Elementary logic explains why the organic/conventional divide can’t explain very many outcomes. Organically grown lettuce doesn’t require toxic pesticides, but the plastic case that protects the lettuce on its trip from California to Nova Scotia is nowhere near as environmentally pure as the lettuce. Organically grown tomatoes may take up more complex nutrients from compost-enriched soils, but any number of nutrients may be lost during long storage times in trucks, supermarket display shelves or kitchen fridges.

As for social and economic outcomes, once organic shoppers wanted as much processed product as conventional shoppers, organic moved in the same corporate trajectory as conventional. As often as not, big sellers from the organic side of life are owned by a conventional Big Food corporation and sold through a superstore behemoth.

I, along with many organic shoppers, enjoy a much wider range of product options at much more affordable prices than were available 25 years ago. But I can’t claim to have lived through a transformation – just a duplication.

 

Wayne Roberts, who headed up the Toronto Food Policy Council for 10 years, is the author of two books about food. He is a member of A\J's editorial board and regular contributor to the magazine. 

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