I eat a lot of organic food. As much of it as I can (afford). When I’ve lived in places like Berkeley and Ann Arbor, I’ve attempted to purchase as much of my produce at farmers’ markets as possible. Seasonal. Local. Sustainable. Apples in the fall from a nearby orchard, not shipped from South Africa with all of the carbon emissions necessary to transport a crate of fruit halfway across the world. Plus they just taste better. They’re fresher, for one, but, equally important, the flavor hasn’t been bred out of them to produce bigger, tougher, more durable pieces that can withstand months of storage.
But sometimes, I hear eco-conscious friends attest that everything we eat ought to be organic, I become uncomfortable. Modern agricultural practices have yielded previously unimaginable harvests that have allowed untold millions access to nutrition. It’s one of the reasons that starvation is such a grotesque human crime in today’s world—we have the resources to feed every person on the planet.
Today, Time takes a look at some of the tradeoffs of organic farming, focusing primarily on the lower yields. It’s not ground-breaking research (nor is the article particularly well-written) but it’s a worthwhile perusal.
These are complicated topics without an easy or obvious solution. Synthetic fertilizers, genetic modification, and chemical pesticides all have serious repercussions, but they can’t necessarily be reduced to: “organic = good, big agriculture = bad.”