This is a guest post from Rich – who has recently converted to purchasing certified organic foods in place of “conventional” foods. Rich provides comments on a variety of topics, political, financial, and current events, at Lawyer Musings.
It was as recently as Christmas 2009 when I argued with Anneke, claiming that there were several problems with organic food, causing me not to buy them. My objections to organic products still exist: (1) there is no labeling or guarantee that the organic food actually contains less pesticide contamination than other food, (2) organic food is more costly, and (3) there seems a high probability of fraud by the growers and suppliers.
However, I now purchase organic labeled food, especially for thin-skinned produce to avoid pesticides and for soy based products to avoid genetically modified organisms. I pay the premium for my three pound block of San Fransisco brand arabica coffee from Costco, too. Although it is more expensive than the non-organic equivalent, it is still about the cheapest coffee sold anywhere.
The reasons for the change to organic purchasing are growing skepticism with U.S food policy, including the lack of testing of synergistic effects arising from the application of multiple pesticides (see Rusty’s blog – Honey Bee Suite), the use of systemic pesticides in food crops, and the lack of labeling of GMO foods. Another influence is anecdotal information; I am old enough to have seen many instances of cancer and morbidity among people whose families were not particularly careful with the chemicals they or their spouses used, ingested, touched. Perhaps it is not too late to mitigate some of the harm from my own history of exposure to environmental contaminants. Maybe I can lower the risk of sickness and lingering death that is often associated with cancer, a disease that is known to be caused by, among other things, many pesticides that remain in use today.
My change in attitude is also based on a belief that our society is incredibly resistant to regulatory change and that the regulation of food safety is quite poor for risks that are long term and not amenable to an easy understanding of cause and effect. Government appointees are rendered powerless by little education and knowledge of technology, industry lobbyists, and their political bosses. Meaningful regulatory change is impossible without catastrophe or strong public demand.
I remain unconvinced of many items on the progressive agenda. For example, I see no reason to buy local. It seems the market price for a given quality product is the best determinant of what I should buy with respect to its geographical source.