Results tagged “organic farming” from onegoodmove

Natural or Synthetic

The natural synthetic dichotomy is not useful when it comes to what's good for us. There are countless examples of "natural" substances that can do one great harm, and that's also true of synthetic ones. The converse is also true, there are many synthetic substances that are totally innocuous, and even beneficial, and so it is with natural ones. So where does this natural is good and synthetic is bad paradigm come from, and why are otherwise, intelligent people so eager to get on the "natural" bandwagon.

I don't know the answers, but I do know that the sort of fuzzy thinking that leads people to believe it, causes harm. Nowhere is it more apparent than in the organic/conventional debate on food and how we produce it.

The question isn't natural or synthetic it's harm or no harm.

A recent study highlights the problem

Consumers shouldn't assume that, because a product is organic, it's also environmentally friendly.

A new University of Guelph study reveals some organic pesticides can have a higher environmental impact than conventional pesticides because the organic product may require larger doses. . .

The study, which is published in the journal PLoS ONE, involved testing six pesticides and comparing their environmental impact and effectiveness in killing soybean aphids -- the main pest of soybean crops across North America.

"In terms of making pest management decisions and trying to do what is best for the environment, it's important to look at every compound and make a selection based on the environmental impact quotient rather than if it's simply natural or synthetic. It's a simplification that just doesn't work when it comes to minimizing environmental impact."

Here is another link discussing the study.

The Green Revolution

Green Revolution's diet of big carbon savings

The Green Revolution of the 1960s raised crop yields and cut hunger - and also saved decades worth of greenhouse gas emissions, a study concludes.

US researchers found cumulative global emissions since 1850 would have been one third as much again without the Green Revolution's higher yields.

Although modern farming uses more energy and chemicals, much less land needs to be cleared.

The study is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. . . .

Modern intensive agriculture is often criticised over its relatively heavy use of chemicals, which can impact insects, larger animals and plant life in the vicinity of the farm.

In addition, the run-off of excess fertiliser into rivers and lakes can generate blooms of algae and "dead zones" of water where nothing can survive.

However, strictly from the point of view of greenhouse gas emissions, intensive farming appears to be significantly the better option.

"Our results dispel the notion that industrial agricultural with its petrochemicals is inherently worse for the climate than a more 'old-fashioned' way of doing things," said Dr Davis.

He and his team suggest that policymakers keen to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should look towards further increases in crop yields, which they say might be more economical than other innovations.

Existing research shows that curbing production of meat - which is an inefficient user of land and water - would by itself have some impact on emissions, though by precisely how much is debated.

Beyond Food Miles

From Just Food a book I'm currently reading, what do you think?

Food miles matter. But they should not be stressed at the expense of other energy inputs that are equally, if not more, important to the overall energy cost of making food. There is no doubt that buying local brings to consumers many tangible and intangible benefits. But we should not delude ourselves into thinking that the relatively easy decision to support the regional foodshed is automatically an environmentally superior choice. Life-cycle assessments remind us that when a wider range of factors is considered—the conditions under which a food was produced, access to water, processing techniques, the form of energy employed, and so on—transportation amounts to a small piece of the pie (about 11 percent of a product’s energy cost).

Sure, it feels righteously green to buy a shiny apple at the local farmers’ market. But the savvy consumer must ask the inconvenient questions. If the environment is dry, how much water had to be used to grow that apple? If it’s winter and the climate is cold, was the apple grown in an energy-hogging hothouse? Is the local fish I’m ordering being hunted to extinction? The smart consumer will realize that in many cases it’s more efficient to buy that apple from a faraway place where the press on precious resources was lower, or a fish from a sustainable farm located on the other side of the country. Distance, in other words, is just a minor factor to consider. In overemphasizing food miles, we have missed important opportunities to think more critically about the fuller complexities of food production.

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