Who’s afraid of organic farming?

Organic farming has recently awakened the most varied “iras”, being the object of all kinds of slander. Its success and multiple supports have been proportional to the criticisms received. But who is afraid of organic farming? Why so much effort to undermine it?

All these questions were asked in a previous article, where we analysed the lies behind statements such as “organic farming is neither healthier nor better for the environment than industrial and transgenic farming”. Today, we will deal with others in relation to its efficiency, price and the false alternative that means an “ecological agriculture” at the service of big companies. As we said then: in the face of slander, data and information.

Efficiency and price

“Organic farming is inefficient and expensive,” say its detractors. Those who make this claim forget that it is precisely the current model of industrial agriculture that wastes one third of the food produced for human consumption worldwide each year, some 1.3 billion tonnes of food, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is a “throwaway” agriculture. So who is inefficient here?

However, beyond these figures, it is obvious that the current model of industrial, intensive and transgenic agriculture does not satisfy people’s basic food needs. Hunger, in a world where more food is produced than ever before, is the best example, both in the countries of the South and here.

For its part, organic and proximity farming has been shown to better guarantee people’s food security than industrial agriculture and to allow greater food production especially in unfavourable environments, in the words of UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food Olivier de Schutter, drawing on his report Agroecology and the Right to Food.

On the basis of the data presented in this paper, the conversion of land in countries of the South to organic farming increased their productivity to 79%, in Africa, in particular, the conversion allowed an increase of 116% of harvests. The figures speak for themselves.

If we talk about price, and above all compare it with quality, once again organic farming is in a better position. It may not seem so at first glance, because there is a single discourse, which repeats itself and repeats itself and repeats itself, which tells us that organic farming is always more expensive.

However, that is not the case. It often depends on where and what we buy. Buying in an organic supermarket or gourmet shop is not the same as buying directly from the farmer, in the market or through a group or cooperative of agro-ecological consumption, in the former prices are usually much more expensive than in the latter, where their cost can be equal or even lower than in traditional trade for a product of the same quality.

Apart from that, we would have to ask ourselves how it can be that certain products or food in the supermarket are so cheap. Are we paying their real price? What is their quality? In what conditions have they been made? How many kilometres have they travelled from the countryside to the table? Often, a very low price hides a series of invisible costs: precarious working conditions at origin and destination, poor product quality, environmental impact, etc.

It is a series of hidden costs that we end up socializing among all of us, because if food travels long distances and exacerbates climate change, with the emission of greenhouse gases, who pays for this? If we eat poor quality food that has a negative impact on our health, who pays for it? In short, as the saying goes: Bread for today and hunger for tomorrow.

And not only that, when we enter the ‘super’, what do we buy? It is calculated that between 25% and 55% of the purchase in the supermarket is compulsive, the result of external stimuli that urge us to buy regardless of any reason. How many times have we gone to the supermarket to buy four things and we have gone out with the cart to burst? The supermarket is a selling machine, there is no doubt about it, one of the most studied spaces of our daily life, so that our purchase is never left to chance.

Another affirmation repeated a thousand times is the one that says that “ecological agriculture is only for the rich”, or if whoever speaks looks for insult, something frequent among the “antiecological” sector, will tell us that “ecological agriculture is only for fancy people”. Whether in one case or another, those who affirm these words, I assure you well, that they have never set foot in a group or cooperative of agroecological consumption because its members, in general, can be qualified with many adjectives, but of “rich” and “pijos” have rather little.

These are people who bet on another model of agriculture and food, based on information, awareness, seeking contrasting data on the impacts of what we eat on our health, on the environment, among the peasantry. In this life we are “instructed” to think that we “spend” money on food, but is it about “spending” or “investing”? Education is key. From here, it is essential to bring the principles, and the truths, of organic farming to the whole population. Eating well, and having the right to eat well, is everyone’s business.

Ecological agriculture” at the service of capital

“Ecological agriculture has no social purposes and sharpens the carbon footprint,” say its detractors. The key question here is, which organic farming are we talking about? As we said in the previous article, one of the threats to organic farming is precisely its co-optation, the assimilation of its practice by the agrifood industry.

More and more big agribusiness companies and supermarkets are betting on this model of agriculture free of pesticides and synthetic chemical additives, but emptying it of any sign of social change. Its objective is clear: to neutralise the proposal. It is about an “ecological agriculture” at the service of capital, with kilometre-long food, scarce labour rights in production and commercialisation.

This is not the alternative of those of us who bet on a change in the agrifood model. Ecological agriculture, in my opinion, only makes sense from a social, local and peasant perspective, as most of its promoters have always defended.

On the other hand, I am surprised that the detractors of organic farming are so concerned about the carbon footprint and the impact of greenhouse gases on the environment, when their commitment to industrial agriculture is precisely one of the main culprits.

According to the report Food and Climate Change: GRAIN’s forgotten link, between 44% and 55% of greenhouse gases are caused precisely by the whole of the global agrifood system, as a result of adding up emissions caused by land use change and deforestation; agricultural production; food processing, transport and packaging; and the waste generated. If the critics of agroecology are so concerned about climate change, I would suggest that they bet on ecological, local and peasant agriculture.