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business models, strategies and technologies

Rethinking compartmentalisation of farming

“Organic” farming usually gets labelled the “good guys” – fairly uncritically. The CONCITO think tank reckons environmental impact is a better guideline – so perhaps we should rethink our lazy labelling

I recently read an interesting piece from Torben Chrintz, the quirkily designated “Chief Knowledge Officer” at CONCITO, Denmark’s so-called “green think tank”. Torben Chrintz is apparently the mastermind behind many of this think tank’s analyses of the global climate effects of consumption. He is also described as a “hobby farmer”, which boosts his credibility a wee bit compared to all the academics in the ecosystem of Danish quangos.

Organic idyll

Organic idyll

Environmental impact more meaningful than “organic”

Chrintz’s basic point is that organic certification doesn’t involve any accounting for environmental impact, and that environmental impact is a much more useful measurement of “good or bad” farming practices than “organic” or “conventional”. Products may well have been grown or raised under organic conditions, but if (for example) they’re sourced from the other side of the world the CO2 emissions and environmental impacts of getting them to market far outweigh any economic or biological benefits.

The laziness of labelling

I can’t help feeling that there is a whole legacy of lazy communication behind all this. The journalistic juggernaut of eyeball-capture headlines and quick soundbites makes it much easier to slap on black/white labels that over-simplify the discussion and ultimately render it useless.

The CONCITO “green” isn’t the answer, either, because it’s been so blatantly  hijacked by bureaucrats and PR/ad agencies as a mindless whitewash. The real issue lies in the mindset, not the label – be it good or bad.

Thinking based on uncritical labelling/pigeonholing seems to represent intellectual laziness and commercial convenience, and also reflects a whole legacy culture of communication based on pre-packaged perceptions. I’d argue for a rethink about how we describe business practices, focusing on the particular facts and mindset behind each individual company or farm and what they do, rather than the lazy agglomeration of semi-deceptive labelling.