Organic Food Is Marketing Hype

Next Debate Previous Debate
Organic Food

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eating organic used to be a fringe commitment. Not anymore. The idea that the adage “you are what you eat” actually has merit – that America’s industrialized food system is making consumers – literally, consumers – obese, diabetic and primed for heart disease – has converted millions of us into pursuers of the American Organic Dream: Eat Organic To Live Longer and Better. But many aren’t buying it. Most consumers, for example. Although sales of organic food increased sixfold over the last decade, organics are still a tiny fraction of the food Americans eat. Perhaps that’s because organic food can cost up to twice as much as conventionally grown? Perhaps it’s because – as critics of the organic food movement argue – there’s just not a lot of solid evidence that going organic makes you any healthier. This side says the race by food makers to slap labels like “farm-grown,” “free-range,” and “all natural” is more about catching a fad than upgrading our food in any meaningful way. Should we all go organic, and pay the extra that it costs, because few things are more important than our health? Or is the organic movement, and the firms cashing in on it, hawking a hoax, or at least grossly overstating the biological benefits to be had when the chicken that we eat is raised with some more legroom?

  • For the motion

    For

    Dennis Avery

    Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues

  • For the motion

    For

    Blake Hurst

    Freelance Writer for Wall Street Journal, Wilson Quarterly, and the American

  • For the motion

    For

    John Krebs

    Principal of Jesus College, Oxford

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Charles Benbrook

    Chief Scientist of The Organic Center

  • Against the Motion

    Against

    Urvashi Rangan

    Director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union

  • Against the motion

    Against

    Jeffrey Steingarten

    Food Critic for Vogue Magazine

  • Moderator Image

    Moderator

    John Donvan

    Author and correspondent for ABC News.

More about the Panelists
See Results See Full Debate Video Purchase DVD Read Transcript
Listen to the edited radio broadcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Listen to the unedited radio broadcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Subscribe to the Podcast
Avery

For The Motion

Dennis Avery

Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues

is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues. From 1980-1988, he served as an agricultural analyst for the U.S. Department of State, where he was responsible for assessing the foreign-policy implications of food and farming developments worldwide.

Learn more
Blake Hurst

For The Motion

Blake Hurst

Freelance Writer for Wall Street Journal, Wilson Quarterly, and the American.

and his wife Julie raise corn and soybeans with 7 family members on a farm in northwest Missouri. They've farmed for over 30 years. Hurst is also a freelance writer, and has had articles published in numerous periodicals, including the Wall Street Journal, Wilson Quarterly, and the American.

Learn more
John Krebs

For The Motion

John Krebs

Principal of Jesus College, Oxford

Krebs is the principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and is the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency in the UK. He was appointed to the House of Lords as an independent crossbencher in 2007.

Learn more
Benbrook

Against The Motion

Charles Benbrook

Chief Scientist of The Organic Center

serves as the chief scientist of The Organic Center. He has worked in Washington, D.C. on agricultural policy, science and regulatory issues from 1979 through 1997. Benbrook served as the agricultural staff expert on the Council for Environmental Quality; the executive director of the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Research, and Foreign Agriculture, U.S. House of Representatives; and the executive director, Board on Agriculture of the National Academy of Sciences.

Learn more
Rangan

Against The Motion

Urvashi Rangan

Director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union.

is the director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union. Rangan joined Consumers Union in 1999 and developed the ratings system, database and website for evaluating environmental labels.

Learn more
Steingarten

Against The Motion

Jeffrey Steingarten

Food Critic for Vogue Magazine

trained to become a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Harvard Lampoon. For the past eight years he has been the internationally feared and acclaimed food critic of Vogue magazine.

Learn more

Declared Winner: Against The Motion

Online Voting

About This Event

Event Photos

PrevNext Arrows
    PrevNext Arrows

    3 comments

    • Comment Link Kurt Cash Friday, 20 December 2013 16:31 posted by Kurt Cash

      Well the results of this debate were very surprising. I think the panels on both sides failed to define what "hype" meant, which is quite standard in formal debates. The arguments FOR the motion defined hype by the claims of the organic food consumers (ie healthier, can feed the population, produces better tasting products) and the AGAINST motion was by the organic food industry (ie less antibiotics, less damage to the soil, problems with poop etc..). As one panelists FOR the motion mentioned, there are strict guidelines that organic foods must adhere to in regards to what claims they can make - consumers do not have these same requirements. Therefore there are two types of hype: Consumer and Industry claims. The definition of hype is quintessential to this debate and I hope that intelligence squared adopts this format for its future debates.

    • Comment Link Casey Brown Monday, 29 April 2013 01:02 posted by Casey Brown

      Starving to death is not healthy... So is going without vaccines, c-sections, and modern medicine in general - none of which are "organic".

      Many of us have poor diets, but this has more to do with excessive sugar consumption and purchasing convenience foods rather than fresh produce and lean meats (both of which are safer, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly when raised using modern techniques).

    • Comment Link Esther Lee Monday, 10 December 2012 09:05 posted by Esther Lee

      I believe that organic food marketing is not ALL hype. Eating organic food is very beneficial to our human bodies. We were not designed to ingest all of these pre-packeged chemically altered foods. Although organic foods are sprayed with pesticides, pre-packeged foods are made completely of chemicals and there is nothing natural about them. Organic foods have been proven to improve a person's general health. I believe that the foods we eat today are what's causing certain diseases such as diabetes, and possibly even cancer. I realize that we could never feed our entire nation strictly through organic foods simply because it require much more time and resources. Howver, you can afford to eat organic foods, you definitely should. Also, some pre-packed "organic" foods are not completely natural. If possible, you should buy from local farmers. Organic farming can improve our nation's enviroment and over all health. Organic food is not all hype and we can most definitely benefit from eating natural foods as we were designed to.

    Leave a comment

    Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated. HTML code is not allowed.