So, I mentioned before that the First Family is putting in a garden (complete with bee hive!). And, in fact, they plant to make it an organic garden.
That choice has stirred up a whole pot of strange. The first signal was that the MidAmerica CropLife Association sent a letter to the White House that implied that going organic was a bad signal. It was an amazingly long letter, and I’ll be very surprised if anyone read the whole thing. (Some MACA of the members weren’t quite on the same page, and released the letter online.)
Then CropLife also started a letter writing campaign with even more out-there rhetoric:
“The garden is a great idea and the photo op of the First Lady and local elementary schoolchildren digging up the ground was precious, but did you realize that it will be an organic garden? ….What message does that send to the non-farming public about an important and integral part of growing safe and abundant crops to feed and clothe the world — crop protection products?”
You might be interested to know that CropLife’s former name was the National Agricultural Chemicals Association.
The “controversy” over the Whitehouse garden was covered by the Daily Show in this hilarious episode: The Whitehouse Garden of Death!
They introduce yet another corporate group that’s criticizing Ms. Obama: The American Council on Science and Health. It took me less than a minute to discover that ACSH is full of crap–they are DDT apologists, in addition to some of the other crud they promote. Here’s their report from Sourcewatch.
It’s not just the chemical industry players that are being wacky over the garden–Grist covered this story…using pictures of the Mafia! Because nothing says “agrochemical industry” like wise guys with guns. Some of the comments discussing this issue online pretty much make pesticide use out to be a death sentence with overblown rhetoric reminiscent of….the pesticide trade groups.
It’s a freakin’ garden, people. Get a grip.
There are elements of truth on both sides–and as usual, the media fails utterly to convey a complex message. The data is, at best, mixed on what the results of a wholesale switch to “organic” farming would be. Yields are lower in organics, for the most part. And just because only “natural” chemicals are used, that does not mean that they are always safer or less toxic than synthetic chemicals.
There are lots of benefits to eating locally grown food, and we all could benefit by eating healthier, less processed food. It’s not a black/white, death/life dichotomy. Organic is not our savior, and Pesticides are not Satan.
There are situations where organic is appropriate and preferable, and some where careful, judicious use of synthetic pesticides in an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) program is appropriate. Both can be useful approaches.
But Nuance and Complexity don’t seem to have a place in public discourse anymore.