I have probably regaled more people than I can recall regarding the agonizing choice I had to make as I looked towards selecting classes for my 9th grade year in the Newton public school system in Iowa. Every student had to take either Speech or Debate. As a person who was EXTREMELY uncomfortable with the idea of talking in front of people, there was no winning option for me. So, I took debate - because it would have far fewer people in the class.
Four years of debate and well over 50 speech and debate tournaments later, I graduated - feeling perfectly confident that I could give a presentation in front of audiences of all sizes.
One of the side effects of this training was the fact that I learned how to critically select information sources, find basic factual data and analyze it, and see how there are almost always more than two sides to every issue that had at least some reasonable support in fact.
Let's start with this meme that was created several years ago and shared with me. Of course, the person who shared it with me figured I would be all for it because our veggies ARE certified organic. But, I wasn't entirely on board. Why is that?
Cardinal Sin #1 - Only One Reason
Every time I see one of these graphics that make a claim by implying only one action will solve a problem OR there is only one cause for that problem, I discount it. In fact, I often get offended by it when it is something I know a bit about. Why?
Well, it sure is nice that you agree with me that Certified Organic is usually better than a chemical-intensive system. But, in your zeal to make your point, you oversimplified and completely ignored a whole host of things that severely limit our food systems. What about monocrops? What about short and non-diverse rotations? What about the public's love for convenience? How about we talk about distribution systems that cannot adjust in crisis (see the pandemic for evidence)? Could we consider how poorly many large processors and farms treat their workers? I could write a blog on this one all by itself and have talked about some of this in several others.
It's a BIG topic and I find it offensive that someone would try
to make the claim that a broken food system is caused by the presence or absence of a label.
Cardinal Sin #2 - Only Sort-of Correct
First, I must destroy the myth that certified organic growers are "non-chemical." That is an outright untruth. Now - our farm is both certified organic and committed to not spraying chemicals to control pests. But, I could maintain certification as long as I only apply pesticides and other chemicals on a very short list of approved products. Yes, these are not synthetically derived products - that much is true.
If you use a broad-spectrum insecticide, such as a pyrethrum product, it still kills beneficial insects as well as beneficials. A certified organic grower could potentially be just as bad as one that is not with their reliance on pesticides to solve problems.
However, this is where they miss a second time by only being partially correct. To be certified organic, you must have a whole system plan. This includes dealing with soil health, crop rotation, water management and a whole host of things. Typically the simple act of planning to care for natural resources will improve a farm's practices. In other words, it is harder for a farmer who has gone through the organic system plan process to abuse pesticides because they must consider all aspects of their operation and how it impacts the natural world.
It is true that a farmer must pay to be Certified Organic. It is also true that there is a fair amount of record keeping. But, they make it sound like punishment rather than a part of a worthwhile system.
Frankly, I like getting the gold star on my work instead of seeing an absence of a gold star. I EARN a Certified Organic label for what I do. The others fail to earn it. THAT is a good reason to support a Certified Organic grower.
Cardinal Sin #3 - My Way or the Highway
First they fail to recognize that life and the issues in life are complex. Then, they fail to even have the most basic bits of information correct. And it is capped off by pronouncing that there is only one solution to the problem that is our broken food system.
If people wonder why I am sometimes very critical of efforts to promote things I actually believe in, they should wonder no more.
You do me and the causes I support no favors when you promote those causes with misinformation and poor understanding. You make it worse when you then try to make a claim that this is THE right answer. Not only do you insult me with your unwillingness to check a few facts, you make me, and others like me who are Certified Organic growers, look bad.
In short, you hurt my cause when you share things like this. So, knock it off.
Do You Really Want To Help?
First, don't pretend you know as much as those who have some expertise (or at least a little bit of skill) in the subject. If you really want to help and you see a meme you think might do some good - though I haven't seen many social media graphics that have succeeded in making much, if any, positive difference in the world - ask someone who has some expertise if it has any of these cardinal sins.
Second, take a moment and actually identify some facts and get a little understanding of the subject. There is such a thing as knowing only enough to be dangerous. But, you need to figure out the difference between becoming informed, being competent, and knowing that a trigger makes things go boom.
Here is a start for you. Our blog has a number of posts that discuss what it means to be Certified Organic. Read those and you will have something to start with. Take a few of the links given in those blogs and you might even be informed enough to make your own meme - one that might be accurate and supportive at the same time.