Palaces For The People
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Grist | Global Citizen | Organic standards

...Organic farmers do not lose more to pests or weeds than other farmers. They do not get lower yields, though Dennis Avery (who was in the Agriculture Department under Reagan and now works at the right-wing Hudson Institute) constantly claims otherwise. Both chemical-using and organic farmers on average lose 30 percent of their output to pests or weeds.

Having a field day with pesticides.

The loss rates are similar because pesticide users typically grow monocultures, miles of the same crop year after year, a sure recipe for breeding that crop's pests. Pesticides beat back the enhanced pest populations to roughly where they would be if crops were interplanted and rotated -- which is to say, if they were grown the way organic farmers grow them. Pesticides don't reduce crop loss, they just permit monocultures. Monocultures lend themselves to mechanization and industrialization. We like to think they reduce costs, but we do not count the costs of spraying poisons across the land or eating pesticide residues in our food.

It's because our foods are increasingly mechanized, industrialized, engineered, poisoned, and irradiated that organic foods are becoming popular. At present there are 6,600 certified organic farms in the United States, large and small, north and south, growing everything from grain to grapes. There are also many uncertified organic farms; only 31 states have certification programs. Altogether consumers buy about $6 billion worth of organic food each year, about one percent of the U.S. food budget....

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