American Elephants


The Vast Superstition of the Belief in Organic Food. by The Elephant's Child

We seem to have entered an age when belief in eating just the right food reigns supreme.  There are, of course, organizations behind this. One of the most often quoted is the leader of the “food police”,  the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  They fancy themselves as a “watchdog” group, but their activities are more often savaging restaurants, disparaging adults’ food choices and issuing high profile, but highly questionable, reports condemning soft drinks, fat substitutes, irradiated meat, biotech food crops and anything that tastes good.

That the group is able to survive in today’s world is a testimony to today’s obsession with just the right food, the pure food, or organic food that will somehow make life more wholesome, and last longer.   CSPI turns up often on slow news days.

Our friend Dennis Avery, Director of the Center for Global Food Issues (CGFI), part of the Hudson Institute, writes often about food issues, but his interest is more in seeing that the world has enough food.  He points out, once again, in a new article,  that organic food is just a superstition:

The Green Movement has been called “the new religion.” It surely isn’t that.  Religion is a belief in a higher power than humanity.  The Green movement believes nothing is more powerful than a press release from the Sierra Club or a lawsuit filed by Greenpeace.

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine recently reviewed 162 scientific papers published over 50 years — and found that “there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically grown foods over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority.”  This is no surprise.

The first researcher to announce the health futility of organic foods was Lady Eve Balfour, one of the sainted organic pioneers.  She turned her English estate into an experimental farm, to “prove” organic food was better.  She finally admitted in 1977 that 30 years of testing had produced no evidence of nutritional or health differences for organic.

This will make no difference to the sales of organic food because organic food buyers are irrational.  They think buying the most expensive foods buys longer, happier lives.  No such luck.  If organic were healthier, African subsistence farmers would have been outliving American housewives and stockbrokers for the past 90 years.

Instead, Americans eating industrially fertilized and genetically modified crops have been outliving Somalis and Nigerians by about 30 years.  We not only have ample high-yield food, but our lives are also protected by vaccines, antibiotics and sterile operating rooms.

The short article is worth your time, for it explains a lot.  As Mr. Avery explains: “If the world went all-organic, half the humans would die of starvation.  Most of the remaining wildlife habitat would be plowed down to make room for more low yield crops.” That would be a particularly ugly outcome.  Food fads are not always rational.



It’s Only Money, It’s Only Money, It’s Only Money. by The Elephant's Child
August 14, 2009, 12:37 am
Filed under: Economy, Politics, Statism | Tags: , ,

The federal deficit climbed higher in July, reaching record territory at $1.27 trillion with two months to spend remaining in the budget year. Ouch! Let’s be clear. This is the deficit — outgo over income.  The July deficit reflected government outlays of $332.2 billion, a record number for any month, up from $263 billion of July 2008.  Government receipts totaled $151.5 billion, so there is a bit of a gap.  Quite a credit-card debt for us to pay off.

When Barack Obama came into office, the deficit was $455 billion.  ($325.3 billion of that was from the bank rescue plan that Senator Obama supported).

Since January 20, we have had a $787 billion stimulus, a $33 billion expansion of the State Childrens’ Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), $330.4 billion in bank rescue money, and a $410 billion bill to fund discretionary spending for the second half of the current fiscal year.  The first “Cash for Clunkers” program was part of the Stimulus, but I think they appropriated another billion for more clunkers.  I don’t know where the auto bailout fits in. Congress is talking about a second stimulus, but perhaps that will go the way of the Nancy Pelosi Air Force which, blessedly, has been canceled.  Sanity, however briefly, has prevailed.

Most of the stimulus money that has been appropriated has not yet been spent, and most of what has been spent has gone to Democrat pet projects rather than to anything that promotes employment.  A lot has just been wasted.  Homeless funds for a town that has no homeless, guard rails for a road beside a dry lake, funds to rebuild bridges that get almost no traffic at all.  When the second part of the stimulus has been spent in 2010, perhaps it will be spent more wisely.  Or even better, perhaps it will just be cancelled.  Stimulus plans have never been a particularly successful way of addressing recessions.

Republicans usually favor programs that improve conditions for business so that they are encouraged to hire and produce.  Democrats usually favor programs that create temporary government-paid jobs.  One of the two has a history of success.

The total national debt is $11,666,485,985,008.  give or take a billion or two here and there.  U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner asked Congress to  increase the $12.1 trillion debt limit last Friday, saying it is “critically important” that they act in the next two months.  In a letter to U.S. lawmakers, Mr. Geithner said that the current debt limit could be reached in early mid-October.  “Congress has never failed to raise the debt limit when necessary,” Mr. Geithner said.

So that’s where we are.  ObamaCare is projected by the CBO to cost $1.1 trillion for the House bill and a little more for the Senate bill which is still under construction over the next decade.   Dr, Stephen Parente of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management says that the CBO is using outdated programs and the bills will cost $2.1 trillion and $2.4 trillion respectively.

It looks like consideration of the Waxman-Markey climate bill will be put off until next year at least. I won’t include the depressing news about that.  If we could just persuade them to stop spending, forget the rest of the stimulus and allow the economy to recover — which it would be more likely to do if there is confidence about what the government is going to do.

(h/t: Neo-neocon)




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