There’s evidence that organic methods can be very productive, as I’ll discuss in this blog when I get around to that. I grow food on an allotment here in Britain. There, like many modern allotmenteers, I use organic methods. I buy organic produce too, plus organic meat, eggs and dairy products.
But are organic methods out of date now that we share our world with genetically modified (GM, genetically engineered, GE) crops? Have people who oppose GM crops lost this war?
A recent legal challenge about GM ended in defeat for an organic farmer called Steve Marsh. Mr Marsh farms in Western Australia. He sued his neighbour, Michael Baxter, after GM seeds (almost certainly from from Mr Baxter’s land) ended up on Mr Marsh’s land. Under the Australian zero-tolerance policy for GM contamination in organic produce, Mr Marsh lost organic status from 75% of his land. So he sued Mr Baxter for losing him money by ‘negligent’ harvesting.
At the US-based Beyond Pesticides, an unnamed author reflects on what Marsh v Baxter might imply for organic farming. ‘Supporters of [Mr Marsh’s lawsuit] hoped it might advance much-needed protections against the economically devastating and oft[en] uncontrolled invasion of GE crops on organic and non-GE lands. Opponents of the suit claim it would have burdened GE farmers with more rules and potentially restricted the amount of crops a farmer could plant…
‘[In his judgement, Hon. Justice Kenneth Martin said that] decertification of Mr. Marsh’s Eagle Rest farm appeared to be a “gross overreaction” by Australia’s organic certification body…
‘[In the United States] organic regulators take a process-based approach to GE contamination… while organic farmers are expected to protect their farms without real guidance or established efficacy, there are currently no established contamination or allowable threshold standards….
‘To add insult to injury, farmers who have not purchased GE seeds and find them on their land face potential litigation from the seed producers for patent infringement… The uncertainty of the courts willingness to protect non-GE and organic farmers, both at home and abroad, has not overshadowed recent successes outside of the courts, in the form of county bans on GE crops and GE labeling bills.’
The article at Beyond Pesticides concludes with advice to US consumers to buy organic food. One of my most loyal blog followers, in the States, comes to my mind now. Eqfe points out that organic food isn’t always cheap and it isn’t always easy to find locally. I like Beyond Pesticides but I think the authors there are ignoring some of the daily challenges people face.
[Edit] I like what my fellow blogger applpy at Thought + Food says on this particular point. She says that it may be time to stop arguing ‘organic’ against ‘conventional’ and, instead, to think in a third way.