More than Just Chemicals: Why I Am Not an Organic Crusader

In Environment, Food, Life, Science, The Big Picture by Vijay Jayaraj11 Comments

Proponents of organic food have long argued that crops grown with the support of pesticides (herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides) cause cancer and other terminal diseases.

But they seldom address the major factor that is keeping the masses from embracing organic food: its cost.

For many people like me who live in developing countries, the choice of food is not really about whether it is organic or inorganic. The choice of food is determined largely by the monthly income of a household.

Organic food in India, for example, is currently more expensive than non-organic variants.

This is understandable. Lower productivity, slow growth rate, more labor, increased attack by pests, use of expensive bio fertilizers, and reduced shelf life are some of the reasons that force the farmers to sell organic food at higher cost to meet their actual production cost. My uncle and my mom both own farms, and for the same reason neither of them grows organic crops.

The high cost of production is then passed on to consumers, many of whom simply cannot afford it. Choosing between organic and non-organic can mean a world of difference in the monthly household budget.

In the online grocery sites I use, organic vegetables are priced much higher than their inorganic variants. The same is true in Europe and the U.S.

While many claim that organic food prices have now fallen and that they have already hit the markets, it is not yet a reality in any of the local stores I visit.

To counter the cost factor, some organic crusaders argue that the investment in healthier organic food will reduce the potential financial loss that individuals are likely to experience due to healthcare expenses from their consumption of non-organic food.

That logic falls flat when we consider the life expectancy rates in recent decades.

Life expectancy rates of the biggest developing countries that use non-organic food have increased, not decreased, in recent decades, despite the exponential growth in the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides during the same period.

Life expectancy has increased steadily in the past five decades in India, where I live currently. In the same period, India became a global leader in agriculture, producing record crop outputs for the third consecutive year in 2017 and projected to do the same in 2018. This would be impossible with organic crops.

In India and a few other developing countries, some farmers use excessive amounts of pesticides, and some are adversely impacted because of not following proper safety procedures. But those reasons do not warrant an abandonment of non-organic food altogether.

Instead of falsely blaming the non-organic food, the organic crusaders should turn their attention to the proper implementation of farmer safety procedures, weeding out fake pesticides from the market, and stopping traders who use coloring substances to make their produce appear more desirable.

With little effort, consumers like me can easily avoid vegetables that are excessively sprayed and colored artificially. But what we cannot afford is more expensive and lower shelf-life organic produce.

If organic food is only for the rich, then it is not for me and certainly not for the other 1 billion people in India who can’t afford it on a regular basis. Even if organic food prices reduce, organic agriculture cannot meet the demand-supply gap.

Organics will remain unrelatable to the growing food demand of our world and are certainly not a sustainable option for either individual households or whole countries.

Featured photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash.

Vijay Jayaraj (M.S., Environmental Science) is the Research Associate for Developing Countries for the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He currently lives in Udumalpet, India.

Comments

  1. jim@therightjb.com'

    Clearly Cornwall Alliance has decided to give anti-science, pro-corrupt Big Agra a forum. I am personally pulling all my funding and urging my friends to do likewise.

    It’s bad enough they have NEVER addressed the specific items of misrepresentations in their inexplicably ignorant, and poorly researched, pro-GMO piece (Addressed here: https://therightjb.wordpress.com/2018/05/24/skeptics-suddenly-act-like-alinsky-activists/). Now they continue to their efforts with citations FROM THEIR OWN DEBUNKED ARTICLE including the ridiculous Stanford study that falsely claimed organic foods have no better nutritional profile than non-organics.

    For those intellectually honest enough to actually READ the links, you’ll find the conclusion was based ON A TYPO that was later retracted.

    You have lost all credibility Cornwall and Jayaraj.

    1. sunflowers777@ymail.com'

      Mr. Ballew—-Your reply is hullabaloo! Not supporting organic food is not related to the GMO issue, AT ALL.
      It has been LONG known, since the 1970’s, that buying organic food is a waste of money, and like the article points out, is too costly for the farmer to produce therefore it is too expensive for the buyer. The yield per acre is far less so it is wasting land that could be used to produce MORE food for the population, much of which are HUNGRY and cannot afford organic. There can actually be MORE pesticides on organic foods than on non-organic, but you think you are getting and paying for less pesticides. Some farmers misrepresent this fact. Organic food is largely a $cam.

  2. ebaker@aos.biz'

    I agree with Jim Ballew, Cornwall Alliance has lost credibility with this article. This is the type of article that the Monsanto ghost writers write. In fact, Monsanto just lost a $289 million lawsuit with many more waiting to be brought before a court. Roundup, Monsanto’s product, sprayed on crops causes cancer!

  3. daddythebaddy@gmail.com'

    The capital letters in the above are a signal that Jim is content with spurious accusations (e.g., “pro-corrupt Big Agra”) and ad hominem attacks, rather than dealing with the substantive issues discussed.

  4. who@udel.edu'

    Hey Vijay, as a trainer’s trainer for Foundations for Farming (Farming God’s Way) in Africa and Haiti, I would disagree with many of your statements from the results that have been achieved with small stakeholder farmers. All around the world, including India their are great strides taking place that use only organic inputs (composting, mulching, plants used for nutrients and pest control). Yields are much greater, wastes that used to be burned from the small farms are being used to create fantastic inputs, and incomes among these small farmers is increasing every year. It also provides the platform to share the gospel and draw participants attention to how the inter-workings of the farming systems from soil management through the plant to fruit produced show God’s glorious plan. Lets don’t throw all the organics in the rubbish bin.

    Bill O’Dell
    Baptist Center for Global Concerns

    1. This is really interesting, Bill, and I’d like to learn more about it. When you say “Yields are much greater,” do you mean greater than organic yields used to be, or greater than yields from non-organic farming, and do you mean yields per acre, or yields per hour of labor, or yields per ton of seed, or (most important) yield per total input (of labor, capital, and physical inputs)? I’m aware that organic farming can have quite high yields per acre, but my understanding has been that it requires very high input of labor, and since that labor could otherwise be employed producing other goods and services, the overall impact on the prosperity of the individuals and societies involved is negative. I’m all in favor, though, of composting and mulching rather than burning agricultural “waste,” but that can be done along with the use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides just as surely as it can be done with organic farming. The platform for gospel presentation is obviously tremendously important, and I thank God that He opens doors for people to do that in many different occupations! Are you familiar with Business as Mission? (http://businessasmission.com/)

  5. hileffers@hotmail.com'

    I was a conventional farmer and now am an organic one. Herbicides, pesticides, insecticides etc. are all about killing pests without understanding the balance God has created in living systems. The cheap cost of conventional food will end, when we have finished ruining the soil and upset the balance God has put in place for us to learn from and use. Conventional ag (monocropping, heavy N P K use, broad-acre pesticide applications etc. ) has shown itself to be damaging to the land, as evidenced by the loss of 1/2 of our organic matter in the last 50 years. (US stats) . I would hope you would address food waste in your article as a way to mitigate food costs, not more pesticides and short-term thinking.

    H

  6. mtkenned@geneva.edu'

    Based on the comments I’m reading, organic farming and food have become an idol and a source of false virtue among its devotees. Mr. Jayaraj seems to have his priorities in order.

  7. 2hunts@q.com'

    Just some thoughts…
    I grew up in agriculturally-based Iowa and know enough of farming and its history to know that all farming would once have been called organic, so many of today’s chemical “enhancements”–fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides–being unknown/unavailable. Of course, that impacted people–think manure used for fertilizer of food both for animals and for themselves–as well as what they were exposed by breathing, by touching. I’m also a retired registered nurse and have retained enough knowledge of or learned new science of the bodies God gave us to know that they respond for good or ill to what we ingest. To speak or act as if they do not is just plain ignorant, as is the case with some of our present day healthcare professionals.
    My husband and I eat organic foods, grass-fed and free-range meats as much as we can and yes, even in beautiful Colorado they are often more expensive than non-organic. However, some of that is due to regulations placed on growers who would pursue and obtain those designations. I would, however, disagree with Vijay in his declaration of lower shelf-life for, at least in our experience, we have found everything from organically grown produce to organic milk to remain edible( and tastily so) longer than similar non-organically produced foods.
    God has given mankind amazingly creative minds, even though fallen ones, and this seems an area just made for that creativity to come to the fore, such as in the changed thinking of Howard and in the forward, gospel-driven thinking of Bill (see above comments).

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