Organic Eating Is Not About Me

Wednesday, 12th August 2009 at 8:00 UTC 5 comments

There was an interesting review of science recently that concluded that Organic Food provided no specific dietary benefits. That’s nice. I’m not going to argue with that. What I want to know is why on Earth this question became important in the first place. Surely this is about food that doesn’t just revolve around us? Or have we become so self-obsessed that we can only understand something as good if we ourselves will directly benefit?

I’m not going to defend some of the crack-pottery that goes on with Organics. The demand of the soil association that cows be denied all scientifically-proven medication is just plain bonkers. But I’m not willing to simply write off the whole idea of Organics just yet. What I want to know, though, is how come the goals shifted so much?

I suppose its because humans are more than a little self-obsessed. We decide what to do on how it will impact on us. Indeed, it seems we’re being increasingly made to think this is the only reason to act. As a guest writer pointed out, at Universities we’re increasingly told that simply “doing it to put on my CV” is the most worthwhile reason for making a contribution to the world around us. It stands to reason therefore that people need to have lifestyle changes conveyed to them as being good for them, rather than anyone or anything else, before they take root.

So instead of arguments for organics being made in the terms in which they should always have been made: the food being much better for the environment and for dealing with issues of corporate domination and so forth, we’re left with flimsy health-fad-esque arguments about how eating natural food is better for you. Its just not about us, me, you, or anyone in particular. Its about the planet and what we think we can get away with doing to it.

My friend Merrick has taken a long swipe at some of the bio-diversity and climate-related issues, and you can read that here. My concern is very similar to his, and also includes worries about the ways in which we tie ourselves to corporations that have historically shown little regard for the planet, companies like Monsanto that should be familiar names from the Genetic Modification wars.

But ultimately, what I’m cross about is the sheer narcissism of the whole furore. Can’t we be bothered to think about something other than ourselves when deciding how we should behave? In a way, I can’t help but feel that those responsible for promoting Organics have been dragged down by a wider trend, though that doesn’t excuse them for the damage their decisions has led to.

But if we as humanity still can’t get our heads around the fact that we’re not the bright shining centre of the universe, perhaps we are all to blame for this monumental screw-up. We rely on the Earth for sustenance, and it will go on far longer than we have. If we bring God into the equation, it makes no difference; he gives us a planet to live on and we repay him either by screwing with his creation or showing gratitude in caring for it. The world views might be different, but the overall result should be identical: we stop thinking about ourselves for a minute and focus on something else that’s got to last longer than us. Its not our life expectancy but our planet’s that we need to be worried about.


Entry filed under: Activism, Culture, Diet, Environment, Ethics, Food, Marketing, Organics.

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John Cooper  |  Wednesday, 12th August 2009 at 10:44 UTC

    Dear Graham

    I’m afraid I’m obviously in a different world to you at the moment. I am yet again going to have to disagree.

    the entire food chain is based around us. Rainforest wouldn’t be destroyed, crops wouldn’t mutated in labs and chemicals wouldn’t soak the land around the world.

    It is due to the un-sustainable living methods employed by humanity, mixed with an unethical economic system that creates a world that overconsumes while the majority starve.

    If we lived in a nice, simple, academicly pleasing world people would look outside self interest. but we don’t so we must now look at that. I don’t want my body pumped full of chemicals just so my apple was shiny. What that then leads to is anunderstanding of the food chain and our disasterous place within it.

    With Regards


  • 2. Alice  |  Wednesday, 12th August 2009 at 11:19 UTC

    Organic food needed advertising because otherwise people wouldn’t buy it. Food gets advertised as either sexy or healthy and because organic food doesn’t have the extra chemical shine it isn’t sexy and so got put under the health banner.

    An American author recently came up with a rule of thumb for finding healthy food which strikes me as quite sensible: Don’t Buy Any Food You’ve Ever Seen Advertised.

  • 3. Brain Duck  |  Wednesday, 12th August 2009 at 12:35 UTC

    Being able to afford two apples instead of one ‘organic’ apple is a health benefit, esp in absence of demonstrated health benefits from organic food.
    ‘Organic’ farming rules are bizarre and illogical if you were looking to benefit either human health or the environment. See for example rotenone, pyrethrins, potassium permanganate, copper & other heavy metals. ‘Organic’ farmers go on about the evils of BT GM, but BT is sprayed straight onto crops in organic agriculture. ‘Organic’ farming just excludes an arbitrary selection of the more recently-invented chemicals, which can be considerably *less* damaging than ‘organic’ versions.
    Then there’s the Soil Association’s bizarre insistence on homeopathy for animals (how’s *that* for a total waste of resources), and don’t even get me started on biodynamics, which is just Steiner making up his own weird religion.
    For non-food crops the situation can be even worse – for instance ‘organic’ cotton is massively more water-intensive than conventionally grown.
    There are very real questions to be asked about agribusiness & farming methods, but organic good / conventional bad is ridiculously simplistic to the point of nonsense.

  • 4. John Cooper  |  Thursday, 13th August 2009 at 12:26 UTC


    I’ll comment properly next week. However, your wild spasm of disagreement with me I fear has missed my point, just as I thought graham had missed his.

    I don’t think conventionaly produced food is bad – defacto – nor am I trying to deny the world affordbale food. However, chemically soaked vegetables and fruit have a negative impact on the long term environmental sustainability of the planet.

    Why? Becase industrial levels of chemmicals are used to unnaturally prompt growth and appearance of animals that overwhelms the biotechnology of each vegetable and fruit.

    With Regards


  • 5. misterbunbury  |  Thursday, 20th August 2009 at 10:42 UTC

    No, it’s not ‘all about me’. The point about this media revelation is that organic food has been marketed as better for you than conventional food, as Alice said. Now this claim (putting shit on your food is better for you) has been debunked, people will hopefully take a rather more skeptical line on the rest of the organic industry’s silly claims (putting shit on food is better for everyone else).


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