Talking to myself about foreign policy, US politics, technology, &c.

Organic Farming and the American Farm

Saw the very cute Store Wars pro-organic farming short the other day. It’s a hoot- Cuke Skywalker saves the day through the power of the Farm under the wise tutelage of Obi Wan Canoli. Take a look.

I did get into some good discussions of organic farming with friends over it. I haven’t held forth here yet about my opinions on the tragic demise of the Jeffersonian ideal of the family farm, though I doubtless will at some point. However, I think that organic foods could be the salvation of these small operations. Standard evolution- can’t out-compete the big boyz with modern mass-production of food, so you have to move up the value-add chain. Small plot, pesticide and fertilizer free organic farming is just that kind of special addition that can command higher prices to justify their inefficiency, and people are willing to pay for the ecological and alleged health benefits of it.

Now, organic food ain’t the answer for everything. Actually, I think it’s the answer for very little, apart from those of privilege or high idealism who are willing to pay for it. Cheap food is a good thing- the fact that 5% of our population can feed the US and a lot of the world with modern farming techniques is positive. Even more people would be going hungry around the world if everyone used high-intensity, low-yield organic techniques. So for now it has to remain a niche product.

The unsubstantiated fearmongering of organic backers is my other problem with the industry. We’ve been genetically modifying organisms since the we first wandered out of the trees- grafting, crossbreeding, manipulating for specific genetic traits. However, we’re a lot better at it now. If genetically modified corn has the potential to feed the starving, how dare people try to prevent it in the absence of any evidence that it is a problem? This field seems to hit the hot buttons that cause people to become irrational. I particularly love the scenes in Europe- rich folks talking about the dangers of genetically modified organisms while taking drags on their cigarettes and eating food from their ridiculously subsidized farmers.

As an aside, did you know that about half of the EU budget goes to these distorting farm subsidies (largely within France) which prevent developing countries from competing on an even playing field?

The thing I’m most interested in is the corollary to organic farming with animals: free range/humanely treated meats. I’m carnivore who loves a tasty steak, but I am willing to pay extra to know that the animal was well cared for when alive, and treated acceptably when slaughtered.

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