Organic Myths Debunked in Entertaining Style

Published February 7, 2011

Review of Is It Organic?, by Mischa Popoff (Polyphase Communication, 2010), 599 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0557548866

If you like science, enjoy history, love reading, dislike bureaucracy and fraud, and are fascinated with the scientific shell game perpetrated by the organic food movement, you will thoroughly enjoy Is It Organic?, by Mischa Popoff. This book is not a dry, robotic analysis of the organic food movement, but is instead written in a delightful and eccentric but long-winded style describing everything in detail.

Was an Organic Farm Inspector
Popoff grew up on a farm and worked his way through college studying history and philosophy. His mastery of those two subjects is evident throughout the book, and it enables him to describe scientific issues with color and flair.

After working as a Canadian organic farm inspector for five years, Popoff felt compelled to tell the world that organic farm inspection is nothing but a paper audit trail having no relationship whatsoever with what people envision as being “green” or “organic.” Instead, the organic farming industry is rampant with cheaters utilizing modern technology to increase yields and income. 

Exposing Fraud
In an examination of such organic frauds, Popoff explains how advocacy groups supported by billionaires George Soros and Ted Turner focus a deceptive positive light on low-yield organic farming with an ulterior motive of undermining the high-yield agriculture that enables and sustains human population growth.

Nobody is more effective or entertaining than Popoff in documenting and denouncing the brazen frauds being perpetrated by the green movement in pursuit of commerce. Popoff’s assertions are well-documented. The book includes detailed footnotes on a third of the pages.

Agricultural Truths
Popoff is not opposed to organic food at all. He just understands the false religion that has grown up around it and the harmful efforts to denigrate high-yield agriculture that accompany it. He sprinkles the text with wonderful quotes from great philosophers. For example, Popoff quotes H.L. Mencken: “The urge to save humanity is always a false front for the urge to rule it.”

Noting that farmers have a far better understanding of yield rates for various crops and farming techniques than environmental activists have, Popoff writes, “unlike members of the radical, activist elements in the organic movement, the majority of fulltime, domestic organic farmers don’t delude themselves for even a second into believing organics can ever feed the planet.”

Popoff also does a marvelous job of deconstructing Rachel Carson’s influential book Silent Spring and the damage its false DDT claims did to world agriculture.

Myths Busted
Using precise data, Popoff exposes a myriad of foundations and advocacy groups too numerous to mention. He documents their clear motives for deluding the public, defeating market capitalism, and punishing nations built on a foundation of freedom. He also details how many organic farming claims, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, are mere myths. Regarding biotechnology, he makes compelling arguments supporting the safety and desirability of genetic modification.

While Popoff covers an amazing amount of ground in this very instructive and pleasant text, he always comes back to the main point: The entire system of certifying organic farms is bogus. He documents that certification audits do not test the soil for the chemicals applied and that auditors are not allowed to search farm buildings for the storage of inorganic chemicals that may be used on the crops.

Popoff makes another important point in explaining the absurdity of pushing organic farming on developing nations. He writes, “People in the Third World need organic farming like they need caviar and 15-year old Scotch. In other words, they can’t afford organic agriculture until they first learn how to feed themselves. And why the hell shouldn’t they benefit from the same technologies that we have for almost a century now: synthetic fertilizer and the fossil-fuel-driven internal combustion engine?”

If organic farming is ever to compete with conventional agriculture, it will be through science and free-market mechanisms, not through political action and the quest to return to simpler times that never existed.

Jay Lehr, PhD. ([email protected]) is science director of The Heartland Institute.