Tuesday, September 04, 2012
A confusing day at the Gray Lady
Reading the Paper of Record™, I learn that organic meat and produce is no safer than conventionally grown food, according to a meta-analysis. Turning to the science section, I learn that feeding antibiotics to farm animals is causing an alarming rise in contamination of meat with antibiotic resistant bacteria, and more presence of such superbugs around generally.
What's a pointy-headed east coast liberal to think? I think what we have here is a serious case of missing the point. While it is probably true that the nutritional value of conventional and organic meat and produce is generally similar, and that the amount of pesticide contamination of conventional produce is small enough that it doesn't cause demonstrable problems for the typical consumer, that isn't really what organic farming is all about.
It's about the relationship of farming to the social and biological environment as a whole, not just to your individual biology over the next 24 hours. Aside from antibiotic resistant bacteria, we're talking about broad ecological impacts of pesticide use, soil quality, erosion and runoff, eutrophication of bodies of water, social and economic consequences of the scale of farming, fossil fuel consumption, air pollution, substitution of capital for labor -- a whole lot worth worrying about and arguing about. Whether that particular head of lettuce has as many vitamins as the next one is not the issue.
By the way, on a personal note, yesterday I made dinner for my family -- my mother, aunt and cousins -- mostly using stuff I grew myself. It tasted fantastic -- fresh pesto made with home grown garlic and basil, home grown sweet corn, home grown salad. All of it 100% organically grown of course. Everybody went home very happy. Economics and the nutritional value of a given hunk of biomass don't begin to tell the story. It's the story of how we live, in our entirety.