Only Organic Promotes Chemophobia in #NewMacDonald Delusional Utopia, Throws Itself a Failed Twitter Party

“Old MacDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O, and on that farm he sprayed some crops, E-I-E-I-O, with some GMOs here and a pesticide there, here a spray there a spray, everywhere a spray spray?”

These bizarre lyrics are among other newly-created words to the beloved song. In a video by Only Organic, a consortium of organic producers, the song is turned into a dystopian vision juxtaposed with an unfeasible organic farming utopia. See the video here:



Scientist and food and agriculture writer Dr. Steve Savage addresses Gary Hirshberg, Stonyfield Farm founder and Only Organic spokesperson:

Sorry, Gary, but this depiction of mainstream farming is not “playful.” … It is a malicious distortion that demonizes the work of the small minority of citizens who still farm.  It is designed to make consumers believe they must buy organic food to be safe and responsible.  This is hate speech for profit!  The indoctrination of the child actors only makes it more despicable.

Only a tiny fraction of rich world citizens have any direct knowledge of, or interaction with farming.  Thus most people have no base of personal experience from which to assess the validity of the emotive images that are used in these manipulative campaigns.  Anyone who has actually spent time on farms and interacting with farmers knows that real farming is nothing like what is portrayed.

Indeed, the New MacDonald vision is so extreme, and paints such a false dichotomy, even organic farmers took offense. My regular readers will know that I am staunchly pro-biotech, and have chosen to boycott the organic industry. This type of proselytizing has served to reinforce my position that the organic industry has no redeeming qualities in its current state. I stand by my stance that organic agriculture, especially if used exclusively, will fail to feed the world’s growing population and will squander the earth’s resources.

On Wednesday night, blogger Leah Segedie and Only Organic hosted a Twitter party to celebrate this new so-called movement. Farmers, scientists, science advocates, and writers were among those who did an excellent job of crashing the fallacious bash.

First, here are a couple representative tweets from the Only Organic “side.”

Wait, I wasn’t aware that this was a war. Also, anytime you see the words “toxic chemicals,” be wary of unfounded chemophobia.
Chemicals. Everything is made of chemicals.

And here, some of my favorite Tweets opposing the New MacDonald movement.

Dr. Channa Prakash, Ag Bio World founder, ag biotech pioneer, and joker extraordinaire, points out that organic farming uses plenty of pesticides


Amanda aka Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her family grows and eats conventional and GE crops.


Food Hunk sort of breaking character, but not really?
Food Hunk sort of breaking character, but not really?


Chow Babe defending her pet apple. Disclaimer:  There are no GMO apples on the market yet, but the non-browning, less wasteful Arctic Apple was recently approved by the USDA!
Chow Babe defending her pet apple. Disclaimer: There are no GMO apples on the market yet, but the non-browning, less wasteful Arctic Apple was recently approved by the USDA! I can’t wait to buy and eat them.

Finally, some favorites from Yours Truly.

Traditional hybrid breeding methods aren't considered "GM" but are pretty imprecise compared to modern genetic modification techniques
Traditional hybrid breeding methods aren’t considered “GM” but are pretty imprecise compared to modern genetic modification techniques
Have you ever considered what "sustainable" means? If it means efficient use of resources, organic farming as per today's regulations can't achieve sustainable ag.
Have you ever considered what “sustainable” means? If it means efficient use of resources, organic farming as per today’s regulations can’t achieve sustainable ag. Also, I like this song.
Radiation mutagenic varieties are allowed as per organic regulations. For example, ruby red grapefruits were created by shooting radiation at plants to cause genetic mutations, hoping for desirable traits. Voila, ruby reds.
Radiation mutagenic varieties are allowed as per organic regulations. For example, ruby red grapefruits were created by shooting radiation at plants to cause genetic mutations, hoping for desirable traits. Voila, ruby reds. Chemical mutagenic techniques are also allowed in organic. Meaning induced mutations (random, not precise like in GMOs) are also allowed in organic. Arbitrary if I do say so myself.
Ah, propaganda.
Ah, propaganda.


Long story short, this is just another confirmation of what I call The Myth of the Altruistic Organic Industry. Until next time….

Update: Here is a nice analysis of how hard we crashed that party from NODEXL.

Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy is a mom of two, co-Executive Director of March Against Myths, public speaker, Forbes contributor and author in Madison, WI. She is also co-author of "The Fear Babe: Shattering Vani Hari's Glass House". Follow her on Facebook and twitter @ksenapathy

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  1. I find myself in a very weird place in these debates for the following reasons:

    1. I’m not just not against GMOs, but am in fact pro-GMOs. However, I am an anti-Capitalist, or Socialist, and as an extension am no fan of Monsanto… at all… or most other large corporations, for that matter…

    While I think much anti-Monsanto propaganda is exaggerated and perhaps even false, Monsanto still engages in the same predatorial, corrupt, Libertarian business practices that I abhor (just like the oil industry, Wal Mart, and so on). I’m not against people making money; I’m just against people making money by screwing over others. I’m against “buyer beware”; I believe the market should instead operate on “seller beware”.

    2. I am very happy to purchase GMOs and don’t think they are as dangerous as claimed. But I’m a huge supporter of detailed, accurate labels. In fact, I have been working on a draft of a bill (more fantasy then reality, but I may still submit it anyways… maybe Elizabeth Warren will like it… assuming I ever finish it, that is… these things are hard) that would strengthen current labeling laws to the extreme. It would leave current labels generally the same, but with two exceptions:
    a) including a link on the package to an online nutrition label that includes everything the USDA nutritional database includes, accurate to 3 decimal places (or otherwise a direct copy of the USDA database),
    b) whether or not the food is GMO.

    It would also remove those loopholes that allow alcohol, movie theaters, kosher establishments, smaller restaurants, imported beverage and food products, and even food trucks and stands from not including detailed, accurate nutrition facts.

    I keep track of calories and nutrition (not for dietary reasons… started out that way, but after I achieved my dietary goals, I’ve continued to keep track out of fascination, curiosity, and interest… I actually enjoy getting the information; and I adore the USDA nutrition database; and yes I’m fully aware of the problems with the information, as calories and nutrients and such change with processing, and simple cooking is itself a form of processing), and I’m not the only one to do so. More accurate labeling and information would be very helpful in this aspect, and in general.

    On top of that, if I’m actually looking for a GMO product (such as fortified rice, those apples you mentioned that I’m also excited about, lab-grown meat [this is something I’ve been following since it was first announced that they were attempting to grow hamburger meat from stem cells, and I can’t wait to see how this progresses… a future where all animal products, including eggs and dairy, are created in the lab, without harming animals, is very exciting to me], etc), how am I supposed to know if that’s what I’m getting if it isn’t labeled?

    Basically, it’s a right-to-know thing. If the consumer wants to know a piece of information, I believe the producer has a duty to provide that information, regardless of whether they want to or not. That means if I want to know how much sodium, calcium, and iron I’m getting from my glass of Glenlivet (even if it’s very little or actually none), or I want to know how many carbs, sugars, fibers, and fats that I’m getting from that movie theater pretzel, they can’t say to me “sorry, but we don’t have that information.” What they can say is “we are currently gathering that information, and have put you on an email list dedicated to keeping you up-to-date-to-the-day on our progress”… or something like that.

    On a separate note, I read your awesome article on why you’re boycotting the organic industry, and I was hoping you could provide some suggestions…

    I shop at Whole Foods for a couple very specific reasons:
    1. Couscous. I can get a hell of a lot of couscous, which I adore, from Whole Foods. I don’t have to get that boxed stuff… I can fill a bag. I’ve yet to find anywhere else that does that.
    2. Mushrooms. Except for online stores, I’m having trouble finding anywhere else that stocks chanterelles and black trumpets and king trumpets and king oysters and maitake and even the occasional truffle that isn’t an online shop with insane shipping charges. I adore mushrooms, and want to try all of the edible ones… but most places I’ve looked at so far only get as “gourmet” as shiitake and oyster. And the vast majority of places don’t branch out further than white, portabello, and crimini.

    Do you have any suggestions besides Whole Foods where I can find couscous for $3 a pound or less and all kinds of exotic mushrooms? I’m in New York, by the way… Long Island, to be exact.

    1. I think the “right to know” argument in favor of GMO labeling is problematic. Do you have a right to know something about your food that has no effect on your health? Do you have a right to know that your food is Kosher? Halal? Do you have a right to know that a magician with a sorcerer’s hat waved a wand over your food and said it was magic? Whether or not a food is GE similarly has no effect on your health–it’s something the consumer can choose to pay to know if they want, but don’t pass the labeling cost to me.

      1. Why is health the only reason you think food should be labeled? Why isn’t food ethics a valid reason for labeling?

        I am asking not because I’m for or against mandatory food labeling (I’m pretty indifferent to it), but out of genuine curiosity around why health is deemed the only worthy reason for labeling foods.

        1. Ethical labeling happens all the time (dolphin safe tuna, free-trade, vegan, etc.) but those are not mandated by the government although the definitions of such labels may be laid out by the government. In that way they are similar to non-nutritional dietary labeling (halal, kosher, vegan again, etc.) that do not change the actual nutrition of the food.

          The thing is that ethical labels can be easier to force by market pressures, after all no tuna manufacturer wanted to be without the dolphin-safe label because it truly did hurt their sales.

          The problem is GMO labeling does not have the obvious benefits of an ethical label and the proponents are forced to propose a Pascal type wager of “what if we are wrong?” about safety and to back that up with dubious assertions to try and force government mandated labels. In fact, I believe they could actually make a better argument for an ethical label, and the voluntary measures that some producers have started actually read more like ethical labels, and I believe they should stay that way unless compelling evidence comes out to warrant governmental intervention.

          1. The problem is GMO labeling does not have the obvious benefits of an ethical label and the proponents are forced to propose a Pascal type wager of “what if we are wrong?” about safety and to back that up with dubious assertions to try and force government mandated labels.

            I’m afraid I don’t follow what you’re saying here. Which proponents are you referencing?

            Anyway, you didn’t really answer my question, which is why health is deemed worthy of government intervention in labeling but ethical concerns are not.

          2. I’m not saying that the government couldn’t concern itself with ethical labeling, just that I believe market forces can do a better job at addressing them in a fair way for the reasons I’ve stated.

            If the government has what it feels is an ethical issue with an industry or an item (fat chance at that, but I digress) they would most likely create an embargo on said product (conflict diamonds and ivory are two non-food examples) rather than force labeling.

            As to the other part: Ethical issues that might call for labeling have a demonstrable effect in the world even if that effect is emotional, but they do not effect the health and safety of the general public (the human public anyway, which may seem unfair), as opposed to the required labeling for things that affect small percentages of the population (warnings about phenylalanine for example).

            Let me put it this way, if a practicing vegan eats a non-vegan item, the only harm will be to their conscious or soul or whatever they would call it but their physical body will be just fine (not saying feeling aren’t important, but I don’t think you would suggest we legislate food laws according to feelings). GMO labeling is, at this point, no more than hand-waving and what-iffing that is backed up by overreaching claims of agri-business run amuck and fears about possible, as yet un-demonstrated, risks to the public.

            That is why I say they are concerns more along the lines of ethical concerns (until such time as health and safety issues can shown to have merit) which I in turn believe are best handled by market pressure.

            It is actually one of the areas where I truly believe that market solutions work best.

        2. That’s a good question, Will. I just don’t think that GM is an ethical concern. The term “GMO” in itself is arbitrary. Some artificial genetic enhancement techniques are considered “GMO” while others aren’t, but it’s a matter of semantics. To simply label something “ingredients produced with GM tech” wouldn’t say anything about ethics.

          1. I’m going to have to rethink this. The arbitrariness of GMO is not something I’d considered in the past. I know it’s a very general term, but I always assumed there was just enough specification that people would understand it.

            But you’re right. Thinking about it now, technically, there’s not much we eat that isn’t GMO, if you include artificial selection (and I see no reason not to).

            So I’m going to back off on the labeling of GMOs specifically. Perhaps it looks more like “labeling for inclusion of DNA” than I originally assumed.

          2. Nathan,

            “But you’re right. Thinking about it now, technically, there’s not much we eat that isn’t GMO, if you include artificial selection (and I see no reason not to).”

            Yes! Also, there are other ways foods we eat are genetically-enhanced beside artificial selection that aren’t considered “GM.” I’m glad I was able to get this across. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions.

      2. but don’t pass the labeling cost to me.

        Little, if any, cost would be incurred if the extra ink on the label were simply to say “go to our website for more in-depth information” (or an even smaller amount of text conveying the same info), which is the basic idea. Many labels already include such a statement. My goal is simply to expand that to all food. I’m not saying to change labels to such an extreme extent, but instead to provide the more in-depth, detailed information on the website, and make sure the consumer knows they can find it there.

        I wasn’t clear about that, however, and I apologize for that.

        1. Do you seriously believe that added regulation would cost little to nothing to implement? Perhaps the label wouldn’t change much but who updates the websites, compiles the exact information, and tests the products for compliance? Costs would be incurred I assure you.

          I’m not against labeling but I believe it should be voluntary, as is already happening without government compulsion.

          It’s weird, I’m not one to lean heavily on the invisible hand, but this is one situation where I truly believe market forces will work best because there is no scientific need for the label (therefore indicating no need for government intervention) but the labels are wanted by a certain segment of the market. Having a non-governmental body certify companies that wish to comply and for those costs to be passed on only to those who wish to use them is the best overall solution.

          1. 1) There is no such thing as the “invisible hand”. That’s a libertarian lie. “Market forces” are a very thin cover over the reality that the market is basically controlled by the major corporations. They tell us we vote with our money, but if that was true, Wal Mart, for example, would not be able to shut down small business in minor competition with them through legal force (offer to buy-out, put on pressure with lawyers when buy-out’s refused, put on pressure with local and, if needed, federal officials), as they’re wont to do.

            The power the big corporations have over the market and over our government effectively nullifies any actual “vote” you have as a consumer.

            Further, the “invisible hand” does not take into account situations where choice is non-existent. The kosher market, for example, is not really regulated by any of the government industries, as it’s a counts as a religious exemption. So there’s no alternative to “vote with your dollar” if you keep kosher.

            2) I would like to introduce you to the USDA Nutritional Database. It’s already being done. All that would change is the amount of traffic the site gets from retailers compiling the needed information. Providing that information to consumers would not all change the way it’s already done… a lot of places already provide nutrition facts online. This is just increasing the size of the label on the product page. The cost will be miniscule at best and covered by taxes already being paid; any increase in price would be a result of greed, and not a legitimate increase from the cost of including some extra information on the product page.

          2. As an over-arching concept I agree that the invisible hand is not real (I used it here as a rhetorical device), but I do believe that there are limited applications for market forces. Since there is no current scientific validity behind the push for GMO free labeling (unless I have missed them, I have only seen emotional appeals and fear mostly) it should stay voluntary and the costs should be absorbed by the very consumers who want that labeling.

            As for the FDA Nutritional Database, it does not currently include information on whether a food contains GMO or GE. The more data that has to be collected the more it will cost and that cost would be spread to all consumers (or would have to be absorbed by the government, taking money away from other programs). Since there is currently no valid reason for the labeling beyond the simple want of some consumers I have a problem with forcing all consumers to pay for it. The voluntary option that is starting to take hold addresses this nicely without more regulation and with the consumers who want said labels footing the bill. Not exactly invisible hand, but market pressure non the less.

            I would feel differently if there were any compelling proof that GMOs cause health or safety concerns, if any arise I would be more than willing to reevaluate my stance.

          3. I’m convinced by this conversation that insisting on GMO-labels specifically is indeed useless. Kavin is right and I was wrong. GMO is way too broad a label, because in a very basic sense it applies to everything we eat and drink, “organic” and “GMO-free” claims be damned.

            You are right, as well, that as of yet there are no health reasons for it. I mean, science is still coming in… after all, it took the legalization of marijuana in some states to finally start noticing the less fun and more long-term side-effects, so you never know what the future will bring.

            However, it could easily be argued that we’ve technically been doing GM food and drinks for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, and it hasn’t been absolutely devastating for us, yet, so there’s no reason to think it will be in the future.

            I still want all food and drinks sold in the US, regardless of the particular food industry, to include nutrition facts and info and ingredients lists, so I’m still working on it. But I’m going to leave the whole GMO thing out of it.

    2. Hi Nathan, thanks for your thoughtful comment. So, this is how I think about labeling. I absolutely agree that labels are a good idea so that we, as consumers, can make the best choices for our health, avoid allergens, etc. But I don’t think labeling GMOs is relevant whatsoever. If we were to label GMOs, it wouldn’t make sense to label them, “Made with genetic modification,” or “contains GMOs,” or “this is a GM apple” or potato or papaya or squash or whatever. GM is a molecular breeding tool, not an ingredient. Sugar from a GM beet is no different than other sugar. GMO is also an arbitrary term. For example, although a Ruby Red grapefruit isn’t considered a GMO, it was created by radiation mutagenic method, which artificially induced mutation(s) that created the trait. Seedless watermelons aren’t considered GMOs, but they’re engineered to have an odd number of chromosomes (triploid) so that they can’t undergo meiosis (the process that creates gametes, the same process that creates sperm and egg in humans.) So, *if* we wanted to label breeding processes, it would only make sense to do it for all foods. E.g., Arctic Apples would be labeled something like “engineered to be non-browning with RNAi.” Chemical or radiation mutagenic foods, organic or not, or foods containing those ingredients would be labeled, “X trait created by chemical mutagens.” Or seedless watermelons, organic or otherwise, would be labeled, “created to be triploid/seedless.” And even foods that are considered by regulations to be “GMOs” would need more specific labels. Like the Arctic apple example. Or potatoes labeled, “Engineered to reduce bruising, waste, and carcinogens.” These types of labels would incur costs, but if people really want them, this is the only type of GMO label that would make sense because semantics aside, all foods except for wild mushrooms, seeds, and game have been genetically enhanced.

      As for an alternative to Whole Foods for those items, I will have to check! Do you have HyVees in NY?

      1. So what about using the printed label to say “GMO” and then going to the website to get more detailed information?

        HyVees… hm… I’ll have to look. I don’t know…

        1. Like I said, “GMO” doesn’t mean anything, as it’s an arbitrary term. Also, too bad about HyVee. It’s a great store, with a lot of nice bulk items at reasonable prices.

          1. Hm… you do make a good point…

            Yeah, I looked up HyVees… I wish I had that. Looks pretty amazing.

    3. “It would also remove those loopholes that allow alcohol, movie theaters, kosher establishments, smaller restaurants, imported beverage and food products, and even food trucks and stands from not including detailed, accurate nutrition facts.”

      FYI, alcohol is regulated by the ATF. So, you’re going to have the USDA, the FDA, and the ATF needing to work together to get such implemented.

      I have some experience doing quality assurance for the food industry and I can tell you that it is already an absolute pain in the ass to navigate the regulations set forth by the FDA as well as by the USDA. Adding another agency in here will create more confusion and does actually make it difficult to comply with laws.

      And don’t get me wrong, I like that there’s regulation. I was very much concerned about food safety, but it is simply hard to do the job effectively when I have to spend more time worrying about if a process has to be done as the FDA requires or if this time it’s based on the USDA’s regulations. There are actually some pretty massive gaps in food safety due to this. GMOs are honestly the least of my concerns.

      1. Actually, three different agencies with different regulations is part of the problem, IMO. All three of them should be under the same umbrella. If, for example, the FDA and ATF were part of the USDA, or all three were part of something else, or… yeah… that would help a lot, I think.

        I’ve been thinking a lot about this while writing the draft, which is part of why the damn thing is so hard. There’s a hell of a lot to navigate to make the labeling easier than it is today, and it would indeed mean a sea-change in how we regulate food and beverages to begin with.

        1. That was the point I was trying to make, actually. Having a single industry regulated by too many agencies with the same goal makes it very difficult. I’d really rather not include the ATF into this any further than it already is (especially when it is so poorly run due to GOP efforts to destroy them in fear of gun control). And, honestly, even though I love the idea of having just the USDA in charge of food safety in principle, in practice FSIS is one of the agency’s lower priorities and I doubt the FDA would be too thrilled at the prospect of becoming a smaller department.

          I found this article fairly recently, and it highlights a lot of important points about food safety and how the food industry works.

          1. Sorry. I wasn’t clear. I agree that there are too many agencies involved. I realize of course that alcohol is as much a drug as it is a beverage, and so needs those regulations, however. But I don’t think the way food and beverages (and drugs, for that matter) are regulated right now works.

            Like I said… this is proving to be the hardest part of what I’m trying to draft… trying to figure out how the regulations can be made easier to navigate while accounting for various variables like drugs (alcohol, marijuana edibles depending on the state you live in, etc).

            I did also say that what I’m drafting is more a fantasy then something I think could ever realistically happen… but it doesn’t hurt to try…

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