So that is what Conventional Means

con⋅ven⋅tion⋅al
-adjective

  1. conforming or adhering to accepted standards, as of conduct or taste: conventional behavior.

I think about the word conventional quite a bit, at least every time I go to a grocery store.  With the rapid growth of organic food over the last 10+ years, just about every grocery store has a good selection of the stuff, especially organic produce.  Walk into nearly any supermarket that caters to middle and upper income Americans, and you will see signs for conventionally grown produce and organically grown produce.

Growth of Organic Food Sales (in USD) Since 1997
Growth of Organic Food Sales (in USD) Since 1997

 Photo: Aude GUERRUCCI / AFP / Getty Images

Photo: Aude GUERRUCCI / AFP / Getty Images

Every time I see this it makes me think, “Since when did spraying harmful chemicals to grow the food we use to nourish our bodies become conventional?”  The best answer I have for that is during the 1950s. Although the use of pesticides goes back thousands of years, the real growth in use has occurred in the last 60 years.  Pesticide use has increased 50 fold since 1950.  About 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the U.S. with worldwide pesticide use about 5 billion pounds per year.  In 2008, the pesticide industry grew $52 billion.  With this strong growth, I find it interesting that the industry is so concerned about Michelle Obama’s organic garden at the White House.

This is not just for our food.  It is also what we put on our bodies.  “Conventionally” grown cotton is one of the most chemically intensive crops out there.  Consider a few facts:

What is even worse, we have essentially created a system where if people want to do something the “unconventional” (e.g. organic) way, they have to pay a tax.  This is not your typical government tax.  It is the tax the farmer/ producer must pay to get their product certified as organic.  This can cost tens of thousands of dollars and is often not feasible for small, local farmers who are growing their crops the old fashioned way.  In the short term, it pays to be conventional.

I have a novel idea.  How about we put a tax on the conventional products?  Let’s make them pay to be designated as carcinogenic and polluting. These fees could be used to support environmental and health groups doing things to clean up the mess created by these “conventional” products.

I think we should stop doing things that ultimately harm our planet, and ourselves because someone else says it is conventional.  I would encourage everyone to step up and lead the charge to change.  This could be starting a new type of company or quite simply supporting ones that are already doing great “unconventional” things.

“The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking.”
-John Kenneth Galbraith

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2 responses to “So that is what Conventional Means

  1. Great quote at the end there, Jeremy.

    It’s like the battle over electric v. gas engine cars…when do the interests of the nation and our planet become more important than the interests of a few big oil guys? One day, the good guys WILL win; good always prevails.

    Solid post, I like 🙂

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