Organic food - non-existent honesty

RECENTLY the ABC reported on the discovery of benzene and possibly synthetic nitrates in organic food, with suggestions there are other contaminants as well.

The company involved has pointed out that the levels are well below those that cause harm, but in the organic world that is not relevant. Organic certification tolerates no deviation.

Quite regularly I hear stories about organic farmers who have had to resort to spraying their crops or treating their livestock with pesticides in order to avoid a catastrophic loss. Those concerned, not surprisingly, keep quiet about it and in most cases it makes no difference. The food tastes the same and is quite safe to eat.

But the fact that organic certification relies so heavily on honesty is ironic given the response of Scott Kinnear to my earlier article describing support for organic food as akin to a religion.

While he implied I am beholden to my company’s clients, naming two that no longer exist and two that produce organic-approved pesticides, he neglects to mention the strings pulling him.

Kinnear is not only director of Safe Food Foundation, he is a former chair of the Organic Federation of Australia, a former director of Biological Farmers of Australia, owns and runs two organic stores in Melbourne, and was a candidate for the Greens in the 2001 federal election. In that campaign he supported a blockade of the logging industry and an end to woodchip exports.

Various Labor leaders recently accused the Greens of being intransigent, lacking flexibility, and having a “complete incapacity to take a mature approach on key issues.’’ Others said they were "extremists not unlike One Nation" and “they can promise everything, claim it can be achieved overnight and refuse to compromise”.

Kinnear barely disputed my points about the low productivity of organic cultivation, that the tiny residues of pesticides are harmless, that organic production is worse than conventional production for the environment, or that organic production is not a viable alternative to feed the world.

There is a good reason for that – they are objective facts.

However, he did make one legitimate point. The growing and consumption of organic food is a matter of choice. I completely agree and have never said any different.

But like smoking and taking drugs, some choices are not wise. Those who choose organic food are doing nothing for their own health, nothing for the environment, and nothing to help those who are less prosperous. Instead, they are encouraging an industry that offers non-existent health benefits, leads to soil damage through unnecessary cultivation, and causes increases in food prices and the farming of additional areas.

It also relies on non-existent honesty.

David Leyonhjelm is an agribusiness consultant with Baron Strategic Services. He may be contacted atreclaim .

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


27/07/2012 11:45:18 AM

Seriously, your still letting this moron blog for you!
27/07/2012 11:50:09 AM

The only "non-existent honesty" is in your columns David. Interesting you are threatened by an industry that pays bigger dividends to it producers and supplies a very real & growing demand in the market. Instead of supporting innovation and family farms you are trying to tear them down. You and your agribusiness mates won’t be happy till the last family farm is sold up to a multinational factory farm.
27/07/2012 2:05:32 PM

Why does QCL continue with this obviously biased writer. Any other reporter who wrote such obviously one sided articles would have been shown the door well before now. It has now reached the stage of questioning the credibility of QCL for allowing this this bloke to keep writing biased articles without a skerrick of objectivity. He is successfully bringing QCL into disrepute.
Diesel head
27/07/2012 2:42:20 PM

Max,organic farming may not be the quickest way to become an ex family farmer but it is the most certain. Deliberately conceding a cost advantage to your competitors would have to be the most irrational decision a businessman could make. But then again your against business as well aren't you.
27/07/2012 4:13:10 PM

At least have the guts to say you are in the pay of the big agri-chemical complex. Or does the term cash for comments mean nothing to you???
Abel Adamski
27/07/2012 5:29:32 PM

There actually are people that have to avoid those "harmless products" for their health and know from the effects when products are not as they are labelled. They tend to take note of the growers name on the box
brett sanders
27/07/2012 7:56:40 PM

David, you and your corporate buddies need to get things right mate. Firstly, the ABC story did not report that benzene and nitrates were found in any organic food, but rather in 2 products of NTS that were organically certified. Quite a sensationalist approach you are taking. As for the safety of food which has been sprayed with pesticides- There are many reports and scientists warning of the nasty effects of agro- chemicals on our food supply, buggering the soil food web, chelating/ locking up minerals in soil, endocrine disruption, steroidogenesis, blocking amino acid pathways etc.
brett sanders
27/07/2012 8:02:22 PM

David, as for ending woodchip exports to Japan for example- this is not just a 'green' agenda. Many Australians have become increasingly alarmed at the huge and unnecessary destruction of old growth areas of Tasmania- The Styx, The Weld, The Tarkine etc. Beautiful, amazing forests that do not deserve to be brutally destroyed for woodchip to be exported. Gunns is in huge trouble- Japanese buyers of woodchip don't want the woodchip once they were shown where it came from.... I'm sure these Japanese buyers are not greenies- just people with a conscience... Unlike you and floppy ian mottley....
28/07/2012 5:45:57 AM

Well said David! And already the zealots are out on the jihad again. Your point that we should have choice is correct, but we have an obligation to make it an informed choice if we are going to try to force our uncompromising views on others- somethinhg your protagonists are remiss in. We can all farm together, but only when everyone respect the rights of the others, and understands their obligations to community relations and to be factual. One of those facts, as you point out, is that the environment and humanity would be massively disadvantaged if we all went organic. End of Story.
Green contradiction
28/07/2012 6:10:05 AM

we all love prices are down $1 loafs more than green retric. The true champions are the farmers who have the lowest real footprint on natures precious resources using less acres and not mining organic carbon and other carbon sources to aid Coles and woollies to feed the average working australian at % of wage the lowest ever.
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Agribuzz with David LeyonhjelmCommentary, news and analysis with agribusiness consultant David Leyonhjelm. Email David at


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