NATURAL VS SYNTHETIC - THE IDEA
To start the year off, I will launch a new series, potentially quite polemic. But before entering into the subjects I have in mind, it is necessary to specify the idea of this series.
I don't intend to attack organic farming as such, but rather to attack certain misconceptions, widely disseminated by the communication, said or unsaid, made by personalities, lobbies and economic groups that derive their profits (sometimes huge) from the sale of advice, articles, conferences, trainings, seminars or simply of organic products.
They deliberately sow doubt in the minds of consumers for the sole purpose of causing a change in their consumption habits, in order to be able to generate ever larger profits.
All means are good, newspaper articles, television programs, meetings with journalists, posters, advertising campaigns, market actions, lobbying with political authorities, social networks, making extensive use of lies, untruths, manipulation of figures, statistics or images, to make their ideas progress.
I largely doubt the philosophical will they have to change attitudes.
I am convinced that the objective lies in two parallel lines, economic on the one hand, of pure enrichment, and on the other hand, by the power they obtain from many politic and economic decision-makers, through their actions.
I have a lot of respect for organic farmers who have to produce with very limited means. They face the same problems as conventional farmers, but have to solve them with sometimes illusory means and techniques, and have to bear sometimes important losses of production.
In some serious cases, the use of a synthetic solution to solve a desperate situation, makes them lose their organic certification, and the markets that it allows them to reach (see this French article http://www.arboriculture-fruitiere.com/content/perdre-ou-ne-pas-perdre-son-label-bio).
It shows, on the one hand, that organic farming does not have solutions for all situations, and on the other hand that making the choice of organic is risky for the farmer.
Some, the fewest, are organic farmers by conviction (I respect that choice, although I don't share the philosophy), others, the most numerous, are for economic interest. Organic has become a very buoyant market today, and they have decided to rest their company's stability or development in this market (which I also respect because it is a perfect business logic).
But I am shocked when one of my colleagues, a consultant in fruit production in France, tells me that in recent years, almost all organic conversions among his members (and generally in France, it seems), come from people who do it, neither by conviction nor by economic choice. Either choice would be perfectly consistent.
No, they are converting to organic because they no longer support social and family pressure around the subject of pesticides or pollution of soil, water and air.
Their family, friendship and social ties are sometimes questioned for a simple reason of agricultural production technique.
They feel sidelined by society.
They don't want to have to justify their work anymore, day after day.
They are tired of having to defend their activity, at the risk of having to endure stormy debates or confrontations sometimes hateful.
They prefer to abandon a struggle that they consider lost in advance and become organic farmers.
It is conversion under duress, as in the best hours of the Inquisition or the worst dictatorships.
Someone talked about Freedom?
There is much to be said, without denigrating anyone, about the reality of the use of pesticides or fertilizers, or about the impossibility of using herbicides in organic farming. Because organic agriculture requires pesticides, but authorized pesticides are chosen exclusively according to their natural origin, even if they are far from being harmless to health or to the environment.
The problem with fertilizers is similar. Organic farming uses it, but only of natural origin. Of course, this is not a defect in itself. It is however a limiting factor, and it is not a choice without environmental or health risk.
One may, moreover, cast doubt on the value of the choice of the word "natural", since synthetic chemistry employs only natural products to transform them, especially petroleum or air.
On the other hand, chemistry does not invent much. Its main source of inspiration is Nature itself. Much of the synthetic molecules are copies of natural molecules, or evolutions of these copies.
In the course of the examples, we'll see that the use of the notion of natural has ups and downs according to the interests that must be defended.
The debate on GMOs is on another level, since rejection is purely philosophical, with no real scientific justification. I recently had a lively debate on the subject, on a Facebook page of organic farming. It must be said that I dared to share there an article defending GMOs. I wanted to provoke a debate, to know if organic farmers have other arguments than the usual ones, those that are used and reused in partisan publications and articles. But in the end, my impression is very clear that the rejection of GMOs comes first and foremost from the use, sometimes abusive, of herbicides.
I have already had the opportunity to write on this blog (https://culturagriculture.blogspot.com.es/2015/09/53-gmo-why-not.html) that herbicide resistant GMOs are not, in my opinion, the main interest of the technique, and that nutritional or environmental orientation of research would be much preferable. I also wrote that it is highly probable that if the technique had been developed from the outset, not to direct economic purposes but to health or environmental purposes, the current rejection would not have found a basis for its development.
So I come back to this personal conclusion that the rejection does not come from the fact that the crop is GMO, but from the fact that being a glyphosate-resistant GMO allows farmers to use and abuse of the use of glyphosate, with consequences that involve glyphosate, not the GMO. It is very different. The arguments are against the herbicide, not against the GMO nature of the crop.
Finally, the many scientific arguments in favor of GMOs have no weight when dealing with the manipulation of minds by arguments that blend the facts into an amalgam between the GMO nature of the crop and the misuse of the herbicide.
So we are really on the ground of manipulation and belief.
So I have nothing against organic farming as a method of production. Moreover, I use many techniques, since I practice integrated production on a daily basis, which can be briefly defined as an organic farming which allows the use of synthetic products, as pesticides, herbicides and fertilization.
It should be noted that the notion of integrated production, which has little carrier and little talking for whoever has no direct link with agriculture, is gradually evolving towards a notion of agroecology, which is more or less the same thing, but more "seller". We really are on the field of communication.
Agroecology, however, broadens the debate by bringing together under the same banner the various forms of organic farming and integrated production for their common efforts to reduce the negative impact of agriculture and by integrating a social and cultural dimension.
In this series, I intend to take specific subjects and examples, and to compare the organic solution with its conventional equivalent, trying to compare, as objectively as possible, the strengths and weaknesses of each, to bring to light what is from the domain of reality, of science, what is truly justified, and what is from the domain of belief.
In the end, we will find a great incoherence and, above all, a manipulation of the minds of consumers due to the great confusion deliberately maintained between the notion of "natural" and the notion of "good for nature" and "good for health ".
That's what seems to me the most serious, and that's why I'm starting this series.
You know in advance what conclusion I will reach, because you know my overall opinion on these issues.
But what you don't know yet, is that the arguments for defending my ideas are numerous and powerful, and that these arguments don't arise neither from the need to produce more, nor from a problem of profitability, nor from a manipulation by the agrochemical giants.
We will mainly talk about efficiency, health, pollution, residues and side effects.