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Carrots just got a lot more expensive

One of the reasons why people get so cross about the cost of petrol is the knowledge that a high proportion of the price paid at the pumps is accounted for by tax, rather than the cost of extracting, refining and distributing the stuff. The same goes for a pack of cigarettes, pint of beer or a bottle of wine, to name a few. With a lot of grocery produce, such as your humble carrot, most people may not appreciate – yet – how much of the cost of getting those vital vitamins is accounted for by government-created production costs. Well, there have been a flurry of stories on the wires about a recent EU Parliamentary vote to ban dozens of pesticides that are deemed harmful. As a result, farming groups claim, output of crops will fall and presumably, if other things remain equal, prices will go up at a time when household budgets are under strain. It does not seem to have occured to policymakers that a simple option would be to put what chemicals are used to treat crops on a packet so that consumers can figure this out for themselves and take an informed decision.

The trouble with stories like this is that the votes to ban X or Y at the EU level rarely gain a lot of coverage for more than a day or so, and then the issue tends to fizzle out, of interest only to obsessives and geeks like yours truly. A busy populace, worried more about their jobs, mortgage or children, will hardly dwell on the issue. But when Mr and Mrs Briton wonder why on earth it costs so much to buy basic groceries, the temptation will be to imagine that it is the fault of big, evil supermarket chains, for example. Rarely will the cause of the cost be seen as stemming from bureaucrats and European MPs.

Of course, it may well be that the chemicals being banned are as harmful as is claimed, although given the way these things work, I doubt it. We are told that for a healthy diet, your average person requires several servings of fruit and veg a day; such things are considered good for warding off cancer. Even if there is a health risk from chemicals, the health risk of not eating enough vegetables because of high costs is even higher. These things involve a trade-off between one set of risks and another, rather than some imperfect and perfect state. If such chemicals are banned, resorting to grow-your-own is hardly a viable alternative, since modern farming can, through economies of scale, achieve better yields and lower costs-per-output than someone tending their vegetable patch. And importing fruit and veg from countries such as Spain via air transport, for example, is also becoming less attractive an option due to increased fuel prices and governments’ taxes on air travel.

Once again, the Forgotten Man gets the shaft. This chemicals ban, like measures such as “employment rights”, paternity leave or 35-hour weeks, impose costs on the populace without a government having to take the potentially visible and unpopular step of raising taxes. Joining the economic dots is hard. I just hope that some in the MSM try and do so occasionally so that the message gets through. We bloggers cannot do it all on our own.

Update: in the comments, one person argues that I have contradicted myself by pointing to public apathy or lack of time to scrutinise EU actions, on the one hand, and my stress on the ability of consumers to read packaging labels, on the other. There is no contradiction, though. People shop daily, weekly, monthly, etc. They constantly come up against labels, look at packaging, see advertisements, surf the Net looking at products, and so on. One of the great things about markets is that it is a constant provider of information. Not always accurate, of course. By contrast, once an EU directive has been imposed, that is usually the last that any ordinary member of the public will hear about it. As soon as a law is passed, the media and political wagon rolls on.

34 comments to Carrots just got a lot more expensive

  • Ian B

    It’s nothing to do with harm, or health. The basic problem is, and perhaps libertarians and fellow travellers need to start thinking this way, is that we are ruied by mad people. The King is mad.

    Now if a king were mad, then he could be removed. But our king is a monarch smeared across a million minds in the European oligarchy. Not so easy to remove. Nonetheless, our basic working approach must be to appreciate that we are dealing with an insane monarch, and as such any strategy cannot be based on reasoned argument. You cannot dissuade the king from appointing his favourite cat as chancellor and ordering the wearing of only one shoe on tuesdays, because he is mad, and these things seem quite sane and indeed essential to him.

    The madness afflicting our king is commonplace. He is an obsessive compulsive. He believes that all his food is tainted and toxic, that he is being poisoned, that he must wash his hands a thousand times a day to remove the germs and toxins. If challenged he will point out that his actions are entirely reasonable; there are germs on everyone’s skin, are there not? There are poisons in everything, are there not? Are not the population who will not wash their hands a thousand times a day, and thus risk terrible infection and poisoning, the mad ones? Is it not his duty as father of the nation to save them from their disregard for their own safety.

    In other words, we are dealing with a madness of proportion. In one person, we call it OCD. When it afflicts an entire ruling class, we call it wise precautionary government.

    The king is mad! Down with the king!

  • Anaphylactic

    Sadly, big corporations have used their freedom to shovel all sorts of high performance chemicals onto the soil in the name of cheap food that has left us with degraded farm land and rapidly rising medical issues arising from the chemicals used. Agent Orange for the masses? Atrazine has some funny effects, and so do other things. Freedom for the big boys to chemically castrate the people is not Libertarian, it is where there is a function for government, if it choses to use it, and the UK largely does not.

  • Ian B

    Just to clarify, Anaphylactic appears to be mad as well.

  • Sam Duncan

    The trouble with stories like this is that the votes to ban X or Y at the EU level rarely gain a lot of coverage for more than a day or so, and then the issue tends to fizzle out, of interest only to obsessives and geeks like yours truly.

    Indeed. This “recent” lightbulb nonsense, for example, has been coming for years, but people only start paying attention now, when they can’t find 100W bulbs on the shelves. “Europe” is “boring”. The EU seems to have mastered the knack of stealth (over-)government.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Sadly, big corporations have used their freedom to shovel all sorts of high performance chemicals onto the soil in the name of cheap food that has left us with degraded farm land and rapidly rising medical issues arising from the chemicals used.

    If that is the case, how come life expectancy has been rising in the West in recent decades? As a farmer’s son, I can tell you that the contention that the quality of the soil etc has been degraded in recent decades is largely rubbish; if that were so, I would have expected a dramatic drop in crop yields but that has not happened. In any event, the Greenie maniacs are also intent on banning GM crops which do not require chemicals.

    Freedom for the big boys to chemically castrate the people is not Libertarian, it is where there is a function for government, if it choses to use it, and the UK largely does not.

    Regardless of whether these substances are bad or not, as I said in my post, surely these things should be left to consumers to decide for themselves rather than for a government ban, which is the free market, pro-liberty option to take. It is not exactly rocket science.

  • Johnathan – you say that companies should be forced to list the chemicals they use on their packaging. Aside from not sounding particularly libertarian, is this to help inform “A busy populace, worried more about their jobs, mortgage or children”? If people can’t be bothered to understand this issue, I don’t see how they will be interested to write down the names of the chemicals, go home and research them on the internet, then go back and buy those items that contain chemicals for which the risks seem acceptable to them.

    It’s also worth noting that the article says nothing about adverse effects to consumers, just ‘health effects’ and water quality. I’m not sure my decision to accept a particular chemical on the carrots I buy in Hampshire makes it OK to poison a farmer and his nearest river in Lincolnshire.

  • Ian B

    As a farmer’s son, I can tell you that the contention that the quality of the soil etc has been degraded in recent decades is largely rubbish; if that were so, I would have expected a dramatic drop in crop yields but that has not happened. In any event, the Greenie maniacs are also intent on banning GM crops which do not

    Johnathan, you’re not thinking like a Green. Their definition of “degraded” is different to yours. They’re mad, remember. You think of soil quality in terms of its fertility and ability to nourish crops. They don’t. The basic idea was laid out in some book by a madwoman who was one of the founders of the Soil Association whose name I’ve forgotten and I’m too lazy to Google, but which I read a while back, which states the belief that “natural” soil is inherently superior to soil with “chemicals” in it; that plants know the difference between “natural” nitrogen (for instance) and artificial “chemical” nitrogen (despite every atom of nitrogen being scientifically identical to every other atom) and such plants grown on it, although apparently normal, are mystically different inside, and that the food made from them, which may look identical, is actually mystically different and less nourishing (in a scientifically undefined way) than “natural” food.

    You can’t reason with these people and there’s no use trying. The “degradation” occurs in a mystical realm beyond science. It doesn’t matter what empirical proof you have, they know your artificial “factory” farmed carrots are intrinsically inferior to their “natural” ones, and nothing you say or do will change their minds.

  • Listening to the 10pm news on BBC1 last night, I understood that the EU parliament has not yet decided which pesticides to ban but it is planning to ban a lot.

    I also picked up the understanding there (which is repeated in the Times article that Johnathon references) that 22 pesticides are to be banned.

    Their plan (as reported) therefore strikes me as based on banning things, rather than banning bad things (or at least those things where the balance of good and bad effect is, on balance, the wrong way).

    How can it be anything but barking moonbat to govern on the basis that banning things, and with a specified level of banning, is good but it is unnecessary to determine first what to ban, and why?

    Best regards

  • That soils can become depleted is an uncontroversial fact. Modern farming deals with that using artificial sources of chemicals, whereas traditional farming uses natural sources of chemicals. I’m not a ‘green’, and don’t assume that the natural is better than the artificial. But if you remove the inherent fertility of the soil, as opposed to the fertility you can apply to it, from an assessment of the soil’s quality, then what you’re left with is the soil’s ability to hold the plant upright without sealing the roots. That’s an interesting criterium.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Paul, I did not say firms should be “forced” to put labels on grocery produce by the government. Read my words again. In this Green-conscious world, supermarket chains are already trying to pitch for the Green consumer by doing this sort of thing and as this sort of issue gains traction, such labeling will happen. Those firms that refuse to put any labels on their produce or say whether it is “organic” or not will either attract or repel some kinds of buyer. That’s how a market can and should work.

    It’s also worth noting that the article says nothing about adverse effects to consumers, just ‘health effects’ and water quality. I’m not sure my decision to accept a particular chemical on the carrots I buy in Hampshire makes it OK to poison a farmer and his nearest river in Lincolnshire.

    If you are talking about farmer A polluting the soil of his neighbour, such as another farmer, or a river, etc, this is an issue of tort that does not require sweeping bans on dozens of hitherto useful chemicals, Paul. Property rights get violated – that is why we have redress for such things, assuming there is provable harm.

    That soils can become depleted is an uncontroversial fact.

    Of course. I did not contest that. I contested the fact that modern chemicals used on Western farmland are having the sorts of damaging effects that the Greenies claim that would necessitate draconian bans such as this.

    In my native Suffolk, for example, there is no clear evidence that modern farming has had this effect; since WW2, when modern fertilisers became relatively commonly used, wheat yields have increased. You can now get about 3 to 4 tonnes per acre on a heavy-clay soil compared with say, only 2 tonnes per acre only 30 years ago. There is no sign, as far as I can tell, that such productivity increases are in danger.

  • Ian B

    Not usage of “artificial”, “natural”, “inherent fertility” and “applied fertility”. The meme is very widespread.

  • Ian B

    *Note, not not.

  • Nigel – Excellent point on the urge to ban. I’m in favour of banning (or at least controlling) harmful substances, but strong evidence of that harm is a prerequisite. The EU is adept at replacing evidence with assumption.

    Johnathan – my apologies, when you talked about a simple solution I assumed you meant it as a positive action, rather than what it seems you meant; the simple solution *for the government* is to do nothing and trust that the market will sort it out (a point I don’t necessarily disagree with).

    Property rights are great, but they don’t necessarily handle a situation like this. First you have to scientifically prove the carrying capacity of the river, i.e the point at which it can’t safely handle the cumulative discharge of the pesticides in question. We’re already in a quagmire there, because you have to work out what safe means, and what it applies to (is safe for humans but not for fish acceptable?) And getting proof for whatever standards you set is difficult, yet necessary; why should my actions be constrained because a scientist thinks there is a balance of evidence one way or another?

    Then you have to determine who has the rights to use that carrying capacity. Is it based on yardage of riverfront? What about people who don’t drain directly to it, but do so through another farmer’s land?

    Finally you have to determine who is harmed. How much should be levied against the polluters? Should fishermen be compensated for the reduced fishing yields? Should it be pro-rated according to the number of fish they used to catch, or a set amount per fisherman? What about if they used to eat the fish, rather than just fishing for sport? What about the impaired natural beauty due to a die-off of aquatic life? How much do I get for that as a hiker? Maybe all of it should go to whoever suffers actual physical harm, so long as they can prove beyond reasonable doubt that it was specifically due to the pollution. And if they can shouldn’t it be the farmer who exceeded the ‘safe’ level who pays, rather than all the farmers who contributed to it?

    Now repeat that exercise for every waterway in the UK, and also for every field, hedgerow, copice and verge. It’s a great theory, but the problem with theory is it’s not so hot in practice.

    Final point – yield is one great measure of the quality of the soil. But many people feel it’s insufficient; you can improve the yield of an acre of soil by concreting over it, sticking a roof above it and laying out hydroponic equipment. I’d argue that by doing this you haven’t made the soil better, even if you have improved its utility.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Property rights are great, but they don’t necessarily handle a situation like this.

    There are problems in proving harms of the sort we are discussing but then surely that applies even more to the case of bureaucrats/scientists, using quantitative models etc, deciding that whole categories of land have been, or are being, harmed by a pesticide or herbicide. Also, although sometimes difficult, the messy solution of leaving it to property rights is preferable, for the interests of an open, productive society as a whole, to banning whole categories of production method because of some small statistical risk factor. And given the history of environmental scares and the associated costs of said, I am particularly keen to focus as much as possible on ensuring decent standards of proof and harm.

    Final point – yield is one great measure of the quality of the soil. But many people feel it’s insufficient; you can improve the yield of an acre of soil by concreting over it, sticking a roof above it and laying out hydroponic equipment. I’d argue that by doing this you haven’t made the soil better, even if you have improved its utility.

    Well I use yield because in the absence of anything else, when a person says the soil or whatever is being “degraded”, which is a normative word in this sense, what else have we to go on? Soil is not something of intrinsic value. To pick up on the point made by Ian B, far too often, words such as “organic” or “natural” convey an almost religious sense. Soil is valuable to man because it grows stuff and if the quality of land is destroyed, so will its value go down.

    One of the best ways to encourage good, long-term use of the soil is through property rights and enclosure. Think “tragedy of the commons”.

  • Are these pesticide and fertiliser chemicals more harmful than starvation?

  • Ian B

    The problem either with a statist or tort solution is the problem of defining harm. If people get it into their head that one part per billion trillion is “harmful” then you’re up the swannee whether it’s crats or courts making the decision.

    So then you get into the question of who is going to decide what level is harmful. We could ask scientists, but unfortunately there’s increasing evidence that the kind of person who becomes an environmental scientist does so because they’re toxophobic and will thus urge ever more stringent definitions of harm because they’re, well, because they’re mad.

    So we’re stuffed really. I have no answers. As usual.

  • Paul,
    I think J-P knows of what he speaks. If a farmer’s son doesn’t know his er… onions then who does. I note especially that a great many “Organic Freaks” are middle-class urbanites. If they wanna pay top-dollar for manky produce then they can knock ‘emselves out. But please don’t make me do it. I regard “Organic” (the scare quotes are because I have an A-level in chemistry) as an example of societal decadence.

  • Kevin B

    Ian B

    Your ‘Mad King with OCD’ is a perfect meme for the EU commission and needs to be spread far and wide.

    Perhaps when your putative new media outfit is born you can include a daily column or segment in your rolling news show called ‘What the Mad King did today!’

    Failing that, send your idea off to Christopher whatisname, you know the guy who does the weekly anti AGW spiel in the Mail. God, my senescence is catching up with me today.

    Anyway, I shall be stealing your idea shamelessly.

  • Ian B

    It would be nice to somehow start an internets meme of associating the EU with Turkmenbashi.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Talking of memes, I want to start another: “capitalists in name only”, rather like “Republicans In Name Only”. The term applies, for example, to any business that applies, for, defends or requests subsidies, bailouts, tariffs, restrictions on entry, regulations, etc.

    Meme-fest time!

  • Kevin B

    Booker! That’s the chap. Christopher Booker.

    The other problem is that the commission aren’t all mad in the same way. One group obsesses over ‘impure’ vegetables and another obsesses over the correct way to make widgets and a third is forever pushing the heavy roller over the playing field to make sure it is absolutely level.

    I’m sure that some in each group think that the other groups are quite mad, but each group votes for the other’s loony ideas as a quid pro quo.

  • The other problem is that the commission aren’t all mad in the same way. One group obsesses over ‘impure’ vegetables and another obsesses over the correct way to make widgets and a third is forever pushing the heavy roller over the playing field to make sure it is absolutely level.

    I have a tendency to visualize the things I read, and this reminded me how I have been recently avoiding having work done by reviewing Monty Python sketches on Youtube. I haven’t seen The Department of Silly Walks for a long time, and suddenly it acquired an all new meaning. Your guy with the roller came very close!

  • DavidNcl

    No Kevin B they don’t all obsess in the different ways. It’s a limited set.

    It’s all about a yearning for prevention of change (which is seen entirely as decay from the perfect) and the imposition of order and perfection. There’s more but that’s the heart of the impulse.

  • Terry Colon

    Everything you eat is loaded with chemicals, natural chemicals. Plants themselves produce pesticides as a defence mechanism which are no less carcinogenic or toxic than man-made ones. We’re exposed to 10,000 times more natural pesticides than man-made ones each and every day. 99.99% of pesticides in our food are there naturally and the average person eats about 1,500 mg a day. Compared to 0.09 mg of synthetic pesticide residues.

    We ingest a wide variety of carcinogens and toxic chemicals in very small amounts in our food every day. All the same, the poison is in the dose, which is too small to harm us. Our bodies naturally detoxify themselves. That’s why we have a liver, kidneys, a pancreas, and so on. If not, you wouldn’t be here to read this.

  • Jerry

    I’m not sure this has been touched on here, but
    ‘organic’ or pure or green or clean or whatever farming
    is INCREDIBLY labor intensive for a FAR reduced
    crop yield.
    Don’t believe me ?
    Think of weeding and keeping various insects off of 40 acres of ANYTHING !!!!!!!!!!!!
    If the ‘powers’ have their way and there are mass banning of various chemicals,
    look for far more malnutrition, famine, starvation etc but what the hell – we’ll all be healthy and chemical free – at least those that survive will !!!!!
    Idiots.

  • Pa Annoyed

    One thing nobody seems to have noted much is this idea of any form of matter being “chemical free”. Do people not know what the word “chemical” means?

    Personally, I think the answer is to force the EU to extend the legislation to cover all the different substances that a detailed analysis could find in “organic” vegetables. Label them. Test them. Ban them.

    When the packaging for lettuce has to be expanded tenfold just to fit on the huge list of scary chemical polysyllabia, and all those terrifyingly inscrutable E-numbers like E140 and E160a and E460, they’ll either learn or starve. While regulation is a problem, it’s the selective regulation based on manufacturing method that’s at the heart of it. That and widespread ignorance.

    And it should be culturally acceptable for anyone thick enough not to know that everything they eat is made entirely from “chemicals” to be treated as educationally subnormal.

    They’re a total waste of E948.

  • Alsadius

    You’re being far too optimistic if you think people are pissy about gas prices because of taxes. Most blame Exxon, a few blame OPEC.

  • Johnathon – you’re right, it does apply every bit as much to government and its agents. That’s why I want to keep such things in the hands of government rather than the courts. Done using property rights, it’s only right to deal in absolute truths; if you feel you have been harmed you must prove the harm, prove the cause, and prove the exact amount you should be compensated. If you can’t prove these things then you haven’t clearly demonstrated your case, and deserve no compensation.

    In contrast we create government in part to deal with issues that are sufficiently large and complex that we can’t adequately quantify them, yet we know they require action. I haven’t yet seen the cost-benefit analysis that explained why we should go to war in Afghanistan, and how much we should spend there, yet I’ve no doubt it was the right thing to do (though done poorly). Similarly, though less dramatically, we know that some chemicals are sufficiently harmful that they should be banned. We make such decisions knowing that in some circumstances a particular ban could end up costing more lives than it saves, but also recognizing the human instinct that some things are serious enough that we can’t wait for absolute proof.

    My quibble with these regulations isn’t that they have no right to do this, but that they haven’t established that the risks are serious enough.

    You say that soil is not of intrinsic value, which is a statement I confess I don’t understand. I’d tend to argue that nothing has intrinsic value, but assuming we’re talking about value that isn’t particularly financial, then soil has value as part of the ecosystem. That value isn’t expressed in tonnes of grain, or in any other single measure, but there’s good reason to believe that life requires a certain level of biodiversity for us to continue (that’s not making a green point, just a practical one; if the world was us and concrete we wouldn’t survive long). I suspect it’s actually impossible to quantify that value to man, even while we know it is of value.

    The point I’m trying to make, and that it seems you support when you say that soil “is valuable to man because it grows stuff” is that increasingly soil *doesn’t* grow stuff, it provides a medium for holding a plant upright while chemicals grow stuff. That’s OK, I suppose, but it’s a strange distortion of what we’ve traditionally meant by the word ‘soil’.

    Nick – I’ve no doubt Johnathon knows his stuff, but that doesn’t mean I can’t know a fair amount too. After all, Johnathon has suggested that the average carrot consumer can develop an understanding of pesticides I’d expect to see in an undergrad in chemistry or medicine, plus an appreciation of risk and ecology at similar levels.

  • Ian B

    is that increasingly soil *doesn’t* grow stuff, it provides a medium for holding a plant upright while chemicals grow stuff.

    That simply isn’t true; or rather it isn’t a meaningful statement.

    The three primary requirements for plants are sunlight, carbon dioxide (from the atmosphere) and water. After that, a plant needs some other elements such as nitrogen, down to traces of molybdenum. It gets these from the soil. These chemicals are the same however they get into the soil; a nitrate is a nitrate. If the soil is depleted in some chemical, you can buy a bag of it and add some more.

    You’re creating an artifical distinction between “natural” and “unnatural”. A nitrate that happens to be there in the environment by accident is just a chemical, the same as the nitrate from a baggie. Farmers *modify* the chemical constitution of their soil to maximally benefit the plants they grow there. Soil, the most untouched soil in the world, is just a bunch of chemicals mixed up. That’s all it is. You can rotate crops to fix nitrogen (as nitrates) in the soil, or you can shortcut that process by adding some nitrogen (as nitrates) from a bag. There is no difference to what you end up with; soil that contains nitrogen.

    Your point of view is equivalent to saying that oxygen in the atmosphere has some intrinsic quality of “naturaliness” that oxygen from a bottle doesn’t have. They are the same thing.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    In contrast we create government in part to deal with issues that are sufficiently large and complex that we can’t adequately quantify them, yet we know they require action.

    That in a nutshell is what the late F.A. Hayek meant by the “fatal conceit” of socialism, and indeed of central planning generally. You are basically saying that because certain issues are complex that only governments can “deal with” them.

    I would stand that point the other way around: it is precisely because issues like pollution are complex that an approach that works with the grain of a system of dispersed property ownership, consumer freedom and flexible legal codes is the way to go. You are trying for a one-size-fits all approach. Who are you – or I – to impose a cost-benefit analysis on our fellows in this way? To be blunt – and I have been polite so far – your approach reeks of nannying.

    These issues involve trade-offs: trade-offs between less usage of supposedly damaging chemicals versus food production; the risks of chemical pollution versus lack of fresh vegetables, and so on. These are not black and white issues; they involve compromise. The trouble with the sort of approach you take is that there are folk in government that are supposedly smart enough to take a stand on these trade-offs and get those right. That’s nonsense. The temptation for governments will be the “precautionary one”: avoid mistakes, prevent scandals. That way lies stagnation. The Industrial Revolution would have been strangled at birth.

    After all, Johnathon has suggested that the average carrot consumer can develop an understanding of pesticides I’d expect to see in an undergrad in chemistry or medicine, plus an appreciation of risk and ecology at similar levels.

    No. What I am saying is that if supermarkets or other retailers of products want to label them for marketing reasons, fine. Many will because it makes economic sense for them to do so. You seem to be taking the rather paternalistic view that ordinary Joe Public is frankly too thick or lazy to figure out these issues and should let all that stuff be handled by scientists. The problem is that what happens is that high costs are lumped onto the consumer and there is very little information provided about why. And in fact we have seen in recent years, due to marketing strategies by firms, a lot of effort made in informing consumers about how the stuff they buy is made. It is not perfect but in fact a lot of data is provided. Sure, a lot of crap as well but that’s what happens in a free market.

    anyway, as I said, the track record of governments banning certain chemicals is poor. The case of DDT, and the subsequent re-emergence of malaria as a major killer, is a case in point.

  • TomC

    Clearly we need to define “soil depletion”. Here goes.

    2 main phenomena are of note, and appear to cause massive confusion, Paul notably.

    Firstly soil erosion. This is largely a result of overexploitation and poor husbandry leading to direct loss of the topsoil by the action of wind and water. In the 1st world it is not a significant problem and according to Bjorn Lomborg will amount to around 3% of soil in the next hundred years, easily offset by future productivity increases. For the 3rd world some development would enable them, like us, to prevent erosion and further food production.

    Secondly, what people here are referring too is actually long term loss of organic matter. This is the decaying plant material that makes up the “fourth constituent” of soil after sand, silt and clay. It disappears under aerobic conditions, being converted to soluble nitrogen which is taken up by plants, or lost in soil water; and gaseous compounds, lost to the air. In waterlogged soils with anaerobic conditions this matter will accumulate as peat. Drainage therefore increases organic matter loss – the Fens have lost up to 5 metres height in some areas from this.

    Lack of soil organic matter does not directly influence yield. Artificial nitrogen, phosphate and potash can be applied at a cost. It can be a problem in the poorest soils which lack enough clay to prevent erosion, but such soils are unproductive anyway and are better off growing grass or pine trees.

    It has nonetheless been portrayed by alarmists as a problem. Specialisation in agriculture has led to wall to wall wheat crops replacing traditional mixed livestock and crop farming, meaning animal manures are no longer available to maintain organic matter in such soils. But it is not a real problem. If it were then farmers would have to spend money on compost, or grow crops such as maize, potatoes and sugar beet that add more organic matter. So, organic propaganda debunked.

    Moving on to crop protection. First a correction in terminology: pesticides are the collective name for 3 main groups of plant protection products, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides.

    Certain crop protection active ingredients are in the process of being withdrawn, and this project has been ongoing for about 5 years now. The EU increased costs for chemical manufacturers to comply with and pay for their complex licensing procedures. Some products thus became uneconomic and were withdrawn.

    I don’t know why the present batch are being removed and if so whether there will be any real drawback. I am no longer a farmer; I sold up and am thinking of going to Colorado to join a mythical hidden community that uses gold coins for money instead.

    Lomborg notes that a study on a complete ban on pesticides estimates a social cost of 23 – 74 billion USD per year, or 1 billion per cancer deaths saved at present rates. 300 Americans die in their own bathtubs every year. Cancer from pesticide risk is negligible- 60 times less than 3 cups of coffee or one gram of basil per day. Worse, it is estimated there would be 26,000 surplus cancer deaths every year from people eating less fruit and vegetables because “Carrots just got a lot more expensive.” And all that just for the US!

    So environmentalist propaganda debunked. Great aren’t they, facts? Only don’t expect any from the fact-dodging statists.

  • perlhaqr

    Last time I was in Utah, all the gas pumps had a sticker on the side denoting what portion of the price per gallon was taxes.

    I wonder if the UK government would forbid petrol stations from placing those on their pumps. I can’t imagine it would inspire too much joy in the average citizen to see that 25p per liter was the actual cost of the fuel, and the other 75p were taxes on the fuel.

  • Nice post. Apparently, it just got out that carrots is a healthy food to include in your diet. Having said that, it can only mean that the demand for carrot just got up and you can also say the same for it’s price. If you have a vacant lot at home, then I guess it could be a little bit more healthier if you just grow it at home.

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