“Green” food and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Rick Berman doesn’t like “green” food very much, mainly because of the Law of Unintended Consequences:

Consider the recent fuss about “pink slime,” which is basically just leftover beef scraps that have been processed to remove fat and kill bacteria. It’s practical — only about half of a cow’s carcass is immediately useable, and this is a way of utilizing food that might otherwise be thrown out.

Unfortunately, the media feasted on pink slime, and the resulting slurry of biased coverage caused production to shut down at several plants. Several retailers won’t use it anymore. Now an estimated 1.5 million more cattle may have to be slaughtered to make up for the loss of “pink slime.”

Where’s that land going to come from? And where will we grow all the crops to feed these animals? Will we have to clear a few forests or rainforests?

Hmm. Seems like nobody thought of that before, and just demanded change right now! Shocking, eh?


If we did things purely by “organic” means and rejected synthetic methods, we could only support a world population of about 4 billion people. And if you think needing an additional 1.5 million cows to replace “pink slime” sounds like a lot, we’d require 1 billion more livestock for just the U.S. to replace synthetic nitrogen (plus 2 billion acres to plant feed crops for these animals).

They’re his facts and his claims, and I really have no knowledge about this issue, but it sounds about right to these ears.

If chemicals are dangerous — and I have no doubt that some of them are, in large doses, or when consumed too often — it is still possible that, in terms of net benefits, we are in fact wealthier and healthier by using them, from the efficiency we gain. Cheaper food = wealthier people. More plentiful food = healthier people. These are questions we need to ask before we rush headlong off a cliff. It’s how adults solve problems.

For one well-known example, see the hysteria around Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring”, which led to the creation of the EPA and the banning of DDT, and much of the environmental movement, but it turns out that banning DDT has led to the deaths of countless millions of people from malaria around the world. Is that really a good trade? I’d say no. What say you? And that is just one example of what happens when we make policy decisions based mostly on emotion.

Again, I am sympathetic to the idea that chemicals might be dangerous in large enough amounts. But that’s what your immune system is for, right? And you can’t possibly eliminate every single chemical from your environment. Our power to control our world is limited.

So here’s what I decided a few years ago: keep your immune system strong by eating fairly well and getting some exercise and some sunlight and fresh air, and just try to enjoy whatever time you have left, and just roll the dice. Because who are we kidding, life is really just a roll of the dice anyway. We pretend that we are in complete control of our lives, but then sometimes things happen despite our best-laid plans. It’s just how it works.

And some of you should quit worrying about every damn thing we eat, drink, and breathe, you people are stressing me out over here. And you aren’t doing your immune system any favors either, and you might need that someday. Also, go for a walk today, and breathe some fresh air and get some sun and Vitamin D. You’ll feel better.


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