In the article “Organic fuel for a growing disaster”, Chris Hook castigates proponents of organic farming in the face of an impending food crisis. In the entire article, Chris Hook gives a brief history of the origin of the entire organic fuss and then moves on to attack the entire idea. This article will review Hook’s sentiments in light of existing knowledge and other important assessments.
Chris Hook begins by recounting a piece of research, whose results he describes as amusingly unsurprising. The research, as Hook points out, was aimed at confirming the effect of the stereotypes that people had about organic foods and non-organic foods (Hook, Chris, 2011). The researchers labeled two similar foods differently. One was labeled as organic and the other as not. According to hook, the people were bound to approve of the food that was labeled as organic and prefer it to the other. What is fascinating is that both foods were actually organic.
This begs the question that Chris Hook feverishly tries to answer: are organic foods really necessary? Hook attempts to find the answer to this question by looking at the personal preferences of people versus the necessity for the increased volume of food that conventional farming offers. In his cost-benefit analysis, Chris Hook asserts that the benefits of conventional farming far outweigh the potential risks that inorganic farming could offer.
Actually, Chris Hook does not dwell on the risks of conventional farming. Instead, he analyzes the centrality of conventional farming to food security against the preferences that people have based on false illusions of quality.
First, Cornell states that the Cornell study came after a research commissioned by the British Government in 2009, which found that there was hardly any difference in Nutritional value between the organic and conventionally grown foods. Moreover, the study found that there were no health benefits attached to eating organic foods over conventionally grown foods. Charles Hook calls the organic enthusiasm an idiocy. He claims that the root cause of the idiocy surrounding organic foods is the marketing efforts of the producers of organic foods. Hook says that they have managed to convince everyone to pay more money for no reason.
Hook writes off the fascination with organic foods as something that people are willing to pay for without any convincing reason. He first of all writes off the term organic, calling it a “stupid” term. He says that the term was coined in the 1940s, when Lord Northbourne began conceiving ideas that would make conventional farming, what he then termed as “chemical farming”, seem inferior. Therefore, Hook expresses no faith at all in the name organic and what it stands for.
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Chris Hook’s main problem is really not about the personal decisions people make in buying the wrong kinds of foodstuffs. However, the choice of whether or not to use conventionally grown food has huge implications for the future of humanity. With the world population approaching seven billion, a lot of food will be needed to feed this huge population. Hook’s argument of why organic food will be a disaster centers around this concept; he argues that growing organic food would lead to an uncalled for disaster.
Hook argues research carried out by the Swiss concluded that organic farming reduces the productivity of food by about 20 percent. If farmers are also adopting organic farming at a rate of 20 percent every year, then the whole affair of organic farming is a recipe for disaster. Hook asserts that if the entire world population is approaching nine billion by 2050, then the only solution to the food needs of such a population would lie in conventional farming.
The argument that Chris Hook puts forth to support conventional farming and discredit organic farming is mainly that organic farming would disrupt food security and reduce food production, a step that would prove catastrophic in the light of the growing world population. However, his argument is not equally balanced, and it does not bring into consideration a number of things. Some researchers have regarded the issue of organic farming closely. They have considered many different types of crops grown using both organic and conventional methods.
Researchers have argued that in order to provide the world population with affordable food in a sustained manner, a combination of both organic and non-organic methods would be desirable (McGill University, 2012). The researchers found that the yields for cereals grown under organic conditions would be as much as twenty five percent less than those grown under conventional methods. However, they also found that some crops like legumes would produce almost the same amount of yields in both conventional and organic farming. So much so that the average difference in yield between organic and conventional farming would eventually come down to only thirteen percent.
Moreover, the researchers emphasized the need to embrace more organic farming if we cared about the environment. They recommend that adoption of better management practices for organic farming, which would undoubtedly see a boost in the yields got from organic farming. In addition, it has been found that some climate patterns support organic farming more than conventional farming.
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Chris Hook’s argument is not sufficient to counter these claims. However, he presents one powerful argument. He says that the Food and Agriculture Organization says that food production needs to increase by seventy percent if the world’s needs by 2050 are to be met. Moreover, he says that climate change is necessitating a more aggressive policy for growing food. Organic farming would, therefore, only slow things down and brings down food production.
There is yet another dimension that Chris Hook does not consider. People’s preference of organic food is not just centered on taste and flavor. People’s concerns have to do with the potential health risks that the chemicals used in growing inorganic food carry. It has been proven that many of the fertilizers; weed and pest control chemicals used in conventional farming are carcinogens. Used even in the minutest quantities, carcinogens are notorious for accumulating in the body to levels that could prove catastrophic (Cramer, & Finn, 2011). The fear that people have of conventionally grown foods is, therefore, somewhat justified.
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Hook, however, strongly believes that it is not worth paying highly for foodstuffs with the label “organic” on them because they do not offer any additional value as compared to conventionally grown foods. He says that people think that organic foods have a better flavor than conventionally grown foods simply because they have the label “organic” on them. Otherwise, organic foods have no better flavor as compared to conventional foods.
Moreover, Hook tackles the issue of the support that organic farming receives from Greens NSW and many other government quarters. His argument is strongly worded and he says that anyone with any sense of social justice should not allow any belly to go hungry in the name of supporting organic farming. In fact, he says that instead of offering incentives, the Greens NSW should recommend penalties and disincentives.
In essence, the argument that Chris Hook proposes is that the adoption of organic farming would lead to food insufficiency, and many people would therefore go hungry. Chris Hook’s strongly-worded essay can be summarized in one phrase: food security. This is Hook’s main concern.
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The argument that Hook puts forth bears much weight in light of developing countries, whose food security is highly unstable. However, the argument is shallowly made, and it disregards important aspects of farming such as climate and geographical endowments. There are areas where the natural soil types and climate patterns would allow for successful organic farming, but whose potential is severely underutilized.
Moreover, if conventional farming would present some potential health hazards, even in the slightest way, then the qualms that people have of conventionally grown foods is reasonable. And if there are people who are willing to pay for this little hint of assurance that organic foods offer, then its production should be encouraged! In short, Chris Hook’s argument that organic foods would lead to disaster is misplaced.
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