Points and Counterpoints - Exploring the Issues of Organics, GMO’s and Sustainable Agriculture

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In an article this week on Civil Eats, reporter Kari Hamershlag analyzes a recent study published by Academics Review (AR), which claims that marketers of organic food use “fear” tactics to cheat consumers out of billions of dollars when there is no evidence that organic food is “better.”

In an article this week on Civil Eats, reporter Kari Hamershlag analyzes a recent study published by Academics Review (AR), which claims that marketers of organic food use “fear” tactics to cheat consumers out of billions of dollars when there is no evidence that organic food is “better.”

Sounds terrible….BUT...Hamershlag is quick to point out AR’s clear bias against organics and its food industry connections within AR. AR authors are spin masters, and tend to ignore the benefits of organics that stretch far beyond nutrition. Hamerschlag writes:

While it is true that health is among the top concerns of organic consumers, the Academics Review article conveniently ignored the environmental benefits that also drive the choice for many. Numerous studies have shown the farmworker, soil health, water quality, and climate benefits of organic agriculture. For example, a recent Oxford University study found that “organic farms support 34 percent more plant, insect, and animal species than conventional farms,” including important pollinators."

In another enlightening exchange this week, Mark Bittman’s New York Times Op-Ed was met by an equally compelling rebuttal from Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch. Written almost as an advice column,  Bittman’s main argument is that by focusing on organics and GMOs, the food movement is missing out on making broad reaching change, he writes:

I think we — forward-thinking media, progressives in general, activist farmers, think-tank types, nonprofiteers, everyone who’s battling to create a better food system — often send the wrong message on both of these. If we understand and explain them better it’ll be more difficult for us to be discredited (or, worse, dismissed out of hand), and we’ll have more success moving intelligent comments on these important issues into the mainstream."

Hauter respectfully disagrees. She argues that GMOs and organics are integrated into the fabric of the food movement and by dismissing them, we dismiss a powerful lever in developing a healthier world. She writes:

Honestly, while some in the food movement lauded the piece, it left me scratching my head. As someone that the movement looks up to, it’s really disappointing to see Bittman setting up GMOs and organics as things that we shouldn’t care about. We most certainly should fight against untested, unproven genetic experiments that rely on chemical inputs and give corporate food giants increasing control over our food."

Perhaps Bittman’s plea is being honored in both of these dialogues, as they help to elucidate and educate about the complexities of the food movement. The more we can create intelligent and progress-making conversation about the food movement, the better we can mobilize and make positive change.

All controversy aside, Bittman’s new vegan/flexitarian cookbook,VB6, just hit the shelves and it’s a must-have in the kitchen.

Sources: 

 Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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