Letter to the Editor

Feb 262009

To Ian Bezek:

To say your analysis of organic farming was blatant sophistry would be generous. It seems you are both “against the environment” and a strong opponent of reason as well.

The true cost of pesticides is not 20 deaths each year. Include the 67,000 poisonings every year (according to the Association of Poison Control Centers); the increased rates of cancer, infertility, immune and neurological deficiencies, diabetes, Parkinson’s, miscarriages, birth defects and developmental disorders linked to pesticides; the cost of treating contaminated groundwater; and a conservative estimate of the cost of biological services lost to get a total social cost between $2.2 billion and $4.4 billion yearly in the U.S. That’s far from “virtually harmless.” (For now let’s ignore the estimated 3 million severe poisonings and 18,000 deaths worldwide due to pesticides.)

Organic farming has costs as well. Charitably, let us ignore your analysis. Reduced yields are the most often cited example of the social costs of organic farming. However, some crops, such as corn and soybeans, have similar yields with organic farming. In developing countries, where farmers cannot afford expensive pesticides, organic farming can actually increase yields two or three-fold.

Promoting organic farming in developing countries can save thousands of lives, while increasing productivity. Organic farms also use 30 percent less energy, conserve water, preserve soil quality, mitigate soil erosion and promote biodiversity.

Organic farming is certainly not a panacea, but it deserves more than the outright dismissal you afforded it.

Erik Anderson


natural resource

management major and economics minor

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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