I enjoy food; I cook; my wife and I might be considered "foodies" by some, and we look high and low for the various uncommon items we want in our kitchen.
Yet evidently I don't understand the first thing about food in the U.S. Just as my last post reflected my puzzlement about current trends in the grocery store sector, now I'm finding that I'm stymied by some elements of the organic food movement.
Have a look, for example, at today's article about GE crops. [Note to self: General Electric isn't into farming yet, though it's a possibility given that they do nearly everything else. "GE" in this case means "genetically engineered."] Organic farmers are complaining that their economic prospects are being ruined by recent USDA decisions that fail to restrict where/how genetically engineered crops can be grown.
I understand the premise that as different ideas compete within the same sector, companies and business philosophies can collide, and that each will try to hem in the other by restricting it. (This is happening in countless arenas in the high-tech area.) If we're going to have organic food at all, there may be a need for regulation that prevents a GE grower from spraying chemicals that drift onto organic farmers' fields.
I admit I'm not an organic food nut. I go to Whole Foods, sure, but not because they sell organic stuff, and when there's a choice, I often buy the "conventional" version of most fresh fruits and vegetables. To me, organic means organic: Growing without pesticides, weed killers, or fertilizer. OK.
But how on earth does genetic engineering spoil, or overlap at all, with organic? It's apples and oranges. First, I hope we all realize that most of the foods we have been eating for generations, if not millennia, are "GE." All that means to me is that early man selected and planted the plants (and animals) that produced the most reliably and in highest quantities; later, as we came to understand genetics, still more productive types were developed on purpose, like the rice that made the "green revolution" possible. So genetic engineering has been around a long time. I don't grasp why it's such a big deal now. Frankly, I think the furor is more than a little silly. We can be for organic without being against GE.
It turns out the crux of the current argument is that "to meet the legal definition of organic, crops must be raised without chemical pesticides and fertilizers, irradiation or genetic modification." (my emphasis). Well, what's happened here is that organicists have overdefined themselves. There's nothing inorganic about genetically modified plants (or animals); the two categories are not mutually exclusive except in the minds of overzealous organic growers.
As the article above notes, most shoppers are oblivious to the controversy raging in this particular teapot. Let's keep it that way. The simple answer is to change the definition of "organic" to something sensible by removing those words about genetic modification, and get on with life.