How to Make Organic Food Cheap

Question: Do you have faith in consumers?
\r\n

\r\nJeffrey Hollender: I have faith in consumers, but will never \r\ndepend upon them to solve all of the challenges that we face.  I mean, \r\nyes, the marketplace is important, and there are more and more consumers\r\n every year buying green and sustainable products.  That’s a good \r\nthing.  But consumers face some fundamental challenges. 
\r\n
\r\nWhen I talk to young people, they constantly ask me, why are the good \r\nthings expensive and the bad things cheap?  We have created an economic \r\nconstruct through rules and regulations and tax codes that allows \r\nbusinesses to escape from most of their negative impacts. 
\r\n
\r\nSo, if you're an automobile manufacturer and you sell a car that gets \r\npoor gas mileage and that poor gas mileage creates a lot of air \r\npollution that translates into increased asthma, allergies, cancer—you \r\nas a manufacturer bear no responsibility for those negative impacts.  \r\nThose negative impacts are dumped onto society and we pay those negative\r\n impacts as a society. 
\r\n
\r\nNow I think that if you’re going to do bad stuff, if you’re going to be a\r\n farmer and use pesticides that pollute the groundwater, you should have\r\n to pay for all of those negative impacts.  And if that was the case—if \r\ntraditional growers of food paid the full cost of soil erosion, water \r\npollution, adverse health affects on their farm workers because of \r\nexposure to pesticides—something quite amazing would happen; organic \r\nfood would cost half the price of what traditional food would cost.  And\r\n we wouldn’t ask consumers to make a very difficult decision, which is \r\ndo the right thing, make the right choice, buy the sustainable product, \r\nbut don’t get any financial benefit for making that choice.
\r\n
\r\nSo, ultimately we have to change the system.  We have to change the \r\neconomic landscape so that business and consumers are all aligned and \r\nincentivized to make the sustainable choice.  You shouldn’t have to pay \r\nextra to buy a hybrid car.  You shouldn’t pay extra to buy organic \r\nclothing.  Those products are better and more sustainable and more \r\nresponsible for the planet and they should cost less.
\r\n
\r\nRecorded on June 11, 2010
\r\nInterviewed by Jessica Liebman

If growers of food paid the full cost of soil erosion, water pollution, adverse health affects on farm workers, organic food would cost half the price of traditional food.

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