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Science and organic agriculture

(article, Culinate staff)

So the venerable magazine Scientifc American recently took on the topic of organic agriculture, and concluded that organic agriculture really isn't any better than conventional agriculture. 

Naturally, the pro-organic crowd got riled up over this, and Tom Philpott and Tom Laskawy took on the task of picking apart blogger Christie Wilcox's mythbusting.

Wilcox tackled four supposed myths about organic ag: that it doesn't use pesticides, that it's healthier for you, that it's better for the environment, and that shoppers have to either support conventional or organic agriculture. Both the Toms agreed that, yes, organic agriculture does rely on pesticides, but pointed out that the pesticides are used in far less quantities than in conventional ag. The healthier-for-you assertion, the Toms noted, isn't a done deal, as Wilcox implied; in fact, the scientific jury is still way, way out on the matter. 

As for the environmental issues, both Toms scratched their heads over Wilcox's assertion that the only way for the planet to feed itself was to switch over to GMO foods, both to ease up on chemical pollution and to increase crop yields; neither pro-GMO argument, the Toms noted, has actually been supported by scientific research.

And of course, most shoppers still buy a mix of foods, based on their budgets, preferences, and local availability. Check out the Environmental Working Group's list of which foods to buy organic, in case you're not sure.