Archive for skepticism

organic or not

In the past few months I have done a lot of thinking (prompted by podcasts, news, blogs, etc.) regarding farming, specifically whether organic farming is good or bad. Though I grew up on a farm, I am definitely no expert, but I’d like to share my thoughts and would love to hear your comments.

Initially, being the godless liberal that I am, I was all about organic farming, buying local (as much as is reasonable), and “eating slow” as I believe it is called. I understood that meat takes a lot more resources (water, grain, etc.) to raise than vegetables. Livestock also leaves a much larger carbon footprint, and produces other greenhouse gases, namely methane (produced by cows). I also thought that organic farming needed less pesticides and insecticides, and was generally better for the earth. I figured that local foods were more efficient, used less resources, and improve the local economy. My thinking was that GMO seeds and crops led to seed-company monopolies and possibly  seed crises, not to mention the problems if the modified genes found their way into other plants.

All of this seemed reasonable to me, but I hadn’t really scrutinized these ideas or subjected them to much critical thinking. As I began to do so, I found some of the ideas to be wrong, some to be true, while others I haven’t really been able to prove either way. The main resources that really challenged me were the Skeptoid podcast (specifically episodes #5, #19, #112, & #166) and the Genetic Maize blog (also on Twitter).

Now, though still godless, but perhaps less liberal, I find myself not too worried about whether the food I eat is organic-or-not, GMO-or-not,  local-or-not, or meat-or-not. I generally eat what is available in the house. My housemates seem to prefer organic, so I eat it. We have enough money to buy it, so I don’t complain or worry about the extra cost. If something is available locally, I find it reasonable to support local farmers, restaurants, and therefore the local economy. If something turns up on the table that is GMO, or non-GMO I eat it because it all tastes the same. I generally eat a lot less meat that I did growing up, and initially made this a conscious decision. Now, though, it is just that there is less meat around, partly because of the preferences of my housemates, and partly because of habit.

I said all of that to say this: take some time to think critically about why you do things. Listen to the arguments for and against your position (and not just the arguments against your position articulated by those who agree with you). See if your ideas stand up to scientific scrutiny. You may find that they do, that they don’t, or that there are good arguments for both sides. Be open to changing your mind. Even feel free to change the reason why you believe something. I have found that when I have balanced information I can be more relaxed, laid back, and less worried!