Lord Taverne characterizes as a monument to irrationality the trend toward consumers buying of overpriced organic food, promoted by advocates whose principles are founded on a scientific howler; it is governed by rules that have no rhyme or reason, and its propaganda could have an adverse effect on the health of poor people.
In the U.S., for example, the rules that define organic products are, literally, nonsensical, in that organic standards are process-based and have little to do with the actual characteristics of the product. Certifiers attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices that meet the requirements of highly arbitrary regulations.
Paradoxically, the presence of a detectable residue of a banned chemical alone does not constitute a violation of these regulations, as long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods.
Thus, regulators seem to reward effort and intent, whether or not the integrity (for lack of a better word) of the product is compromised. Thats rather like saying that as long as your barber uses certain prescribed tools and lotions, your haircut is automatically of high quality.
Moreover, because organic farming is far less efficient than conventional farming, organic food costs more (to say nothing of requiring more and poorer-quality land put into farming), and the hype from markets like Whole Foods puts pressure on the less affluent to buy more expensive fruit and vegetables that may actually be of lower quality.
Higher prices mean lower consumption, and consequently fewer of the benefits conferred by a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Finally, organic producers insistence on avoiding gene-spliced varieties will prevent consumers of these products from enjoying many nutritional and safety improvements down the rower, road.
Lord Taverne argues compellingly that the conflict over gene-spliced crops is the most important battle of all between the forces of reason and unreason, both because of the consequences should the forces of darkness prevail, and also because their arguments are so perverse and so consistently and completely wrong.
In fact, agricultural practices have been unnatural for 10,000 years, and with the exception of wild berries and wild mushrooms, virtually all of the grains, fruits, and vegetables in our diets have been genetically modified in some way.
Many of our foods (including potatoes, tomatoes, oats, rice, and corn) come from plants created by wide cross hybridizations that transcend what used to be considered to be natural breeding boundaries.