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"Only eat organic? You’re paying too much, and it’s not worth it, author says"

A review in the Harvard Gazette of the upsides and downsides--mostly down--of organic food.

Farmers tend to hold back because producing food organically requires more human labor to handle the composted animal manure used for fertilizer, as well as more labor to control weeds without chemicals (sometimes putting down nonbiodegradable plastic mulch instead). It also requires more land for every bushel of production, further driving up costs. Trying to grow all of our food organically today would require farming a much wider area, damaging wildlife habitat. Rachel Carson, the founder of our modern environmental movement, never endorsed organic farming. Her 1962 book “Silent Spring” condemned synthetic insecticides like DDT, but Carson saw no reason to ban manufactured fertilizers, a requirement under the organic standard. . . .

Quests for purity in food and farming are not as dangerous as they are in race or religion, but they are just as lacking in scientific justification, and the advocates can be just as exasperating. Calvin Trillin put it nicely: “The price of purity is purists.”

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