We don't expect the Daily Mail to pay the slightest attention to concepts like truth, research or intellent thought, or indeed to recognise that there is a world beyond its garden gate that is not exactly the way it thinks it should be, and to criticize some silly girl for writing nonsense there is like calling attention to the spelling mistakes in American novels, but Google News, for some reason, thought I might be interested in this, and I wrote about the same thing last week, so I thought a few more remarks were in order.
The thing to remember about organic food is that it is a luxury. A luxury many people who can afford it are willing to pay for, because they have been converted to the religion or because it does, indeed, often taste better. But a luxury nonetheless, which by definition, most people cannot afford (and, pace the Mail and its readers, the world does not stop at the end of your road, or at Dover, or at the Straits of Gibraltar).
It is a luxury because it is expensive, and it is expensive not because the supermarkets place a big markup on it (which they do, of course, since there is a large market of well-off zealots willing to pay almost any price to appease the green god), but because it is very expensive to produce.
This is not hard to understand: to produce food for a large number of people requires a lot of land, even in England where land is extremely fertile. Organic farming uses very poor quality fertilizers, dramatically reducing both the yield and the quality of the soil year by year. It doesn't use pesticides so half of what does grow is eaten by insects or birds. It doesn't use preservatives so the product has a much shorter shelf life after picking. In organic cattle farming the quality of the feed is lower for the above reasons, and each animal produces much less meat or milk because they are not treated hormonally, and so on.
Yes, the result can taste much better, but the yields are vastly lower. (And nutritionally, there is no particular reason why organically grown food should be better for you.) Quite simply, if everyone farmed organically we would starve. (Caveats apply as in previous article). And this is the point that the Mail and some, though not all, of its commenters fail to understand. Organic farming makes a highly inefficient use of a limited resource. It was only by finding ways to exploit this resource more efficiently that 60m people are able to live very comfortable, healthy and long lives in Britain. Inefficient farming can only ever be a luxury market for that reason, unless our leaders go mad or start reading the Mail.
If you like to think that your breakfast egg and bacon came from a hen that runs around contentedly eating and drinking at will, and from a pig that led a free and happy life, and you are willing to pay for it, go ahead, viva la libertad, but don't try to make the rest of us do it or the poor will not eat.
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