Over priced and under-proven

October 13, 2014

New Zealand shoppers think environmentally friendly products are over priced:

Even green-leaning Kiwis think environmentally-friendly products are overpriced

Whether you’re a climate change sceptic, a tree-hugging eco-warrior or something in between, there’s no avoiding the environmental debate these days. And with nearly four out of five New Zealanders believing that ‘if we don’t act now we’ll never control our environmental problems’, it makes sense that their shopping habits would reflect this. After all, buying sustainable, eco, biodegradable, non-toxic and/or organic products is an easy way for each individual to play their part in saving the planet, right?

Perhaps not. You see, there’s one small problem: three-quarters of Kiwis also believe that ‘environmentally friendly products are overpriced’ (compared to 68% of Australians). This presents a challenge for retailers and manufacturers of such items.

Roy Morgan Research looked at the customers of several high-profile New Zealand retailers to see how their attitudes towards environmentally friendly products stacked up against the national average. . . .

It’s not just the price I question, it’s the claims to being environmentally friendly.

Sustainable, eco, biodegradable, non-toxic, recycled, recyclable and organic are used separately and together on many products but how do we know they really are as good as they claim?

Are they really green or are the manufacturers and producers just using green wash as a marketing ploy?

Some so-called environmentally friendly products aren’t just over-priced, they’re under-proven.


Not as green as they’re painted

April 7, 2014

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.

 

 

 


Rural round-up

May 23, 2012

The message gets through to US milk producers – Xcheque:

A week ago we published this chart which shows the margin over feed cost for US class III milk. It is an ugly sight and is only going to get worse if you believe that the futures market is a guide.

Current margins are down to the critical lower limit of $5/cwt. Beyond this the short term futures for feed and milk price take us back to the depths of 2009 and no sign of a recovery anytime soon. . .

Fonterra Payout a Global Economy Reality Check:

The second payout revision downwards by Fonterra Cooperative Group in just over two months, is the reason why Federated Farmers warns farmers to budget conservatively.  It is estimated this revision will see around $500 million less come into the economy.

“When the last revision took place in March, we warned it might not be the final one before the end of the 2011/12 season.  Since then, international dairy prices have fallen to levels last seen in August 2009,”says Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson.

“While this is due to increased global milk supply, it also coincides with major uncertainties over the direction of the world’s economy.  We may be an island but economically we’re not.  . .

Meat industry faces challenges positively – Allan Barber:

This season is more of a challenge for the meat industry than last, although suppliers are still reasonably comfortable in spite of the lower lamb price which has now dipped below the $100 mark.

Good growing conditions in most of the country, especially the North Island, have removed the summer stress that always comes with drought and enabled suppliers to put a bit more weight on to compensate. But for processors the combination of extremely high procurement prices, over $6 a kilo for lamb until end March, the exchange rate and low plant throughputs has meant a very challenging first half year. . .

“Team Talk” the best farm amangement tool I’ve seen for decades – Pasture to Profit:

“TEAM TALK….I believe this on-farm staff/team communication system to be the most innovative development I’ve seen in Farm Business Management for decades”

TEAM TALK is a very exciting new on-farm computer communication system that is simple to use and empowers all staff members to take responsibility for their individual roles on the farm. It permanently records what has previously been keep on hundreds of bits of paper, whiteboards and shed notice boards. . .
Collectively Owned Māori Farms Much Larger than the Average New Zealand Farms:

At nearly 2,000 hectares (ha), the average collectively owned Māori farm is about eight times the size of the average New Zealand farm, Statistics New Zealand said today.

The figures come from a survey of farms owned by members of the Federation of Māori Authorities (the Federation), which are a sub-set of all farm and forestry land that is collectively owned by Māori.

“The 140 Federation members’ farms have a total of 272,200ha of farm and forestry plantation land that members directly own and manage. It’s an area that’s more than one and a half times the size of Stewart Island. Altogether these Federation members’ farms occupy nearly 2 percent of New Zealand’s total farming and forestry area,” agricultural statistics manager Hamish Hill said. . .

 Study suggests eating organic foods leads to moral depravity
Science can be a wonderfully vindictive thing, especially when it suggests that people who self-righteously purchase and consume organic foods are more likely to not help you jump your dead car battery, hold the door open for you, or volunteer to coach a community little league team. That’s right, everyone — organic foodies would sooner run a child down on her way to softball practice with their Schwinns than help that child learn how to catch a flyball, and that’s more or less a scientific fact.This is because, according to a new study published this week in Social Psychology & Personality Science, people who eat organic foods are more likely to think that eating those pesticide and hormone-free foods gives them the moral latitude to be super judgey about other peoples’ behavior and skimp on altruistic deeds . . . Hat Tip: Quote Unquote

Organics just green psuedo science

December 8, 2008

Attempting, and failing ,to find the opposite of organic – in the green farming sense of the word – made me question the use of that word and I now have scientific backing for my doubts.

Bob Brockie, in his World of Science column in the Dominion points out that organic has a precise scientific meaning.

Science divides chemicals into two kinds – inorganic and organic. Inorganic chemists work with about 90 elements ranging from hydrogen to uranium, but organic chemists work almost exclusively with one element – carbon.

You and I, all plants, microbes and animals, living or dead, all meat, fish, dairy products and all fruit and vegetables are made of carbon, so to scientists, all these things are organic. To proclaim that only those things approved by Wellington certification authority Bio Gro are organic is preposterous and gets up scientists’ noses.

Language is a living thing  and whether or not scientists like it, organic has acquired a different meaning from that used by chemists. And while agree with Bob, my interest isn’t so much the misuse of the word but whether “organic” production is better than conventional methods, and he says it isn’t.

There’s nothing wrong with rotating crops, manuring soil or treating animals humanely, but the wider claims of some organophiles are open to scientific question.

Organic promoters reckon their products taste better, and are better for health and the environment. They claim that pesticides and fertilisers are harmful and that “natural” products are better than synthetics. But all these assertions are plain wishful thinking.

Tony Trewavas, professor of plant biochemistry at Edinburgh University, reports that “hundred of rigorous scientific tests have failed to reveal better- tasting properties or improved nutritional value for organic produce but have consistently shown that it has lower nitrate and protein content”.

Sir John Krebs, head of the British Food Standards Authority agrees, saying the only real value that well-heeled organic customers get for their money is the moral legitimation of organic farming.

Claims that pesticides and chemical fertilisers threaten our health are demonstrably untrue. Regular tests show that New Zealanders’ food is among the cleanest in the world. The poisons centre at Otago University reports almost nothing in the way of poisoning from pesticide residues in food.

The trifling quantity of synthetic poisons we ingest are a hundred times less threatening than all the natural poisons we swallow with our coffee, celery and barbecued steaks. Nor has cutting the use of pesticides and synthetic chemicals helped reduce cancer rates.

Ironically the organic movement is a product of affluence because if you’re poor getting enough food is far more important than how it’s produced. It’s the better off people who have the luxury of choice who are more likely to be concerned about the way their food is grown.

If people prefer “organic” produce and can afford to buy it they should be free to do so, what concerns me is that unscientific claims on the merits of “organic” produce can threaten markets for conventionally produced food.

Claims about “organic” food aren’t the only ones which aren’t scientifically based, other clean-green claims are equally dubious. Buying local, recycling and bio fuels for example aren’t necessarily better for the for the environment than buying imported goods, dumping rubbish and using petrol.

And sometimes the supposedly “green” solution causes more problems than it solves. Recylcing plastic causes pollution and if crops grown for bio fuels replace those grown for human and animal consumption they add to the world food shortage so saving the planet might starve the world.

This isn’t to say we should not take a responsible attitude to the environment, we all have a responsibility to protect and enhance it. But how we do that should be based on science not on psuedo-science feel good theories.


Green ag policy off the planet

November 7, 2008

The wee parties complain that they’re not taken seriously. One look at the Green Party agriculture and rural affairs policy shows that sometimes that’s because they don’t deserve to be.

It’s not so much policy as an example of what happens when good intentions and political ideology aren’t tempered with reality.

I’ve had a request from a blog reader to analyse it but I’ve given up because there are too many feel-good statements which want to “encourage” or “promote” with no costings and no science to back them up.

There are some things I agree with among the candy floss but they are more than cancelled out by matters which go where no political party should,  on to private property and into private businesses.

One example of this is the desire to promote the target of half our production being certified organic by 2020.

This grand statement is made without taking any account of the impact reduced yields and higher costs would have when the world is already short of food and with no reference to whether there is a demand for that much organic produce.

But that’s beside the point because whether or not farms are organic isn’t a decision for politicians, it’s a decision for individual farmers, based on what they want to do on their land, and what the market wants.

That the Greens think they can impose their ideology on individual businesses in this way shows they’re not so much for the planet as off it.

As  Liberty Scott  says:

The Greens are, once again, proving their addiction to big Nanny State, addiction to telling people what to do and not do, banning, regulating and subsidising. It is socialism, but the agricultural policy is far more sinister. It has so much that is “anti-foreign” that the National Front would have little to disapprove of.


Pure food for Chinese elite

October 6, 2008

While people around the wold worry about what’s in food produced in China, the elite in that country dine on pure organic foods.

Their diet includes beef from cattle that have grazed on the pesticide-free pastures of inner Mongolia and fish from the crystalline rivers and lakes of Hubei province in central China. They dine on rice that costs 15 times the price of the ordinary grain; as well it might, being grown on the slopes of a mountain near North Korea and irrigated by clear waters from melting snows.

They sip tea brewed with the most delicate leaves from lofty plantations on the fringe of the Tibetan plateau. It costs more than £100 a pound.

The task of selecting the best falls to a body known as the State Council Central Government Bureau Special Food Supply Centre. It caters for the dietary needs of the senior leaders such as President Hu Jintao who, foreign diplomats say, is a diabetic.

Surely this proves we have every reason to be concerned because if the food everyone else eats is wholesome and healthy there would be no need for the elite to have special supplies.


Emotion beats facts with food

September 16, 2008

When Aim toothpaste moved its production to India I stopped buying it.

When I read in a newspaper that most of the garlic in our supermarkets came from China I detoured to an organic shop to get my supplies, on the assumption they’d be locally grown.

While chatting to the woman serving me I mentioned why I was there. She replied, “This probably comes from China too.”

Seeing the look on my face she sought to reassure me by saying it would be organic. The reassurance didn’t work because I don’t have strong feelings about the benefits of organic over whatever food that isn’t organic is called (because it can’t be inorganic).

But I do have very strong feelings about food safety and I’m not confident enough about standards in places like India and China to put their produce in my mouth if there’s an alternative.

I say feelings because this is primarily an emotional response not a rational one. I don’t have any facts about the companies which make the toothpaste and grow the garlic to back up my reservations, and I’ve never been to either country.

But it’s not facts that matter here it’s feelings and that should be worrying Fonterra because as Philippa Stephenson points out over at Dig ‘n’ Stir the news of the contaminated infant milk formula has hit the world headlines.

Fonterra said it did everything it could once it found out about the contamination. That will be cold comfort for the families whose babies died or are ill and it won’t wash with consumers who regardless of the facts might feel happier choosing another brand next time.


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