible, the “worked for 9 000 years” methods will take the place of petroleum-supported agriculture and, because we will have the benefit of modern thinking and science, will be better than it was and over all, much better than the present system. Conventional agriculturalists should be looking to their organic “cousins” and developing now the methods that will follow those we employ presently. Thankfully, aside from the geese here who thoughtlessly lambaste biological farming and farmers, many New Zealand farmers are already doing this. They would not be impressed by the ignorance shown here by some commenters and would instead be building bridges within their ‘federation’ of farmers. One of the most appalling aspects of Ele’s anti-organic farming/farmers posts, is the sight of a farmer like herself, dumping on her fellow farmers. That’s just wrong.

  20. Mr E says:

    I have had plenty of involvement in Organics. Mostly to the Biogrow standard but also Organz.

    In my experience, economically, it is rare to come across systems that will outstrip their conventional peers. Now and again global conditions will lead to a large premium paid, offsetting the common production shortfall. It is product dependant, spasmodic and seems to me to be an exception to me.

    Up until now I have widely considered organics as having a place in the market. But only to the extent that they were niche. And Robert is right in his suggestion that we can learn from organic systems. They often try different ideas and some ideas are valuable.

    Some organic products contain flavotoxins, as a result of pest attack responses, making them tastier for the consumer. Historically I have thought that society should have a choice. That was – a minority of consumers will choose organics but only when economic conditions suit.

    But Professor Rowarth has pointed out – ‘Farmers market’ products and ‘Organics’ tend to produce more emissions than conventional systems per unit of product. That’s bad news for the consumers and for those that accept anthropogenic climate change. Organic customers should now be wondering if they are ruining the planet with their lusted for chemical free, pricey products. Not to mention producers of these products. Many of them only produce products out of a sense of ‘doing good for the planet’. I am guessing some are now thinking – “I am destroying Mother Earth!”

    Robert, in reference to climate change, has recent stated in the Southland Times. “We are, as a country, adding to the serious problem that other people will have to face. I think it’s shameful and selfish to pretend we can’t do anything about it.”

    I am hoping that he has measured the carbon footprint of his own farmlet and has a shameless conscious. His comments make me think he has been self reflecting. If he had mentioned farmers markets and organics I could have said that with more certainty.

    Indeed Dave is a Farms Market committee member. More importantly he is a Green Party member – who have a policy to turn 100% of NZ organic. Emitting, polluting organic, as Professor suggests. How clear is Dave’s conscious, I wonder. Is he feeling shameless and shameful?

    I myself have been put into a position of challenging my view that ‘there is a place for organics’. Professor Rowarth has me wondering if we need to avoid organics, as she has identified them as high carbon emitting farm systems.

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