Not true. Social, health and environmental costs are not included.
The more technology and chemicals are used in farming, the cheaper our food. At least that is what the food industry keeps telling us. They insist that without industrial agriculture, our food would become prohibitively expensive. But our supermarket receipts exclude a whole array of hidden costs, such as higher taxes, increased medical expenditures and the bills for chemical clean ups.
The damage to the environment is perhaps the most glaring omission in the price calculations. The intensive use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser pollutes the soil, water and air. Additional pollution is caused by increased transport. If iceberg lettuce is flown from the Europe to North America, 127 calories of energy are needed to cover the cost of the fuel to export one calorie of lettuce. This is excluding the energy-guzzling packaging, cooling and distribution processes.
Meanwhile, industrial food is driving up health care costs (see Myth 2), also not included in the price. Nor could they be, because no price can be put on the pain suffered by millions of people who have contracted cancer or heart disease because of their food. Then there are the work-related accidents in the farming sector. While American industry reports an average of 4.3 work-related deaths per 100,000, that figure is six times higher for workers in the farming and fishing sectors.
There are also the social costs due to the disappearance of farming businesses. There were 22 million farmers in 1957 when six European countries introduced their first common agricultural policy (France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg); now there are only seven million. In a little over 50 years Canada has lost three quarters of its farm businesses, most of which were family farms. Communities’ economies have weakened. The current price of food does not include the costs of social security and other government spending to keep these ex-farmers afloat.
Taxpayers in Europe, the United States and Japan foot the bill for the billions of dollars/euros/yen spent on industrial agriculture subsidies, including price supports for product promotion. American taxpayers paid US$1.6 million so that McDonald’s could sing the praises of its Chicken McNuggets in Singapore.
Organic farming can pare down many of these costs. If the use of pesticides and chemical fertiliser is renounced, the damage to the environment and people’s health will be radically reduced. Small-scale farming can help the economy in rural communities to recover and create jobs.