Bwahaha…gurgle, sniff.

Organic farmers have asked the Government for permission to take a “holiday” from strict organic standards in an attempt to survive the recession.

The drastic move by organisations including the Soil Association follows a dip in sales of organic produce and fears for the future of Britain\’s 5,000 organic farmers.

Sales of organic food slumped 10 per cent in the 12 weeks up to the end of November, according to the latest figures from the consumer researchers TNS. Overall food sales over the same period were up 6 per cent.

Organic certification bodies, including the Soil Association, the country\’s biggest campaigner for organic food and farming, asked Hilary Benn, the Rural Affairs Secretary, last week for approval to relax the rules for an indefinite period. They want their members to be able to use conventional animal feed instead of organic food concentrate, which costs double. Average organic feed prices are £320 a tonne compared with £160 a tonne for conventional feed.

So if organic farming is more expensive then it must use more resources, yes? Given that costs are a measure of the resources used as inputs.

So this claim that organic farming is better for the planet somewhat falls down, doesn\’t it?

12 comments on “Bwahaha…gurgle, sniff.

  1. So if organic farming is more expensive then it must use more resources, yes? Given that costs are a measure of the resources used as inputs

    *cough*externalities*cough*

    (as it happens, I suspect you’re right about organic farming – but the claim you’re making “what’s cheapest for the agent making the transaction will always be best for the planet” is obviously ridiculous)

  2. ‘but the claim you’re making “what’s cheapest for the agent making the transaction will always be best for the planet” is obviously ridiculous’

    You should only use quotes when you are quoting someone. If you paraphrase someone and then put that in quotes this implies that they uttered the words, that is a little bit dishonest. Somethings have to go without saying because otherwise every statement would have to be book length to include every possible caveat.

    And actually “Given that costs are a measure of the resources used as inputs” is not wrong given that externalities, where they exist form part of the cost. (They are just a part of the cost that has not been borne by the agents involved in the transaction).

  3. “If you paraphrase someone and then put that in quotes this implies that they uttered the words, that is a little bit dishonest.”

    I am aware of all Internet traditions, you tedious pendant“.

    “Given that costs are a measure of the resources used as inputs” is not wrong

    Not wrong per se, but if ‘costs’ is being used to mean ‘full costs of the transaction, including those not borne by agents involved’ then it’s a complete non-sequitur given that the article is referring solely to prices paid by agents in the transaction.

  4. If the standards are relaxed, then I assume a broader range of products and vendors will meet the new standard, and thus qualify for organic status. I think this is an excellent idea – if I were in charge, I would classify all food products except salt, baking soda etc as organic, following the definition used in chemistry.

  5. “I am aware of all Internet traditions, you tedious pendant“.”

    Its nothing to do with internet traditions, its to do with good manners. The same courtesy applies no matter what the medium for debate is.

    “Not wrong per se, but if ‘costs’ is being used to mean ‘full costs of the transaction, including those not borne by agents involved’ then it’s a complete non-sequitur given that the article is referring solely to prices paid by agents in the transaction.”

    Unless you can point to some externalities then the two values are the same; the price paid by all those involved is the cost.

  6. ‘“what’s cheapest for the agent making the transaction will always be best for the planet” is obviously ridiculous’

    Please define ‘best for the planet’. I live in Canada. Very cold here today. I expect we have radically different points of view on the utility of global warming, if it exists, which it doesn’t. Please tell me why your idea of ‘best for the planet’ is the best, and in particular why it is better than mine.

  7. ChrisM: yeah, try /reading/ the fucking link next time. Or, if you prefer, ‘summarising your opponent’s position in a factually accurate but uncharitably phrased fashion is a perfectly legitimate debating tactic; if you don’t think it is, then you probably shouldn’t be debating’.

    On the substantive point, you’re assuming that those two values are the same by default; in practice they *never* are. The interesting questions are 1) is the difference between the two values large enough that intervention would be justified? and 2) do we have a mechanism for intervention that won’t, on aggregate, actually make things worse? This isn’t controversial, weird, hippy, or anything other than really mainstream economics that absolutely everyone with the slightest grounding in the subject (even people who believe that the answer to 1 is ‘usually no’ and the answer for 2 is ‘usually never’), accepts.

    BJS: how about The Greatest Good For The Greatest Number? That’s pretty fucking basic; and it’s better than yours because mine is based on the outcome for everyone, whereas yours is based on the outcome for the few million people unlucky enough to live in places as cold as Toronto and Montreal. And it’s clear [*] that if AGW is happening, the negative consequences will impact far more people than the positive ones (because a lot more people live in areas that would be flooded by seawater or turned arid by a temperature rise, than live in areas that are really really cold).

    [*] modelling the macro-level long-term impact of gases in the atmosphere is an extremely complex activity that’s still, relatively speaking, in its infancy. Modelling the impact of temperature rises on a particular microclimate is not.

    Tim adds: “And it’s clear [*] that if AGW is happening, the negative consequences will impact far more people than the positive ”

    That’s something that someone still has to convince me of. Looking at the economic models underpinning the IPCC work we get things like the A1 family of scenarios. in 2100, 7 billion people living in a $550 trillion economy. Depending upon technological development in energy production and consumption this could either be a high temperature variant or a low temperature one. There would have to be an awful lot of damage for me to be convinced that average incomes of 10 x the present would be a bad deal for those people living in 2100. (There are other assumptions to, such as convergence, so it means the essential eradication of poverty etc.)

    Certainly I am most unconvinced by those who say that our response has to be to stop economic growth to avoid warming.

  8. That’s something that someone still has to convince me of.

    I think you’re conflating two things here:

    1) AGW would harm more people than no AGW, ceteris paribus.
    2) AGW would harm more people than the cost of stopping AGW, given where we are today.

    I’ve only made claim 1 on this thread, because it’s true. As you frequently mention, and with which I entirely agree, the truth or otherwise of claim 2 is the relevant one for policymaking, and is a long way from settled.

    Tim adds: I’m not wholly convinced that 1) is true as yet. I’ve not yet been convinced that, say, more winter rains in the Sahel (a likely effect of AGW) would harm more people than it would hurt. Or that heat deaths will outweigh current cold deaths.

    Obviouly, at some level of sea rise, say, it will be true. But which?

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