Organic, but not remotely local

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At H.E.B. when I take a break, a lot of the time I will hump it over to the produce aisle to pick up something to munch on, and whether its a carrot, an apple, or a peach, I always try and buy it organic.

Buying organic at the supermarket is a little confusing though, for a few reasons. There are two very important reasons to buy organic when you’re at the supermarket. First, and most importantly, because you are choosing a product that was grown without pesticides or unnatural products that cause water pollution, soil deficiency, and are harmful to the laborers. When farmers omit pesticides from the growing process, they help the Earth maintain its ability to feed humanity, and it keeps our soil and water in a state that we can continue to use for hundreds of years into the future. That is the most important reason.

The second reason is capitalism. When you buy anything –anything– you are voting. Voting “with your dollar,” as your economics teacher will tell you. Companies see your choice and want to make profit by continuing or expanding production of that product. So, as more people buy organic eggs, milk, produce, butter, heck, even molasses, companies are noticing. Benevolent capitalism, is what it is called. The companies that feed us will grow more food organically because that is what will make them money, not because that’s what they support necessarily. Regardless, more organic is better for the Earth, so the more companies can see a profit in organic, the better off everyone will be.

But, there is a caveat to the idea that organic is best. One component that is important in organic agriculture is reducing the amount of fossil fuels farmers use to produce a product. Many fossil fuels and nitrates go into fertilizers and pesticides, but many also go into transportation. Shipping a bag of organic lettuce from California to New York takes a lot of gas. The amount of distance food travels to get to your plate is called “food miles,” and that phrase is very important. 17% of the energy that goes into making food comes from transportation. Food grows seasonally depending on your climate and location, and so if you want something out of season, it has to travel a long way to get to your supermarket. That is why buying local is so important, it reduces food miles, mandates that what you are eating is in season, and as an added bonus, keeps money in your local economy and local farmer’s pockets– where it belongs.

As you see from my picture (taken at good ol’ H.E.B.), organic and local don’t always coexist. The apple that I almost bought is organic. But, it was grown organically in NEW ZEALAND, GEOGRAPHICALLY THE FARTHEST COUNTRY AWAY FROM THE UNITED STATES. It just so happens that New Zealand has an excellent climate for agriculture and loads of available farmland for organic growing.

The question presents itself then: is organic worth it if the product has to be shipped from another country? i.e. Chile or New Zealand?

I personally think no, but that is my opinion. I think that the food miles an apple flown from New Zealand has faroutweigh the benefits of it being organic. If buying organic is for Earth Health, then flying an apple in a plane powered by fossil fuels and cooled by fossil fuels contradicts the very idea of organic. It doesn’t contradict the letter of the law (organic), but the spirit of the law (help the Earth by reducing fossil fuel consumption).

The other side of the argument leans heavily on the capitalist idea. People would argue that even if an imported apple is not so good for the Earth, it is good for the Organic Industry. Apple producers and supermarkets see that consumers want organic apples. The supermarket does not know if the consumer knows that it is bad that the apple is flown from New Zealand; the supermarket cannot see the motives or thought-processes of the consumer, it can only see the end result. If the end result is that the customer bought organic, then businesses are going to make more organic food.

So, which side do you think is right?

In this particular situation, I did not buy the organic New Zealand apple. But, I did not buy a conventionally grown apple either. I bought no apple, and instead bought a locally grown, organic peach. The supermarket does not know that I refused to buy the apple because it was from New Zealand, but it does know that I bought the local, organic peach. Can they put the puzzle pieces together? Probably not, that’s a lot to ask of a business man in an office somewhere.

In the end, the choice is yours to make. Support organic to help the organic INDUSTRY, or support organic to help the Earth.

You know my choice.

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Organic, but not remotely local

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