The Danger of Naturalism in Food

An interesting and provocative piece in by Keith Kloor that mirrors some of the comments in my recent Tedx talk (I'll post it as soon as it's up) and discussion in my forthcoming book.  Here is the best part:

Managing our global food supply in a sustainable, efficient manner necessarily involves allowing for both organic and conventional agriculture. But a simplistic, down-with-industrial-farming chant rings loudly throughout the food movement. Sure, there are legitimate grievances about the corporate conduct of multinational food and agricultural companies. But since when is that unique to big business of any nature? For example, there are compelling social justice issues related to the making of cell phones and sneakers, but I don’t see people demonizing Apple’s or Nike’s technological innovations.

So why is Big Ag different from Big Smartphone or Big Sneaker?  And why has concern over how the world's food is grown become so strongly identified with concern over genetically modified crops?

The answer to both has to do with the legacy of environmentalism. The green movement's worldview today is the same as it was in 1970: Nature is sacred, big business is the enemy, technology is dangerous, the world is on the verge of eco-collapse. The ecologist Barry Commoner, who recently died at the age of 95, was perhaps the most influential apostle for this mindset. He argued in the early 1970s that the “circle of life,” in which “nature knows best,” had been broken by a technology-based society that had put the planet on the brink of ecological suicide. This outdated, unhelpful perspective reverberates in many offshoots of the environmentalism of 40 years ago, not just the food movement. For example, today’s environmentalists (and their enablers in the media) have a tendency to exaggerate the dangers from chemicals in household products. A similar dynamic has played out for years in campaigns against nuclear power and more recently, hydraulic fracking. At the root of these hyperactive fears is a deep distrust of industry.