Organic Food That’s Bad For The Planet

Tomato P5260299bYou knew it was too good to be true, of course. The New York Times provides fodder for critics of shipping out of season produce thousands of miles to satisfy the desires of organic food fans. Perhaps this will help push consumers towards seasonal, local foods that are produced both organically and sustainably:

TODOS SANTOS, Mexico — Clamshell containers on supermarket shelves in the United States may depict verdant fields, tangles of vines and ruby red tomatoes. But at this time of year, the tomatoes, peppers and basil certified as organic by the Agriculture Department often hail from the Mexican desert, and are nurtured with intensive irrigation.

Growers here on the Baja Peninsula, the epicenter of Mexico’s thriving new organic export sector, describe their toil amid the cactuses as “planting the beach.”

Del Cabo Cooperative, a supplier here for Trader Joe’s and Fairway, is sending more than seven and a half tons of tomatoes and basil every day to the United States by truck and plane to sate the American demand for organic produce year-round.

But even as more Americans buy foods with the organic label, the products are increasingly removed from the traditional organic ideal: produce that is not only free of chemicals and pesticides but also grown locally on small farms in a way that protects the environment.

The explosive growth in the commercial cultivation of organic tomatoes here, for example, is putting stress on the water table. In some areas, wells have run dry this year, meaning that small subsistence farmers cannot grow crops. And the organic tomatoes end up in an energy-intensive global distribution chain that takes them as far as New York and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, producing significant emissions that contribute to global warming.

From now until spring, farms from Mexico to Chile to Argentina that grow organic food for the United States market are enjoying their busiest season.

“People are now buying from a global commodity market, and they have to be skeptical even when the label says ‘organic’ — that doesn’t tell people all they need to know,” said Frederick L. Kirschenmann, a distinguished fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. He said some large farms that have qualified as organic employed environmentally damaging practices, like planting only one crop, which is bad for soil health, or overtaxing local freshwater supplies…

[continues in the New York Times]

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22 Responses to Organic Food That’s Bad For The Planet

  1. Heath January 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    We get a lot of hydroponically grown tomatoes from Canada here in NY.  If you have ever eaten a hydroponic tomato you know that it doesn’t even compare. We grow and can our own tomatoes and when they are gone we wait until the weather permits us to plant. Eating things in season, no compromise in quality and taste and being environmentally responsible with agriculture is the mantra of of the few. Blinded by green trends and weak definitions of whats organic its business as usual.

  2. Heath January 1, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    We get a lot of hydroponically grown tomatoes from Canada here in NY.  If you have ever eaten a hydroponic tomato you know that it doesn’t even compare. We grow and can our own tomatoes and when they are gone we wait until the weather permits us to plant. Eating things in season, no compromise in quality and taste and being environmentally responsible with agriculture is the mantra of of the few. Blinded by green trends and weak definitions of whats organic its business as usual.

    • bobbiethejean January 1, 2012 at 10:42 am #

      Well said. 

    • Jin The Ninja January 1, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      I’m not defending the practice, and i totally agree nothing is better than field or garden tomatoes, but i’ve seen many of the hydroponic operations in Ontario, and most of them are small growers. They even allow them to be sold at the farmer’s markets around the city. It is nothing on the scale of Mexico, California or Spain.

    • Democratic Yawn January 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm #

      Bitch… Why… Did anything have to do with Canada. We are Tribbles! Don’t fuck with us.

  3. Oprocket January 1, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Well people need to learn to eat seasonally anyways. It’s not just better for your health, but it’s also better for the soil. And besides that, NYC needs to use more of its arable land for this purpose — food growing.

  4. 5by5 January 1, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    Well people need to learn to eat seasonally anyways. It’s not just better for your health, but it’s also better for the soil. And besides that, NYC needs to use more of its arable land for this purpose — food growing.

    • Mamagriff50 January 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

      Yes people should learn to eat seasonally. You cannot trust the labels in the stores. They all have a different def for Organic. I grow my own in the summer in Ohio, I also only buy locally grown/organic when needed. You can taste the difference. Once you eat fresh organic you will never go back.

  5. Bobbie Jean Pentecost January 1, 2012 at 2:42 pm #

    Well said. 

  6. Jin (仁) January 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm #

    I’m not defending the practice, and i totally agree nothing is better than field or garden tomatoes, but i’ve seen many of the hydroponic operations in Ontario, and most of them are small growers. They even allow them to be sold at the farmer’s markets around the city. It is nothing on the scale of Mexico, California or Spain.

  7. Mamagriff50 January 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    Yes people should learn to eat seasonally. You cannot trust the labels in the stores. They all have a different def for Organic. I grow my own in the summer in Ohio, I also only buy locally grown/organic when needed. You can taste the difference. Once you eat fresh organic you will never go back.

  8. Democratic Yawn January 1, 2012 at 8:34 pm #

    We are poisoned.

    Gov is behind.

    Learn and weep.

  9. Democratic Yawn January 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    We are poisoned.

    Gov is behind.

    Learn and weep.

  10. Democratic Yawn January 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Bitch… Why… Did anything have to do with Canada. We are Tribbles! Don’t fuck with us.

  11. Filmgal January 1, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    The Times article is confusing water management with organic farming. 

  12. Filmgal January 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm #

    The Times article is confusing water management with organic farming. 

  13. BuzzCoastin January 2, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    the moral of the story
    learn how to grow food for yourself

    people haven’t been eating real food since the 1950′s
    when i was a kid the “new” food was gonna be little Jetson nutrition pills
    which turned out to be chemicals wrapped in food-like packages

    once the Fed Gov set the standards for organic”
    anyone with half a brain knew this was coming

  14. BuzzCoastin January 1, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

    the moral of the story
    learn how to grow food for yourself

    people haven’t been eating real food since the 1950′s
    when i was a kid the “new” food was gonna be little Jetson nutrition pills
    which turned out to be chemicals wrapped in food-like packages

    once the Fed Gov set the standards for organic”
    anyone with half a brain knew this was coming

  15. rtb61 January 2, 2012 at 11:57 pm #

    The new trend is aquaponics, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics. High density year round production of vegetables, fruit and fish.
    All you need is light and to top up the water. Little or no waste produced and very low water consumption.
    The fish produce effluent to feed the plants, the plants clean and oxygenate the water for the fish and waste plant material is used to feed the fish, supplemented  by water plants that can tackle higher solid content from the bottom of the fish tank.
    Now combine the density of production with being able to locate very close to or even in cities and you have very low carbon output food, from farm to table, so farming for the 21st century.
    Of course wheat is out so everyone will just have to get used to rice flour, although short stemmed wheat plants are a possibility.

  16. Anonymous January 3, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    The new trend is aquaponics, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics. High density year round production of vegetables, fruit and fish.
    All you need is light and to top up the water. Little or no waste produced and very low water consumption.
    The fish produce effluent to feed the plants, the plants clean and oxygenate the water for the fish and waste plant material is used to feed the fish, supplemented  by water plants that can tackle higher solid content from the bottom of the fish tank.
    Now combine the density of production with being able to locate very close to or even in cities and you have very low carbon output food, from farm to table, so farming for the 21st century.
    Of course wheat is out so everyone will just have to get used to rice flour, although short stemmed wheat plants are a possibility.

  17. Xmagiksx January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Bull ass shit

  18. Xmagiksx January 11, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    Bull ass shit

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