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May 19, 2004


General Lee

I've wondered how much lower the yields are in organic farming versus traditional, chemical-intensive methods. If one believes that world hunger is as bad of a problem as chemical residue ingestion, and yields in organic farming are worse than those in regular farming, then organic farming seems less wholseome. A farmer in Zambia planting 60 acres instead of 10 to feed his family isn't going to appreciate our sustainable sensibilities. Moreover, what if all the starving third world farmers went organic? There probably isn't enough arable land for the switch.

If organic farming produces a lower yield than traditional farming the organic farming movement might find itself opposed to the open-space and world-hunger interests.


Most hunger in the third world is caused by politics, not farming methods. In Zambia, starvation has less to do with farming practices, than it does with the 22% rate of AIDS infection, which leaves orphaned children and no weath or accumulated resources to allow families to withstand climatic crises. Even in those desperate conditions, the Zambian people are aware of the dangers of certain farming practices of the developed world--refusing food donations that were genetically modified because they had the foresight to consider the long term effects of allowing GMOs into their food system.
And anyway, adopting sustainable farming practices here in the US rather than continuing to poison the entire world's supply of clean, healthy air and water, can't be bad for the rest of the world. Here where we can afford it, why shouldn't we experiment with farming practices that are sustainable financially as well as environmentally?

General Lee

I don't understand the following paradox. Humans are living longer than they ever have, yet the world is becoming, allegedly, more polluted and poisoined. As people were becoming generally healthier prior to the organic food craze, I don't see what problem organic produce is trying to solve--especially if it takes more land and money to produce organic compared to convential produce.


I think the distinction is that, though our average life expectancy is certainly lengthening, the most common causes of our death are evolving to more frequently involve circumstances relating from diet and other human-controlled environmental factors. While fewer of us are gored by wild animals, more of us fall victim to colon and skin cancer.

Similarly, asthma incidence rates among urban youth are reaching staggering proportions. While those kids aren't necessarily dying, their quality of life is doubtlessly being harmed.

To address the bigger theme though, the organic movement has to be considered holistically taking into account externalities. While sheer volume yields per acre may be less than optimized, the nutritional value of such yields will likely compare more favorably. Moreover, the lifetime productivity of organically farmed plots far exceeds the truncated though intense utility resulting from short-term exploitative methods.

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I read this sentence out loud to a group of engineers from my team at lunch the other day and they cracked up like I did. It touched off such a wave of nostalgia for the first machines we all used and when we first discovered the Internet. We all felt so old and yet so lucky.


talk about Oregon. It had a rhythm that kept me focused and didn't allow me to go numb at any point.1


talk about Oregon. It had a rhythm that kept me focused and didn't allow me to go numb at any point.11


Love is a feeling, not only on the material to meet, but also to the spiritual care and stick

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