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Are organic foods categorically worse for the planet?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
According to Michael Mack, chief executive of Syngenta, a Swiss agribusiness giant that makes pesticides and seeds, “Organic food is not only not better for the planet… it is categorically worse.” Great! The New York Times just ran a piece on Mack who pretty much based organics left and right. 

I know organics aren't perfect but this guy is off the charts nutty,

Mack says his reasoning includes the following brainstorms...


  • Organic farming takes up 30% more land than nonorganic farming
  • You can’t feed the fast-growing population on existing cropland if you go organic.
  • (and my fave) Pesticides are pr oven safe. (hahahahaha)


Mack took his speech pretty damn far noting, “If the whole planet were to suddenly switch to organic farming tomorrow, it would be an ecological disaster,” AND that organic food is the “productive equivalent of driving an S.U.V.” Extreme much?


First of all I don't agree that pesticides are a hunger problem solving miracle. We've been using them for years and still there are starving people. That's the fault of overall poor management, economics, greed, and waste, not organic farming.

Mack also (astoundingly) says that when we don’t believe that pesticides are safe all it does is implicate that we “Don’t trust the government’s findings.” Really? Because it’s not like the government has ever made mistakes before right?

Mack is just some scared pesticide producer in my opinion. I don’t want the maximum levels of pesticides in my son and overall it takes less energy to produce organics. Mr. Mack can talk and talk but you can’t argue when issues like childhood leukemia, neurotoxicity, disruption of the endocrine system, carcinogenicity and immune system suppression, and plenty of other health issues have been linked directly to pesticides and other toxic chemicals in food. Kids are especially at risk for health problems when it comes to pesticide exposure.

Organics aren't perfect. We've got labeling issues, space issues, and so on, but to say that they're categorically worse for the planet is just plain lame.
post #2 of 8
Wow! Definitely sounds like a pesticide producer. How could you even say that organic farming takes up more land? That point baffles me the most! Great article tho thanks!
post #3 of 8
Hi Jennifer - this is one point where we will have a slight tendency to disagree. Sorry bout that but love you anyway!

Fact is that organic farming produces something like 0.7% of our food and takes up far more land and effort to do it. There is no way to feed the worlds population with organics as produced today. Pesticides are not ever desirable by definition - just necessary for certain purposes.

Anyone who claims to operate a greenhouse with zero pesticides/fungicides must be using it for a garden party only. White flies and fungus don't care if a crop is organic or normal.

Many organic practices are not environment friendly - they are traditional but that is all.

The current generation of pesticides are far safer than ever before. Many of the types available to the commercial grower are far safer than is allowed for production of 'organic' crops. Organic crops do require cehmicals for certain uses - it is allowed and it is done. 

Does the safety of the food supply require constant attention - yes! Is it better than years past - yes! Does it need further improvement - yes!
post #4 of 8
Thread Starter 
As usual I always seem to agree to a point with you :) I don't feel like chemicals are safe but yeah, organic gardening on even a small scale is hard. I can't imagine what large farms that produce organically must deal with - and that is a problem because it does take more land and is hard and you can't feed the world with it. I don't think we're doing a great job of feeding the world with chemically grown crops either though. 

I especially agree with your last point - yes to all three. It's such a complicated issue. I don't like when pesticide companies come out with a speech stating that pesticides are 100% safe and that organics are harmful without looking at all sides. There are pros and cons to both, and with recent slamming of organics in the news it's not helpful. I'm not even sure what pesticide companies are worried about. Even though more people are buying organics, it's still such a small amount compared to people who buy 100% conventional.
post #5 of 8
So maybe I am not 'all wet' but only partially loony!

I suppose the guy was hitting back after all the slams he takes - many of the green community do not have a very balanced view of the world. Same for the other side - whatever it is called - the brown community maybe?

Feeding of the world's poor is a major problem and the posturing by groups such as greenpeace and others is not helping the situation at all. If a poor villager in rural Africa or Asia is starving, I doubt that they would mind too much if foods were GMO if they could only get something to eat! 

The government is always playing catchup in chasing chemicals. The big companies are willing to play it fast from time to time to suit the bottom line. Kind of a mess with no good answer.
post #6 of 8
So what do you think about genetically modified (GM) foods? I watched a very, very good documentary on one of those free documentary websites, I wish I could remember the name of it, but it showed both sides of the story.

It mentioned that in the US pretty much everything we eat includes GM foods (whether in the form of vegetable oil or grain). It also mentioned that the UK has made many attempts to introduce it but that protesters are adamant about burning all the test facilities. There was the incident in Africa a while back where the US shipped tons of corn to an area suffering from serious famine and that because of rumors in Europe the government locked it up in a warehouse proclaiming that their citizens were better off starving than eating our evil food. Thousands of people died that year with plenty of food sitting in waste. They also showed how they do it and some of their recent experiments like using the pigmentation genes from berries inside tomatoes giving them a much darker color and a lot more antioxidants. These are still being thoroughly tested. For the most part though, the GM foods we have today are built with genetic resistance to pests and fungi so that no pesticides and chemicals are needed. The danger would be cross breading from our industrial crops to plants in nature but there is no recorded incidence of this. (still scary none the less). It even showed an Amish community that has been growing GM corn for years.

After learning exactly what it is and how it was used, I kind of have to appreciate it. In reality every food we eat today, organic or not has gone through some stage of genetic modification. Everyone knows about maize and its modification by Native Americans.

So what do you guys think? Is GM food a middle road between organic and pesticides?
post #7 of 8
The modern potato has little in similar with the original. Same with the tomato or corn as you pointed out. Same with virtually any grain, fruit or vegetable that is available today.

I remember back in the early 50's when my father first planted a wheat named Elmer. It was one of the early varieties where you could not save your own seed. As there was a good improvement in production the farmers liked it and found it worthwhile. The point about 3rd world farmers suffering because they can not save their own seed seems silly to me.  

Here in Turkey I see pictures on TV where GMO sunflowers are being blamed for killing bees. Typical TV goes for the sensation and has zero interest in facts. Someone suggested it must be cell phone signals killing the bees which is just as likely or even more so!

GMO plants were blamed for the death of monarch butterflies until that was shown to be blatant BS. Unfortunately various groups including all the big names got a lot of false mileage out of the untruths. Greenpeace is still very much anti GMO.

GMO plants can offer many enhancements such as disease and insect resistance, improved productivity, drought tolerance and other features.

The foods we eat and our eating habits will change whether we like it or not as the world becomes more crowded. If climate change is a big factor in years to come which seems rather certain GMO will help greatly in adapting plants to the new climates and situations.

Europe and the US will be the last to suffer food shortages. When the shoe begins to pinch I think Europe will suddenly see the light and somehow try to say they led they way - rather than being the block it as at present. Europe would seemingly be perfectly happy to see millions die of starvation rather than accept GMO plants.

To summarize - I am generally for GMO. I am also for it being closely monitored to try to be sure we don't go off track with it. 

Bing (google) Steve Savage - he is an agricultural scientist who blogs on www.sustainablog.com   He is rather out of place there as GO Media is a collection of rather militant (and to me somewhat empty headed) greenism. He is trying to get his message as a centerist and humanist out to different people.
post #8 of 8
I am not sure that any GMO plants have totally cut out the requirement of pesticides but I am positive they have greatly reduced the requirement. 

In one anti GMO demonstration some clown managed to cause a plant to become toxic. He was very proud if himself and received great acclaim from various green groups for a bit of nonsense. 

What he did was more or less the same as injecting poison into a vegetable - not a big trick at all.

Another site dedicated to truth in food and GMO is www.biofortified.org  
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