Your Expensive Organic and Non-GMO Foods are Harmful to Animals

As someone who cares about animals and social justice, I've become increasingly concerned with some recent food trends which are unhelpful, not very evidence-based, and perhaps actively harmful.

Though I ultimately believe our personal consumption choices are not very important to focus on, still, more broad sentiments and ideas can be very impactful in the long term. In this particular case, I'm largely concerned about how certain food labels or attributes are given undue priority plus weak reasoning to support their value.

More specifically, I'm talking about how "organic", "natural" or "non-gmo" are seen as inherently and good qualities for a food or product. This prioritization of labels is not benign, and I argue is actually harmful for both human and nonhuman animals.

In terms of direct harm, the reality is that organic farming uses pesticides. They also aren't necessarily less harmful to insects or other animals. In fact, because organic production systems are, on average, less productive than conventional farms, this could actually mean more land needed to create the same amount of food.

Though converting some land to farm land isn't always entirely bad, most people would not like the idea of reducing the habitat of wild animals in order to satisfy their food preferences.

More indirectly, the organic and non-gmo labels function as a way to identify less price-conscious shoppers and justify higher price premiums on products. It's part marketing, and part consumers with surplus income trying to purchase extra value by looking to more "premium" or "socially valued" foods or items.

Companies then purchase higher priced (and as mentioned earlier: less efficient) ingredients, charge even more of a premium, and make their items more expensive and less socially accessible. This disproportionately affects people of lower income, and makes eating animal-friendly foods more challenging.

Vegetarianism or veganism shouldn't be an exclusive club with high entrance fees and bad science. Mainstream food trends, including organic and non-gmo, which reinforce either of those aspects should thus be called out and cast out.

Though we all rely on psychological "shortcuts" to make decisions in our lives and we all place value on social signalling, if we rely too much on shortcuts, autopilot, or unquestioned and unsupported social conformity then we do everyone a disservice.