Organic food - facts not faith

19 Jul, 2012 08:36 AM

IT’S time to turn down the temperature in the organic food debate, to temper emotion with facts, and to replace name-calling with accepting that consumers have a right to choose what they want to consume.

The opinion piece Organic food - it’s a religion was a heavy-handed attack on hundreds of thousands of Australian consumers: "No intelligent person would choose organic food over conventional food on objective grounds."

Author David Leyonhjelm discloses that he is from Baron Strategic Services. His website lists clients including Bayer, Biota, Biotech, Dow, Du Pont, ICI, and Novartis. It is his right to spruik for such interests but it may not make him objective.

An increasing number of Australians prefer a less chemical world. The organic industry is enjoying unprecedented growth and is the fastest growing agricultural sector world-wide. This may pose a threat for some, in the same way that some people are irrationally irritated by differences in others.

Mr Leyonhjelm says that people who opt for organic food are – like people who follow religion, drive within the speed limit, or are vegetarian – more selfish and judgmental.

(His judgment of these groups is based in part on a bizarre study of a group of people who viewed organic food then helped a stranger for 13 minutes, while a control group helped the stranger for 19 minutes. Critics say this is reminiscent of historic, and still unproven, claims that eating red meat makes you ferocious.)

Mr Leyonhjelm argues that pesticide residues are not bad for you: “Legal pesticide residues do not cause acute or chronic illness.” Then he concedes that tiny residues of pesticides are harmful for “rare individuals” with specific allergies.

Even if Mr Leyonhjelm was right about pesticides being harmless to humans, it is unlikely that they are good for us. All other factors being equal, would you choose a plate of vegetables with or without pesticide residue? Roundup is not a food group.

Mr Leyonhjelm attacks supporters of organic food for basing their belief on false assumptions, or so he assumes. In fact, at least six of his sentences begin with him assuming the arguments of his opponents and then answering them. Watching him play both sides of the net is exhausting and proves nothing.

He argues that organic methods are significantly less productive than conventional agriculture, with lower yields, but again there are alternative views. US studies show organic crops are better at withstanding extreme weather conditions and are more productive than conventional farming during drought.

He says it is wrong that pesticides wipe out bees. Two recent studies in the journal Science suggest otherwise.

He claims that occasionally organic farmers apply pesticides to save their crops but don’t disclose this! Where is the proof Mr Leyonhjelm?

There is plenty of scientific data to refute every point he makes, far too much to include here. You can simply Google it, or check out the Safe Food Foundation's website as a starting point for your own research.

Don’t take my word for it – or Mr Leyonhjelm’s – but read the work of scientists worldwide.

A recent program on ABC TV's Landline characterised the GM issue as about freedom of choice.

To deny people food choices based on taste, health, diet, religion or other factors is discriminatory. Let us preserve food options not just for ourselves, but for future generations.

Mr Leyonhjelm, relax! Eat what you want, and let others do the same.

* Scott Kinnear is director of the Safe Food Foundation and prefers organic food (without residues or GM).

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


19/07/2012 11:55:40 PM

"Food safety spurs organic farm growth in China." ories/eastasia/view/1211576/1/.ht ml
20/07/2012 12:18:30 PM

"Roundup is not a food group"?? Neither is it a pesticide.
20/07/2012 7:06:24 PM

See the website of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. It tells a story more in keeping with Scott's than David's. An impressive 800+ member organisations from 120 countries. Multiply by the organisational memberships and you have a big number right there. With Australia at the helm, the IFOAM World Board comprises members from India, Peru, Canada, Ghana, Namibia,Switzerland, Spain, Costa Rica, and Netherlands. If I were a betting man, I know in which sector I'd place my bet for future growth and food security.
23/07/2012 7:34:45 AM

It's funny when someone, here Mr Kinnear, uses self-serving arguments in attacking someone else's self-serving arguments. Nobody denies people the choice of 'organic' foods, but the fact remains that it will always be the food of a small minority. Of course, 'organic' can be as productive per ha as conventional - but there isn't enough dung around do grow everything fully 'organic'. The best of both worlds is a hybrid system that nurtures soil biota while producing the volumes required with a judicious use of conventional methods.
25/07/2012 2:11:12 PM

Here's some science to back up Mr Kinnear's points: 2012/07/05/why-genetically-engine ered-food-is-dangerous-new-report -by-genetic-engineers/
25/07/2012 4:53:46 PM

"An increasing number of Australians prefer a less chemical world" Then an increasing number of Australians are demonstrating their ignorance. Everything is a chemical. Every single thing.
26/07/2012 7:39:45 AM

Thank you Mr Kinnear for this excellent rebuttal to Mr Leyonhjelm's silly, inaccurate and falsely emotive article. Mr Leyonhjelm, consumers who exercise their democratic rights not to eat GM food does not make us selfish. "An increasing number of Australians prefer a less chemical world" Then an increasing number of Australians are demonstrating their ignorance. Everything is a chemical. Every single thing." Spare us the sophistry.
zero till
15/08/2012 8:13:33 PM

An increasing number of farmers want stubble cover, earthworms, organic matter,soil moisture,less erosion, soil structure low fuel use and thats no till farming! Diesel heaps of diesel ploughing every minute, top soil loss, erosion, dust storms, plough pans thats orgainc wheat farming!
14/11/2012 5:19:57 PM

Oh the supporter of GM foods thinks im selfish because i stick to the speed limit. Maybe if a few more drivers were selfish in this regard we will stop our death toll on our roads. Methinks this man if he can be called one is advocating killing of our population by whatever means that profiteers the banksters. It interesting to not you never see a bankster consuming GM laced foods or drinking fluoridated water. Hmm how can we say our foods are organically grown when they are watered with fluoridated water??? can the organic people answer this question.


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