Primetimes Organic Fact or Fiction Debate 05/11/13

To Quote Mike Gibney of U.C.D. Institute of Food and Health

 ” Organic agriculture uses pesticides, organic agriculture uses natural pesticides, its own pesticides and they kill insects so their toxic”

Clearly under pressure to say something off the cuff linking Organic and Pesticides in public perceptions.

 “To suggest that there is a danger with pesticides in conventional agriculture is what is getting Organic Agriculture into trouble, stop saying it”

Telling the other side what to do.

 A fairly dry debate, quite restrained overall ,nothing new. The first quote above is at 18.29 minutes in , watch the face on Darina Allen immediately afterward. Says it all.

Some Points:

Conventional agriculture does not want organic agriculture to be perceived as tasting better even if this is true, as its bad for business.

Conventional Agriculture does not want Organics saying it is a healthier option claiming their concern that this puts unfounded financial pressures on individuals with no health benefit.

I got the sense that the conventional side was allowed tell the Organic side what it should do, while the Organic Side rightly had no interest in telling the other what it should do. An Organic audience member (ha ha ) was baffled that the conventional side was not rowing in and embracing the opportunities presented with organics as it is a growth sector. Ireland is perceived as a green country internationally so perhaps we could make it one for real.

Why should conventional be allowed to clearly state that Organics are not tastier, that organics are not healthier, and expect Organics to accept this.

On the Conventional side science is used to justify its claims and those qualified to speak are therefore restricted to the academic realm. On the Organic Side Logic and common sense are the justifications for the methods used as well as nearly 10,000 years of pre industrial gardening. Importantly we are all to a greater or lesser degree logical and so we are all entitled to an opinion and voice in this conversation.

Organics should in my opinion be a minimum standard, with rising energy cost in time there will be no alternative as it is simply not possible to farm intensively as we currently do indefinitely, we don’t have the energy source (oil). What this means is that there will be lots more people involved with growing food locally. An lots more people buying local food supporting many more small growers and livelihoods.

As is happening , more and more people are supporting organic food producers and by doing so voting on how food production will be done into the future. Setting aside the health and taste argument for a moment buying Organic is a real way to support local small business and support families living within your community. For rural communities Organics provides a way to take better care of the soil , connect directly with people through markets and direct sale, add value and importantly be independent of the multiples who dictate the price and production methods.

To pass your local shop on the way to a multiple regardless of Organics or not is a vote against local small business. The 10% / 20% saving on price will likely be spent on fuel or can be balanced by the time saved in not travelling. I have heard it said that it is terrible how smaller towns and villages are losing their butchers and shops etc. Of course they cannot survive if we cannot get passed paying that little extra to support them. They will never be able to compete with the multiples but the point is maintaining communities and local livelihoods.

An organic chicken local to me cost 16.99 euro approx. Compared with a 5 euro chicken there is literally twice the meat on the bird so therefore it equates to 10 euro meat content in my book. There are even pockets of meet on the underside.  Of the remaining 7 euro price differential, I enjoy being able to support my local Organic shop and am happy to pay for it’s survival. I enjoy knowing the name of the lady who rears the chickens and that this is the price need to allow her to continue in the present context. I enjoy knowing that the chicken was cared for. I enjoy knowing the meat is the best quality possible, I enjoy the small scale nature of the business involved and can appreciate the effort in producing that chicken for that price. Instead of buying meat every day I just eat it less often.

Organic food presents a huge opportunity for new Livelihoods in Ireland. It’s important that those going in for Organics do so for the right reasons, that is to say with the understanding that this is a more sustainable way to produce food. For the multiples this may be seen as a fad that can make lots of money quickly . Organics is simply a method of food production better suited to being produced by the people for the people and a step in the right direction to long term systems stability. I’t no doubt scares the s**t out of some folk.

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