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I've talked extensively about organics in the past, and I'm going to wear you out with the topic again, those who stick with me. My background: biology background (microbiology, specifically) and a Master Gardener, which required extensive class and lab work surrounded proper gardening methods, IPM, understanding of the chemistry of botany, etc. etc. I'm not THE expert on all things growing/living, but I'm no chump with an idea I want to blab across the internet, either. (Well, I could be that last one, depending on your perception. Har.)

This is something that has baffled me for years. People who believe that organics are better for their body (regarding the nutrition content, not pesticides. READ THAT AGAIN. 'kay.) than commercially grown food. And this is absolutely untrue. How COULD it be true? Let's look at it logically:

Farmer A has Iowa soil, rich, verdant, plenty of rainfall. She puts in an acre of tomatoes. (Celebrity, we'll go with a common one.)
Farmer B in Iowa lives on the other side of the river, same soil profile, same rainfall. She puts in the exact same tomatoes.

Farmer A mixes in cow dung that's settled a bit (wouldn't want to burn your crops with too much nitrogen!) She top dresses the beds with compost and more manure and straw. And her tomatoes start to grow.
Farmer B mixes in Tomato Booster, a partially mechanically derived* fertilizer that has slow release capsules of Phosphorus so by the time the tomatoes form, there will be nutrients to get them large and in charge. She also top dresses her beds with compost and straw, some shredded bark mixed in because it's pretty.

*Do not tell me about something being natural and something being a "chemical." That's like saying someone's a person and someone's a human. EVERYTHING is chemical. Atoms -->Molecules? Put together? Chemistry = things on the earth essentially made of atoms, whether manufactured or grown.

Back to our farmers.

Farmer A has about 60% of the plants setting fruit. Close examination shows that she's got tomato hornworms chomping away at the plants. Egads! She's listened to the Horrors of Science her whole life, watched "Silent Spring," and refuses to use "chemicals" on her plants. She listens to a wealthy, aging hippie lady that set up an organic plant shop in town for something to keep her busy. This lady tells her of the evils of sprays for plants, and that the best thing for tomato hornworms is to hand pick them [shudder], otherwise she'll "infect" her crop with "chemicals." Farmer A gets her lazy, good for nothing son to turn off the XBox and get his happy little ass outside to pick those hornworms off. After he whines and makes her miserable, she agrees to pay him 50 cents a worm. He gets a bucket and heads out, thonking them in his pail every few minutes or so, because those buggers are HUGE and those buggers hold on. He wears out after he earned enough to buy Halo 3. Mmm hmm.

Farmer B has a good 90% crop coverage. That extra boost of nitrogen insured green growth, and when the soil and air hit the right temperature for flowers to set (right when the bees head to Iowa) that slow release phosphorus was there waiting. Boom! Little green beauties up and down the row. She's out there mucking more compost over the beds to protect the roots from the heat and see Farmer A's son out there with his iPod bouncing around like a loon, thonking worms into his bucket. "Hornworms!" she says. She starts examining her plants for the tell tale signs: stumps of stem, no leaves, no fruits. She sees that the back row, closest to the river, a handful of her plants have some hornworms getting going. She is not touching those nasty things because they feel like monster fingers.

She goes into town and heads to the feed store where the old timers sit and bitch about that socialist President, Barak HUSSEIN Obama. She rolls her eyes and wonders when the "Greatest Generation" is going to drop off, and heads to the IPM section (integrated pest management.) She grabs a 3 dollar bottle of BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) because that stuff kills worms. She doesn't want her earthworms kilt, so she gets her BT in a spray bottle. She knows that BT is essentially bacteria pee, and it's a crystal that eats away at the guts of the worms, killing them from the inside out. She makes an evil laugh as she sprays. It's as natural as can be, even though it's mechanically generated. It also was developed by Germans, fitting, she thinks. She whistles and sprays it on the worms, and comes back the next day to see no more worms.

In the end, Farmer A has less than 60% production because that's just how "organic" gardening works for everyone. You have to plant some for you, some for the critters, and some that won't grow. Farmer A sets up her produce stand with fancy Hippie/Woodstock lettering that exclaims proudly that her food is organic. She charges $4 for four tomatoes, on the vine. She gets some business, and the wealthy hippie lady tells her friends where to buy organic fruits. Farmer A wishes her son would stop robbing her blind so she could finally turn a decent profit.

Farmer B has a good 85% production because she forgot to put netting over the rows to foil the damn crows. They were singing about seeing an elephant fly, and she swore she'd lay off the sauce. She sets up her produce stand and sells her tomatoes for $2 a pint, about five or six tomatoes a pint. She sells out quickly because people driving by see $2 for home-grown tomatoes and they're happy. Who doesn't like tomatoes? Communists and hate mongerers, that's who. Probably Lutherans. Or is that the Unitarians?

So organic gardening methods DEFINITELY affect production. The quantity, the size of foods, that stuff. And not in the way you'd hope. And because it has such a low production rate compared to "commercial" methods, they pass that on to you, the consumer. One thing to note, and I didn't put that in our little story because they were home growers, not, say, Monsanto, which is evil. Fertilizers: they are HEAVILY MONITORED, ditto with pesticides. They are the ONE THING that the government actually regulates and manages on commercial farms. No, really. Wanna know why? Timothy McVeigh. (He used commercial fertilizer to make his bombs.) Now, that fertilizer that he used, incidentally, was concentrated swine urine. Ammonium 21. (On bags of fertilizer you have 3 numbers. The first is nitrogen. This stuff is 21-0-0. All nitrogen in the form of concentrated urine, ammonia. "That's some nasty ammonia piss." Now you know.)

The other thing that is monitored is WHEN you can put this stuff on. It has to have broken down before you can harvest. Every container of fertilizer and pesticide has a "days to harvest" indicator on the bottle. Next time you're at the store, check it out. That means that by the time you get your grapes, apples, etc. at the store, there IS no pesticide on them. Dirty hand goo? Dust from moving from truck to trailer to store? Yep. But there isn't pesticide, or if there is, it's trace amounts that should be broken down when you a) get them home and eat them the next day or b) when you wash it off. And organic bananas are stupid, people: do you eat the peel? No. Buy the cheaper ones. The only pesticide used is for banana spiders (shudder) and last time I checked, none of you are spiders. (Pesticides are specific: they kill how things eat and with what they eat. Do you have spider mouths? Nope.)

But the important thing was NUTRITION. Does Farmer A's tomatoes have more vitamins and minerals in it? Higher concentrations? Does Farmer B's have less because of those fertilizers and pesticides (BT) used? Absolutely not. Pesticides affect the digestive system of the insect/fungus/arachnid/mite it's meant to attack. That means it's not breaking down the molecular structure of your folic acid, it's not inhibiting the creation of Vitamin C. So mechanically engineered fertilizers and insecticides don't affect NUTRITION.

It's completely disingenuous to claim that organic foods will make you healthier by virtue of having more nutrition. Now. If you want to say that organic foods are better for you because they don't have pesticide traces that invade your body, I can kinda get behind that. You aren't really ingesting pesticides from commercially grown crops. Maybe from a home grower/small outfit that sells on the road side that doesn't know the rules about application, maybe.

If you want to talk about nutrition levels, we have to go back to the farmer's SOIL. DO they amend with organic matter - leaves, compost, manure. Do they only spray the leaves and leave the soil to be depleted? Are they like Monsanto and refuse to rotate their crops (which depletes nutrients from the soil) and don't amend the soil with good stuff, and engineer foods to bruise less but not maintain the same nutrient levels? That stuff is what isn't healthy for you, it isn't by virtue of one being organically grown vs. commercially grown.

But don't take my word for it. The Brits have always been leaders in developing better farming techniques and in getting to the bottom of this type of debate. Note the organics health review link at the bottom. All files you click on from there are pdf. Please note as well that the studies that have "shown without doubt" that organics ARE healthier (more nutritious) for you have been commissioned by.... the organic producers. That's no different than the Coal Coalition's paid/sponsored ads of "grassroots organizations" that claim clean coal to be the best way to do anything. Uh huh.

The Washington Post reported on this. The National Center for Biotechnology has also reported on this, using the British report as their jumping off point.

Next year's story: Farmer A is sick of mosquitoes so her hippie lady friend tells her all about the expensive (and organic! Completely natural!) misting system she had installed out by her back patio that mists Pyrethrin, a natural mosquito killer. Not realizing that Pyrethrin isn't particular about what it kills, which is pretty typical of "natural/organic" pesticides. (BT notwithstanding.) Pyrethrin will also rid your garden of those pesky bees, butterflies, wasps, the bluegill and lake trout out in her huge stocked pond, and her husband will sigh and wonder why the mallard ducks are gone, not knowing that it was his wife's need to be mosquito free. Because she's organic, nothing organic hurts people. *cough* Plutonium*cough*

Eventually, he leaves that dirty hippie and runs off with the plump, almost corpulent secretary at his office because she loves to laugh, to eat, and live, and isn't constantly spouting off as a know it all about stuff he doesn't care about. He wants a woman he can hold on to, if you know what I mean, and old Hippie Hairy Legs was a bean pole, not to mention that the shop she had to have to keep busy when the kids moved away was sucking him dry. Lol.

In conclusion, buy local, grow your own, save some money, and don't buy produce from China, because they use human waste in their "organic" farming practices, and it's PERFECTLY LEGAL. Yuck. Be concerned about huge growers like Monsanto and ConAgra who deplete the soil, grow nutrition less food in favor of larger crops (they're engineering food in a manner that doesn't maintain nutrition - and that is a type of engineering that's possible, too!) Be concerned about the environmental impact of pesticides, if that's your bag, but more importantly: don't buy food that has to be shipped from long distances. There's the REAL problem that could easily be solved, imo.

And Top Chef is back on tonight! And Project Runway! The two shows I love! WOOT. (Check how many times the chefs talk about locally available food - that's the new way to be eco-groovy. Food grown close, food in season.) I LOVE FOOD.

I've been reading some fantastic books lately, too. I finally got a copy of Let The Right One In and so far it's fantastic. The mood, the eeriness, even stronger than the movie, which I loved. I also picked up Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" based on The Daily Show's interview the other day and I'm sucking that down like Sumatra at 6am. Holy crow, is that a fabulously written and interesting book. I can't recommend that enough.

Lastly, from TEXTSFROMLASTNIGHT.com: (310): Fact: Godrick looks like David Archuleta Ahahahahaha! Yes, yes he does.


( 90 comments — Leave a comment )
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Aug. 20th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)

Seeing Top Chef made me happy. :-)

And I'd like to staple this LJ entry to the forehead of every person who tries to convince me that the organic label means a damn and that organic fruits and vegetables actually have a different nutritional content than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables of the same type.

Wanna help the environment/have fresher food? Buy local when possible. Even here in cramped ol' Massachusetts I have access to an embarrassing array of fresh fruit and produce from family-owned and small-scale farms that grow produce that's appropriate to the environment. Sure, oranges right off the tree are out of the question, but I defy anyone to beat those Concord grapes I used to pick right in my back yard when I was a kid. (YUM!)

And honey from a apiary located no more than 5 miles from where you live? Not only nutritious, but chock full of natural anti-histamines while also helping to inoculate you from local allergens (allergy shots work in a similar way).

Also: Maine blueberries now and forever, bitches!


One of these days I should post a very lengthy rant about why taking those herbal supplements may not be such a hot idea.
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:26 pm (UTC)
Can't wait for Daddy Tom! :D

Oy, people who get so up at arms over this topic who just aren't THINKING. And you're smack on with the local honey thing. Babies aren't supposed to have honey for their first year because people weren't getting that LOCAL honey is good for you, and honey from other places could introduce histamines that weren't local.

MAINE BLUEBERRIES. I am so jealous of that.

LOL at herbal supplements. My parents were naturopaths and were all about that stuff for years. When they tried to get me to take ESSENCE OF SILVER when I was pregnant, I said, "You think putting SILVER in my body is less damaging than a shot of Robotussin? Really??"
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Aug. 20th, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
Godrick looks like David Archuleta

Oh GOD, he does. Now I won't be able to unsee that. I can has more naked Eric plz?
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Isn't that horrifyingly spot on!?

Edited at 2009-08-20 02:42 pm (UTC)
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
What an amazing lady you are. Your posts always make me think, as well as laugh--the best of both worlds.

Thank you for your comments and links on the organic/nutrition debate. I am a Brit and have a Botany/Zoology degree. It does my heart good (antioxidants notwithstanding) that not everyone in the good ol' US of A is running around like a headless chicken. The comments on Monsanto and ConAgra are spot-on. You might recall the whole GM foods debacle over here a few years ago. The government back-pedalled fast on that one, not because the public believed farmers would be growing monsters that would be corrupting our own DNA but because of the potential damage to the soil and food chains.

As for the crazy idea that 'nutrients are toxins' that I've seen bandied about on the internet--When money talks, it's easy to frighten and persuade folk to move like sheep in a given direction. A well-educated populace is what's needed in order to tell them they're talking tosh. That's lessons in Real Science, folks. It's not the road to Hell: it's understanding how the whole planet works.

Sorry, I seem to have gone off track a little. It's either the pesticides or the hornworms in my brain.
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:48 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, well who wants to read about how farmers farm if you don't jazz up the stories? :D

I am not against GM food, especially when you consider how HELPFUL that can be to people in other countries. ANd I laughed long and hard at the idea that GM food would somehow infect human DNA. Um... how is that possible? Jurassic Park wasn't real, people! Lol.

You can go off all you want, you're clearly qualified to talk about this subject, so have at it!
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:51 pm (UTC)
Bookmarked, and I'll no doubt be coming back to this whenever I finally get around to buying a house and putting in a garden. Thanks!
Aug. 20th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
You bet! I have loads of gardening posts, all tagged from this one if they could help.

Now go buy a house and stimulate the economy! Hee.
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Aug. 20th, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
We already buy locally and grow what we can. Damn squirrels, as the only non furry creature owners on the block they target my tomatoes. I have given up. That just pisses me off.

I'd never thought about the natural anti-histamines in local honey. I need to eat more of it!

Keep me posted on Let the Right One In, I loved that movie!
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:10 pm (UTC)
Have you thought about going to Joanns (or other fabric store) and buy tutu material? (Netting) toss it over your plants and stake it down (or use clothespins on the tomato cage) and the birds can't get them. I've had to do that to my peach trees and strawberries.

So far the book is just fantastic. I'm only two chapters in, but I can't imagine it losing steam.
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Aug. 20th, 2009 03:09 pm (UTC)
I'd rather admit that I have the clap than admit ignorance on pretty much anything, but honey, this was very enlightening!

Thank you for beating the drum about the old 'natural' vs. chemical idiocy -- that's always made me crazy.

(That and Bank of America telling me how to save my money "in these tough economic times" through the magic of an ad campaign that costs enough to feed a significant portion of the population and build a Kiefer Sutherland Wing at Promises Malibu and was funded by my tax dollars?)

*froths at the mouth*

*falls over*

Aug. 20th, 2009 03:12 pm (UTC)

Oh my god, the use of "chemical" as a bad word! Folks, WATER is a chemical. Your SPIT is a chemical.

Oh laws, did you know that the insurance companies are spending 1.4 MILLION DOLLARS A DAY to run these anti-health care commericals/pr shit? THAT COULD BUY ANTI-MALARIAL MEDS. Jeeeeeeeeeez.
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:28 pm (UTC)
I think the locavore movement is laudable to an extent, but it's also an impossible ideal. I think it's pretty self-righteous as well and doesn't take into consideration the economic realities of most people's lives. I think what we're facing is the post-rural reality that most people can't even container garden because they're fifty generation city/town dwellers. It's not a new phenomena, but a semi-new one in the Americas.
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
I don't know about that - there's a burgeoning community gardening movement here in Toronto. We have immigrants living in low-income housing (basiclaly the projects) building community gardening projects for growing culturally specific foods; I live right downtown and I see community gardening plots popping up all over the place. I think there's even a subsidized 'green roof initiative' happening here. I suppose it could just be that we have a progressive mayor and a lot of community activists, but I see no reason why any community can't do this kind of thing. As long as there's basic literacy, resources aren't that hard to find. To my mind, the locavore movement is about more than just buying local. Here's a couple of links:

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Aug. 20th, 2009 03:29 pm (UTC)

To me, he's much hotter than David Archuleta, but I see the resemblance.

I'm SO pumped for Project Runway. We have the all-star show, the new season, AND the show about the models that comes on after.

Everytime im in the bookstore I hover over the 'Let the Right One In' and debate getting it but never do. I think I'll have to now.
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:04 pm (UTC)
HEEE, isn't that hilarious? (And disturbing?)

You have to go get that book! It goes much deeper (as books always do) into the whole mythos in that movie. Do it! :D
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Aug. 20th, 2009 04:38 pm (UTC)
I laughed SO HARD at your first comment. MR ANANSI IS THAT YOU?


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Aug. 20th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
Ok, I reeeeeeeeeally wanted to see Let The Right One In when it was released. I thought it looked cool, eerie, and beautiful. I FINALLY rented it last week, and I thought the dubbing was awful and the pacing was too slow and I really didn't like it and I was so disappointed. Maybe it would have been better in Swedish? (It's Swedish, right?) I didn't know there was a book, though, I'd like to read that.

I also saw Repo! The Genetic Opera and was disappointed. Oh well.
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
I LOVED the movie. I wonder if it's the one you got? IDK, mine had subtitles. But hey, to each his own. Maybe the book would please you more?
Aug. 20th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)
Also, TOP CHEF! The new boy, who loves cookbooks and cooking and food in general, has NEVER SEEN TOP CHEF! I am making him watch as much as possible.
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:08 pm (UTC)
Top Chef is AWESOME because it requires actual skill, not just sitting around eating bugs. :D
Aug. 20th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
I love you. I've never understood the whole argument that organic is nutritionally better for you, it's plain nonsensical.

I wish everyone were lucky enough to live in an area with either farmers selling at roadside stands, or a farmers' market. Or at least a store which carries only locally grown produce.

We have a small garden in our yard now (thanks to the hubs), and grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and strawberries. How eclectic... We'd love to have a larger space. Nothing is as awesome as picking your own food and eating it up. Mmmmm.
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
It's such a hot button topic because it plays into our fears: Science and Technology are poisoning us! Well, Mansanto is providing us nutritionless food (and I would say flavorless) but that isn't killing us. (And I wonder how many people that are all about "organic" drink soda?)

And you've made a good point: not everyone has access to locally grown food. But if you do, I recommend getting that over anything shipped across state/county/region lines.

Oh man, you said it. My strawberries make me so happy. Ditto on my bell peppers, tomatoes, lettuces, green beans, peas....
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Aug. 20th, 2009 04:14 pm (UTC)
thanks for writing this!

and last time I checked, none of you are spiders.
hee are you sure?
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:11 pm (UTC)
No prob!

ACK! *stomp stomp stomp* No me gusta!!
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Aug. 20th, 2009 04:28 pm (UTC)
I always find the organic food argument very strange, because my parents scared the living daylights out of me about eating organic! The lady in the house behind ours had a HUGE vine of...I'm not actually sure what they were; they looked and tasted like teeny, tiny, baby grapes, and when I was seven or so, I loved to pick them off the big vine hanging over the fence into our yard and eat them, but my mother was convinced that they must have been poisonous or covered in bird poop. I also had another neighbor down the street who grew...darn, seriously, I don't know the names of anything...this stuff that grew on a tree and was yellow, but small and round and the peel was like a plum peel and it had a soft texture and was really yummy. But again, my parents spazzed over my eating them. THE POINT I'M GETTING AT IS, I was generally taught to eat what we could get at the grocery store for a few cents a pound, and anything else was potentially catastrophic.

...can you tell I've been awake for thirty-seven hours? I think that's the most rambly and least coherent I've ever been in someone else's LJ...

Anyway, you make lots and lots of sense, and if any self-righteous hippies jump my case about not buying organic, I shall simply send them in your direction. :-)
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
1: Muscats? 2: Kumquats?

Gardening with smart (and old school) practices is the way to go, but baring that, small farmers that are close are just as great. Nutritional reasons aren't valid as an argument to go "organic." Affect on soil, etc etc. That's why you should avoid big growers like ConAgra.
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Aug. 20th, 2009 05:09 pm (UTC)
I don't trust this post. It has too many chemicals in it.
Aug. 20th, 2009 05:14 pm (UTC)
You know what else does? YOUR FACE.
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Are You Actually

Reading this? I'm just curious. Because that's really detail-oriented of you. Feel free to stop reading. But you can see that there's more here, so are you going to keep reading? Really? That's pretty dedicated. I'm impressed. No, really. I'm not being sarcastic, why do you get like that? See, this is the problem I have with your mother - yes. YES. I'm going there. It's time we put all of our cards on the table.

I love you, why are you doing this? After all we've been through? You don't have to be like this. You know, still reading. You could be baking a pie. And then sharing it with me.

Time Wot It Is

April 2017
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