Misinformation

An article recently appeared in a local advertising publication, entitled “Inconvenient Facts”. It begins with a quotation. “Organic practices can reduce climate pollution produced directly from farming – which would be fantastic if they didn’t also require more land to produce the same amount of food.” The article’s author states “This is the headline that caused me to reevaluate my ideas.” She had thought organic farming was better for the environment but her perspective has changed. “Being educated and aware of misinformation is important when trying to be environmentally friendly.” We agree, misinformation is not helpful, at best.

The quotation with which the author begins her article is taken from someone else’s article, that one posted on technologyreview.com. The quotation is not the headline. The headline is “Sorry – organic farming is actually worse for climate change”.

“Inconvenient Facts” is essentially a recitation of “Sorry”, which in turn is essentially its author’s attempt to condense yet another article, that one posted on nature.com.

No good can come of this. It’s like the telephone game played in kindergarten. By the middle of the circle, what began “Polly want a cracker” has become “Polly only dates white guys.” By the time it comes full circle “Paul is gay” and everyone is giggling, except for Paul, who is crying.

The article on nature.com is headlined “The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods”.

That study posits that farming practices which do not use pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers yield less produce than practices that do. Ergo organic farming would require more land to produce the same amount of food. Land “under grass” sequesters more carbon than land farmed. Ipso facto, concludes “Sorry” and by extension “Inconvenient Facts”, organic farming is bad for the environment. Latin phrases are all the rage today. Here’s a New England phrase. Say what?

The “England and Wales” study asked a narrow question. Would a one-hundred percent shift to organic food production in England and Wales by itself reduce global carbon emissions? The authors concluded it would not. “Sorry” somehow heard organic farming is bad for climate change and “Inconvenient Facts” decided anyone who says otherwise is misleading you. Another New England phrase is “Gimme a break.”

Paradoxically, “Inconvenient Facts” wants to be clear she is in no way saying not to support organic farms. Rather she is pushing for us all “to figure out new production practices that won’t reduce yields, pollute the planet, or require more agricultural land.” Well thanks for your support, and let us be clear.

Organic farmers are not Luddites. We embrace new production practices. Responsible ones anyway. We don’t reduce global yields, we don’t pollute the planet and suggesting that organic requires more land than conventional? Now that’s misinformation. Nye Hill recently committed to investing in the Sun Moon Farm Community Supported Solar Project in Rindge. Ironic within the context of this conversation. Critics of solar complain that, amongst other things, its physical footprint is bigger than that of a fossil fuel plant. They say solar takes up more land. It does not. The infrastructure necessary to support the fossil fuel plant – well pads, storage tanks, pipelines, access roads, refineries – dwarfs that of a solar installation. Dwarfs it. Farming warrants a similar review. Including the infrastructure necessary to support each practice, does organic in fact require more land than conventional? On large scales, both organic and conventional rely on production facilities. Organic to process manure and green matter. Conventional to process petroleum, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Sprayed in the air, on the food, over the ground, into the water. Creating a greater need for other pieces of infrastructure. Doctors’ offices and hospitals. While the “England and Wales” study does in fact recognize the “undoubted local environmental benefits to organic farming practices, including soil C storage, reduced exposure to pesticides and improved biodiversity”, its failure to consider this vital piece conjures Zeus at Mecone.

Fear not though, the author of “Inconvenient Facts” has a solution to climate change that does not question the benefit of organic farming. The last Latin phrase we’ll use today. Coitus Interruptus. The true root of the problem, asserts the author, is overpopulation.

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