From telecommunications and transportation to healthcare and entertainment, cutting-edge technology serves society well. But not when it comes to food. Oh no. We don't want technology anywhere near that. Neanderthal know-how is perfectly fine, thanks. What's behind that bizarre thinking?
Imagine going to the doctor's office. Noticeably absent are any modern tools -- laptops, DNA tests, X-ray scanners. He likes to do things the old-fashioned way. Medicine was better 100 years ago. How long would it take before you ran screaming out the door?
Yet, that's precisely the attitude the organic food and "back to nature" movements embrace.
In most things in life, we desire cutting-edge technology: Faster computers, self-driving cars, virtual reality, high-definition TV1. From telecommunications and transportation to healthcare and entertainment, we demand the very best that money can buy.
But not food. We don't want technology anywhere near that. Neanderthal know-how is perfectly fine, thanks. What is going on?
Organic Is the Sacrificial Food of a New Religion
Whether we like it or not, humans are spiritual creatures. We seek meaning in our lives and a greater power outside of us. As mainstream religions in Western societies fade away, people are replacing them with a new religion: One whose focus is on sustainability2, postmodernism (anti-intellectualism), and technophobia. Organic is the sacrificial food of this new religion.
In a recent article, Eric Asimov, a food and wine critic for the New York Times, extols the (imagined) virtues of organic wine. He even warns his readers that a commonly added preservative, sulfur dioxide, corrupts the wine because it isn't natural3. Of course, all wines contain sulfur dioxide because the compound is a byproduct of yeast fermentation.
Read how Mr. Asimov writes about his favorite subject:
These [processed] wines are not the simple, pastoral expressions of an agricultural culture. They are assembly-line wines, farmed industrially with chemical sprays, churned out in factories with technology and machinery and additives, and tailored, just as processed foods are, to specifications derived from substantial audience research and the use of focus groups.
"Processed" wines (whatever that means) use modern technology, including machines and chemicals? Focus groups? Oh, the humanity! In the NYT's magical world4, food must be prepared in a very precise manner, otherwise it is contaminated. Never mind that these food standards are arbitrary and not based on science; failing to follow them makes our food "unnatural." In other words, machines and chemicals (and the taste preferences of the unwashed masses) are the sins that corrupt our food and our bodies.
This isn't nutrition science; it's religion. That's why mocking organic foodies makes them so upset: It is blaspheming their Holy Communion.
(1) Even FIFA (international soccer's governing body) is finally embracing the 21st Century by implementing goal-line technology.
(2) The concept of sustainability is perfectly fine. However, anti-scientific nonsense is often promoted in the name of sustainability. Contrary to conventional wisdom, organic farming is not more sustainable than conventional agriculture.
(3) Organic wines cannot contain added sulfur dioxide, showing just how arbitrary and ridiculous the definition of "organic" actually is.
(4) This is why our rating of the New York Times as borderline "junk science" was incorrect. In truth, it's only a few steps removed from the "Pure Garbage" category.