In The Omnivores Dilemma, Pollan comes to the conclusion that "industrial organics" is a contradiction in terms.  Why?

Expert Answers
kateanswers eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The term "industrial organics" is contradictory on two levels-- both in the literal meaning of the phrase and in its implications as an agricultural practice.

First, let's address the meaning of the phrase. Industrial refers to that which is entirely made and controlled by man. Typically, we use the word when we talk about machinery or mass-scale production of goods. In contrast, organic refers to that which is produced naturally, without human intervention. When we talk about organic food, specifically, we are referring to foods produced with as little intervention from humans as possible. "Organic" has come to refer to foods produced without pesticides, but as Pollan notes in his book, there is a lot of variety in the actual practice of organic agriculture.

The phrase "industrial organics" is an oxymoron because industrial and organic agriculture are at odds with one another in terms of how much human intervention is involved in producing foods. We can certainly refer to the mass-scale production of pesticide-free fruits and vegetables as "industrial organic," but this is disingenuous to what organic agriculture is really about. The movement in favor of organic agriculture has grown in response to the drawbacks of industrial agriculture-- environmental degradation, pesticide toxicity, and reduced diversity, to name a few. To advocate for industrial organic agriculture may seem a better choice but is essentially swapping one evil for another.

As I mentioned above, industrial organic agriculture has some practical issues. Any two farmers could be adhering to very different practices in raising crops they call organic. Without standardization of what it means to raise organic produce, the premise of mass-scale production isn't really feasible. Even with standards of organic agriculture in place, the degree of human intervention necessary to raise produce on a massive scale creates a system that is inherently industrialized. This brings us back to the original issue-- organic and industrial agriculture are two very different means of production.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question