Is organic food a scam?

The last time I bought organic food, it had chemicals in it.


The problem with big-farm, non-organic, mono-cultures isn’t efficiency or toxins, it’s scale. They are more efficient, because that increases profit margins and less toxic for the exact same reasons.

But they have to be enormous to meet our demand. We aren’t eating things that are bad for the environment, we just need so much of it! Sure, we’re destroying our cozy environment. Why? Is it because we take long showers and don’t recycle enough, or is it because we have too many people trying to take long showers and don’t recycle enough?

It’s the dumbest thing I think I’ve ever written, but Thanos has a point.

Also, “organic” is a useless marketing term use by a mutli-billion dollar, multi-national, corporation owned lobby.


Citation needed? Or perhaps at least some clarification. Is that per hectare or acre? Or per farm?

The most recent study I read which I believe was 2018 (apology I can’t reference it!:wink: was about nutrients. Would you expect them to be wildly different? I wouldn’t. I have yet to see a comparison of toxic residues which would be far more interesting. I recently looked up the anti-fungals they spray on those lovely clementines we get at Christmas time. Frightening stuff. Lemons too. Careful with that zest…


The problem with this is: there are specific (non-organic) pesticides that are implicated in the worldwide loss of insect biomass that’s destroying ecosystems. So it’s a bit odd to say that one isn’t better than the other when one is fully implicated in a global catastrophe that is leading to mass extinctions (and will probably fuck us all to a degree unknown in human history).


It’s not more odd, in my mind, than implicating an entire class of product versus, you know, banning the ones that are bad. Especially when we know uniquivocally that there are many “organic” compounds that are pretty bad for the environment when used as pesticides as well:

The thing is, markerters love this stuff, so they’re happy to say "conventional pesticides bad, buy “Organic™!” Without pointing out the more accurate statement that “there are several pesticides we should really stop using everywhere, right now, and it doesn’t matter what certification they have or whether or not they are engineered or “organic” in nature”

Which, to my mind is the point. Don’t go by “certified organic”, which can (and is) a marketing term that can be gamed. Instead, one should do research and buy food that is humane, ethical, and environmentally appropriate instead. And doing so isn’t even that hard. One visit to a farmers market will gain someone a wealth of front-line information about this sort of thing, without paying marketers or certification boards a single cent.


Spoiler warning: no.

It’s not going to save the world, but it’s not a “scam”. Not always.

They determine that it’s best to buy directly from farmers (farm markets, community shares, etc) for the best-quality produce at the best prices with the fewest middlemen handling your produce. But buying organic is, quite often, better for farmers and for the produce than veggies brought to you by Monsanto™.


Maybe you’re assuming i haven’t “taken the time” to go to my local farmers market and talk to farmers because most people don’t have either?

In my case i know farmers who don’t label but grow organic and others that do. By buying certified organic i would expect that any pesticides used would come from a natural source vs. synthetic. As a consumer i would rather choose a naturally occurring pesticides than ones that were cooked up in a lab by Monsanto.

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What if a constructed pesticide can be clinically shown to work better and have less unintended environmental impacts than a natural one?


I don’t care much about my food being GMO-free, so I’ve ignored the organic labels here in the US until recently when my wife pointed out that it also means that the animals are getting better lives. I don’t eat a whole lot of meat, but I do buy organic egg-whites now (in the cartons, you know, so the egg yolks don’t go to waste) so that I know the chickens are being well-cared for, are free-range, and are not being fed unnecessary antibiotics.

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It’s not just about the environmental impact. Monsanto has a habit of producing products such as pesticides that work specifically with Monsanto-produced seeds, locking a farmer into a purchasing cycle. I’m more of a fan of open-source veggies than DRM’d ones.


That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. Nor does every “artificial” pesticide or herbicide work in that manner. My point is that artificial isn’t necessarily worse.

Fair point on Monsanto’s specific practice of trying to lock in users. I don’t especially like that aspect, and understand others not liking it. But at the same time they and others in the field have dramatically upped both yields and nutrition of various staple crops. That’s a good thing.

Status - it’s complicated?

The problem with taking that position is that a chemical is a chemical. Chlorine is a natural, organic compound that if used as a pesticide will do significant ecological harm. Farmers in multiple nations used to do this, but we banned such use 20 years ago.

The idea that “naturally-occuring checmicals” are better than “man-made chemicals” is a poor (and incorrect) substitute for what IMHO people are really trying to say - “Untested engineered compounds are more dangerous than well-known simpler ones”.

The problem is, that’s not what “organic certification” requires, and the study I liked to above illustrates the case - “organic” pesticides used by certified organic farmers are often as bad if not worse for the environment, and at the same time, lure people into a false sense of security by causing people to assume they are “safer”.

IMHO, The enemy to ecology is large-scale agribusiness spraying chemicals (certified or not) across wide swaths of land. not your local farmer using pest-control techniques that have worked on their farms, often for generations, without destroying the local environment surrounding it, just because it happens to be a chemical we humans devised instead of a chemical that already existed.

Me too, which is why I love the current prevalence of small-crop heirloom-seed-based veggies popping up everywhere!


We have a farmer’s market open Wednesdays and Saturdays near where I work. The term ‘farmer’s market’ can be just as much a dog whistle as ‘GMO free’ or ‘organic’; while some of the greens are definitely local, I also see boxes from large west coast ag-corps.

One ‘natural’ pesticide I see frequently suggested is soaking cigarette butts in soapy water to spray on your plants. Nicotine, yum!

Then Monsanto can sell you it?

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Absolutely true! That’s why I advocate talking to farmers at the markets! Ask them where their farm is located, what their growing practices are - in my experience, the good ones love to talk about that stuff. The ones that are hiding the fact that they went to the local commercial produce supplier and grabbed whatever veggies were cheapest and brought them to the farmers market will not.

The town I live in has a 60 year+ history of city-managed farmers markets. They include their farm names and history right on their signs, and while I know many places do not have this option, I still strongly believe the best thing you can do when choosing the food you are going to eat is to talk to the producers you are buying from, you will find farmers at the market that care about growing good, sustainable food and are happy to tell you about it. :slight_smile:

This stuff matters to me (as I’m sure folks can tell), as I have a proud history of local, small-crop farmers in my family, who work hard to make good food, because they eat it, too, and so do their friends and family, and they want to leave their children sustainable land that they can continue the tradition of farming on.


The reliance of organic fans on the naturalistic fallacy, strawman arguments, shouting “Monsanto!” whenever threatened, and just plain scientific ignorance, doesn’t make me immediately suspicious they’ve done due diligence when it comes to evaluating whether certified organic food is actually better. Like, at all.

Cerfified organic is a (cynical, multi-billion-dollar, corporate) scam. But it’s a free country, for now. I’m not gonna stop you buying and eating it, especially if it can help you feel better about the other choices you’re making in life.

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Do bear in mind that Certified Organic produce can easily be grown as big-ag monoculture as well, and, in many cases, synthetic pesticides that target only the pest organism can be far less damaging to the ecosystem than some Organic-approved broad-spectrum pesticides that kill most insects, including beneficials and non-pest organisms.

It’s not as simple as “synthetic bad; organic good.” The devil is always in the details.


Unfortunately, there is not a lot of good, current stuff.

Ironically, the biggest problem was that almost all of the sites covering Organic farming appear to be pro-organic web sites, with a smattering of web sites promoting non-organic farming techniques. However, virtually every web site that I saw (including the pro-organic) claimed that organic farming required more labor and produced less yield while generating more money due to the premium for organic produce.

I didn’t find anything that I would consider to be unbiased authoritative; although this is somewhat due to the nature of the agricultural business.

I found a Forbes article that discusses the lower productivity of Organic farming. However, Forbes is not what it once was, in terms of being an authority.

Here’s an article from the Washington State University’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture discussing the environmental benefits of Organic farming techniques - but warning that the benefits seem to be valid when compared by acre to acre, but not from unit to unit.

The Google Search term that I used to find this was “Organic farm yield”. I also tried “production of organic vs traditional farms” which found a lot of results, but they seemed to be fairly low quality. (Although, again - the low-quality sources all seemed to concur that Organic farming produces less yield per acre, across most forms of agriculture.)

To my mind, the biggest problem with “organic” is that the term is so inscrutable. As consumers, we only have a casual understanding of the term, mostly based on marketing, popular culture, and packaging. It sure sounds good!

But despite common assumptions, organics are not necessarily produced by small farms… It doesn’t mean better labor standards for workers. It doesn’t mean “no pesticides,” or even “fewer pesticides” in all cases. Hell, “organic” doesn’t even (necessarily) mean “non-gmo.” The lack of consistent standards leads to confusion at the marketplace, and many are happy to keep those misunderstandings in place.

There is a very nasty history with “conventional” agriculture, so people are weary of it for good reason. We want crop diversity. We don’t want monopoly control over seeds and farmland. We want healthy, well-treated livestock. We want scientific studies produced by parties without a vested interest in the outcome.

We want products that are healthy to consume, safe for the environment, and with good labor practices. It would be nice if there was some sticker on the food that could assure us that those wishes were being met. But “orgainic” is not it, and this is the problem with market-based solutions to these major problems… Since there’s so much misinformation, just leaving it up to consumer choice isn’t a great way to get large-scale, safe, sustainable agriculture


That wasn’t my comment you’re replying to.