It takes enormous courage to question some of society’s sacred cows. We are living in a world where people latch onto a belief and nothing at all will shake them from it – not even facts, reason and science.  We see this everywhere – people disregarding the importance of wearing masks . . . people refusing to be vaccinated . . . people in denial about the outcome of our last presidential election.

Clearly, there is a large segment of our population that only believes what it wants and rejects scientific facts. This mindset knows no political party or affiliation. It is equally engrained in the anti-pesticide crowd, for whom converting all farming to organic is a rabid religion.

Because many pro-organic consumers tend to be affluent and well educated, one would hope they would employ their intelligence to be open minded and critical of their own belief systems when new information is presented from a credible source.

Such is the case with the recently published Harvard Gazette article, Only Eat Organic? You’re Paying Too Much, and It’s Not Worth It.” 

The author cannot be easily dismissed as an industry shill. He is Robert Paarlberg, an associate in the Sustainability Science Program at the Harvard Kennedy School and at Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Paarlberg not only questions the sacred organic cow – but he thoroughly gores it with science and reason that concludes “organic food is not safer, better nutritionally or even produced by a small local farm.

He writes: “It doesn’t usually pay to challenge popular beliefs, even with scientific evidence, but some have felt compelled to do so in the case of organic agriculture. Louise O. Fresco, trained as an agronomist, is the president of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the world’s leading agricultural university. In her 2016 book “Hamburgers in Paradise,” she drew a harsh conclusion: “Organic farming as a whole is a mish-mash of valuable goals and ideals that have either been insufficiently tested or are completely misguided.” 

California farmers have known this for years. But a large percentage of the state’s urban population has been misled by decades of fear-based smear campaigns, which in turn have created a tremendous bias among lawmakers and regulators. Perhaps these extremists will listen to Paarlberg and his science; it should be required reading for them. And while they are at it, they should pick up Paalberg’s book from which the article was excerpted: “Resetting the Table: Straight Talk about the Food We Grow and Eat” (Knopf)

By all means, consumers should have the choice to purchase organic. But let’s not make policies and regulations based on a successful marketing campaign without the science to back it up.