Organic Versus Local, How to Eat Ethically?

False hope is worse than despair
Jonathan Kozo

When we eat organic products we are assuming that they are healthier for us and they are better for the environment.

We can define organic products as “food from plants and animals that have been grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, and without antibiotics, growth hormones, and feed additive”. The lack of artificial enhancers makes us think that they are better for our heath and the environment. While the former statement may require an entire study that is out of my scope, the latter certainly makes my sustainable-sense tickles.

Organic food humble start was in the farmer’s markets across Europe and Anglo America, where local producers offered their products directly to consumers. “Organic” and “local” were almost synonymous. Then the trend caught in with the big supermarkets and the local component was effectively removed from the concept.

Local farmers’ and small markets are important because they boost local economy and help to develop rural areas close to large cities. With the arriving of juggernauts like Wal-Mart and super stores, the rural local economy suffers set backs that end up hurting everybody in the local community. Buying local is always a good way to keep certain amount of business in the region.
In markets like Northern America or Northern Europe, the climate doesn’t allow organic food to be produced year-round. Organic food need to be transported from the southern areas, polluting all its way to the supermarket. Bill McKibben declares that growing and transporting a single calorie worth of lettuce from California to his home in Vermont consumes about 36 calories of energy.

Consuming organic food that is not locally produced may ending up hurting the environment and the local economy. The pollution caused by its transportation may offset the benefits of not using chemicals in its production. Actually, some pesticides are used in growing organic food: ryania, sabadilla, and rotenone, so the ecological benefit is even smaller than thought. includes a complete list of pesticides used in organic farming.

Organic food is non-sustainable because the world population could not be fed with pesticide-free agriculture: The small amount of organic produce that can be harvested for acre is not enough to meet the demand. That is also one of the reasons why price for organic food are so high


3 Responses to Organic Versus Local, How to Eat Ethically?

  1. dothejanefonda says:

    Very interesting- people usually lump all those “green” words together (organic, sustainable, natural), but they don’t necessarily agree with one another as you pointed out. I didn’t know that organic food needs to be harvested on more land-do you know anymore about why that is?

  2. mcyclops says:

    Organic food uses (almost) no enhancers, so, they need the natural space between plants to growth. With fertilizers and other chemicals (which are not necessarily bad) the space between plants can be reduced, so, in a Ha, you can put more plants, hence raising your productivity per Ha. There are several exceptions to the case, like apple trees, but you can use it as a general rule for anything that come out of bushes.

  3. […] we can do to really have an impact? I propose some ideas in Organic Versus Local, How to Eat Ethically?, My bulb is Burned, A Real Alternative to Ethanol? I, and A Real Alternative to Ethanol? […]

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