Organic farming does not exist, so why pretend?
Annamarie Rienzi urges for the abolishment of the USDA National Organic Program
I love cooking.
On a recent campaign trip working the field for a U.S. Congressional race in North Carolina, I came to realize that there are few things that are more relaxing than coming home from a long day on the trail and pouring my heart and soul into preparing a meal. Being that this foray into adulthood was the first time I would be straying from sourcing the majority of my food from the loving kitchen of my mother -- who I maintain has a red sauce that would rival Lidia Bastianich’s -- or the on-campus dining services, I was a bit confused when it came to purchasing groceries. So, as soon as I grew tired of eating Buffalo Wild Wings and North Carolina (read: bad) pizza for dinner, I took a trip out to the local big-box grocery store and began picking out what I would be eating for the remainder of the trip.
I made a bee-line right for the produce as soon as I got to the store. I was picking out some green beans and South Carolina peaches to put in my cart when I turned around and was faced with one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
Zucchini: $1.09/lb. Organic Zucchini: $1.91/lb.
I was torn. Do I appeal to my sense of fiscal conservatism and pick up the cheaper zucchini whose long list of unpronounceable chemicals would likely render me barren and disease-ridden (as says everything I have learned growing up as a hip youth)? Or do I bite the additional costs and purchase the organic product?
Despite my overwhelming desire for radioactive armpit hair, I bought the organic zucchini.
Later that evening, with a belly full of zucchini gratin, and an even more satisfying sense of moral superiority, I let curiosity get the best of me. I Googled what exactly it meant to be “certified organic.”
I found myself on the United States Department of Agriculture’s website, reading the guidelines for admittance to its National Organic Program. I expected to find that there was a long list of chemicals on its no-no list. There was. I was sure that I was going to find strict guidelines restricting how the farmers grow their organic produce. There were.
With a little further digging, I found out that every single pesticide on the list of prohibited chemicals are very rarely used. In fact, the “natural” chemical counterparts that are commonly used as alternatives to the “bad” chemicals that are on the list are equally as toxic, which is to say, not at all toxic. Aside from all of that, The Wall Street Journal identified another flaw in the National Organic Program: the farms in the program are not required to report testing of their pesticides in any regular manner. Instead, they are just subject to “surprise” tests. This is as if you and I went through our entire careers at American University just receiving pop quizzes every so often, not regular exams during midterms and finals.
Ineffective and nonsensical guidelines aside, the sheer cost of becoming “certified organic” would surely put the mom-and-pop blueberry patches that dot New Jersey farmland in the red. Why would they undergo that economic strain for a title that, in essence, means that they use more expensive pesticides that are just as toxic as the cheaper variety?
It is time to abolish the National Organic Program and stop wasting taxpayer dollars on an ineffective program, and deluding the American people into thinking that they have to buy more expensive produce in order to be healthy. Instead of trusting a seal, let’s introduce our neighbors to local farmers to supply them with romaine lettuce and beefsteak tomatoes. I’m sure that they would be happy to explain to their customers the philosophy of their farming practices, and the actual use of those “evil and toxic” pesticides.
Annamarie Rienzi is a junior in the School of Public Affairs and a columnist for The Eagle.