Monday, July 28, 2008

Organic from overseas vs. conventional from a few miles away

This is from the Freakonomics blog on

It's readers sending in questions to agricultural economist Daniel Sumner. It's long, but it's Q&A so you can read what you want and come back to it later. It's got tons of links to other papers and studies. It will probably challenge at least a few things that you think you know. It did with me.

Also, if you've ever stood at a grocery store and internally debated whether to buy organic from New Zealand (health and ethics) or conventionally grown, meaning pesticides, chems, etc., from the States (carbon footprint) you'll find out that there are no easy answers. Distance does NOT necessarily equal a larger carbon footprint.

And oh yeah, farm subsidies are unnecessary.

Blogger Stephen J. Dubner writes:

Sumner has answers for questions about organic produce, biofuels, the logic of locavores, whether the U.S.'s attachment to cotton is emotional or financial, and how to talk to farmers about the economics of agriculture: "I do not start by challenging their passions, but I am pretty forthcoming about what most economic analysis finds about farm subsidies."

His answer to whether there's a good argument to be made for farm subsidies:


I learned more from reading this Q&A than I have from all the miscellaneous reading I've done on these topics in perhaps a year, maybe more. Thanks to Sumner for his answers and to you for the questions.

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