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Fat Guy

8 Foods You Must Eat Organic

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Organic beef, chicken, fruits, nuts and vegetables and canned foods are okay to discuss but not organic milk? I don't understand. Food is food and milk is a large portion of the dairy that most people consume. I guess I should wait for someone else to bring it up next time.

The organic market I referenced was in Santa Barbara circa 1978, Sunshine something. Mitch mentioned it once and we were apparently living in SB at the same time. Small world and all.

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Organic beef, chicken, fruits, nuts and vegetables and canned foods are okay to discuss but not organic milk? I don't understand. Food is food and milk is a large portion of the dairy that most people consume. I guess I should wait for someone else to bring it up next time.

The organic market I referenced was in Santa Barbara circa 1978, Sunshine something. Mitch mentioned it once and we were apparently living in SB at the same time. Small world and all.

It's not the topic, it's the way you use it that makes a straw man fallacy what it is.

Anyway, the idea of an organic market brings up an interesting point which is that things have changed a lot since 1978. The rise of Whole Foods has taken advantage of the cache and murkiness of what organic food is and what it's benefits are, which I think is unfortunate. I think many people associate organic food with this kind of boutique experience and that really pigeon-holes organic food. It shouldn't be that way; as EatNopales says, agricultural subsidies obscure the real cost of food.

There are a lot of things that get in the way of a clear view of what organic food is and isn't, or what it can and can't be. Whole Foods and subsidies actually obscure what things are important to eat organic or aren't. I'm not surprised this conversation turned into a battle over what organic food is and isn't, but that's really just a consequence of the complexity of the issue and the infancy of our knowledge and thinking about it. We're not ready to talk about what organic foods are important to eat over conventionally farmed food.


nunc est bibendum...

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Organic beef, chicken, fruits, nuts and vegetables and canned foods are okay to discuss but not organic milk? I don't understand. Food is food and milk is a large portion of the dairy that most people consume. I guess I should wait for someone else to bring it up next time.

The organic market I referenced was in Santa Barbara circa 1978, Sunshine something. Mitch mentioned it once and we were apparently living in SB at the same time. Small world and all.

Yes, Santa Barbara was where I lived from '76 - '78, before moving to the Bay area. Sunshine Market was the first place this boy from New York ever laid his eyes on organic produce. As well as alfalfa sprouts and mashed yeast.


Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

mweinstein@eGstaff.org

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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For me the question is not "is this organic piece of fruit better for me than this conventional piece of fruit?", it is whether the consequences of conventional (and really, it's only been conventional for less than 100 years) farming are better or worse than alternatives including organic and IPM (integrated pest management). I think solid science indicates that there are sometimes negative consequences of our use of petrochemicals. We have dead areas in the Gulf of Mexico likely due to agricultural runoff. Soil fertility has declined, and with it the ability of many soils to hold water. Et cetera.

I grew up in small grain farming country (North Dakota), and back in the day, great yield improvements occurred due to several factors. Hybridization introduced more productive plants and herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers were inexpensive to produce and use. Larger equipment allowed crops to be planted and harvested more economically. Many, if not most, farmers were of the 'more is better' mentality and dumped shitpiles of petrochemicals onto the crops because they worked and the cost was relatively low. My grandparents had a 2,000-acre farm and I know they didn't think twice about the use of any of the above-referenced products. They needed to increase yield because prices were flat or declining. And that is how the system worked for a long time - scientific and equipment enhancements greatly increased yields, which kept prices down, which meant you needed more yield to make a profit. It is a vicious cycle.

However, the curve for yield enhancements is purt' near flat now, and without significant use of petrochemcials you cannot get enough yield to make a profit. I know this because my brothers purchased the farm and are now running it. They actually got the land certified organic a few years ago and liked not having to apply the chemicals, but alas they could not make it work. The yields were much lower due to substantial weed and pest infestation (intensive monoculture cropping doesn't really work organically). Also, the local grain elevators would not pay the premium for organic crops because they did not have separate storage facilities. Therefore any profit was eaten up by transportation costs.

I think I had a point in here somewhere. Oh, we've reached the point of diminishing returns on our petrochemical investments. Throw in anticipated climate change consequences (water resources issues, changing frost dates to which some pests and weeds adapt better, more frequent severe weather phenomena), and you have an unpredictable future for industrial farming. Which is why I choose to buy as many products raised in what I believe to be a more sustainable manner. Sometimes that includes organic products, sometimes local, and eating less meat. My family grows some of its own food (my mom and brother have a kick ass garden). Is my consumption going to make much difference? Probably not, but I would rather not contribute to the problem.

The issue of feeding a growing population is related, but is even more complex.

Finally, I believe it is likely that many heirloom varieties are better for us than hybrids which are bred for things other than nutrition. But I also think we have better nutrition than our forebears because we have an abundance and greater variety of available foodstuffs.

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For me the question is not "is this organic piece of fruit better for me than this conventional piece of fruit?", it is whether the consequences of conventional (and really, it's only been conventional for less than 100 years) farming are better or worse than alternatives including organic and IPM (integrated pest management). I think solid science indicates that there are sometimes negative consequences of our use of petrochemicals. We have dead areas in the Gulf of Mexico likely due to agricultural runoff. Soil fertility has declined, and with it the ability of many soils to hold water. Et cetera.

I grew up in small grain farming country (North Dakota), and back in the day, great yield improvements occurred due to several factors. Hybridization introduced more productive plants and herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers were inexpensive to produce and use. Larger equipment allowed crops to be planted and harvested more economically. Many, if not most, farmers were of the 'more is better' mentality and dumped shitpiles of petrochemicals onto the crops because they worked and the cost was relatively low. My grandparents had a 2,000-acre farm and I know they didn't think twice about the use of any of the above-referenced products. They needed to increase yield because prices were flat or declining. And that is how the system worked for a long time - scientific and equipment enhancements greatly increased yields, which kept prices down, which meant you needed more yield to make a profit. It is a vicious cycle.

However, the curve for yield enhancements is purt' near flat now, and without significant use of petrochemcials you cannot get enough yield to make a profit. I know this because my brothers purchased the farm and are now running it. They actually got the land certified organic a few years ago and liked not having to apply the chemicals, but alas they could not make it work. The yields were much lower due to substantial weed and pest infestation (intensive monoculture cropping doesn't really work organically). Also, the local grain elevators would not pay the premium for organic crops because they did not have separate storage facilities. Therefore any profit was eaten up by transportation costs.

I think I had a point in here somewhere. Oh, we've reached the point of diminishing returns on our petrochemical investments. Throw in anticipated climate change consequences (water resources issues, changing frost dates to which some pests and weeds adapt better, more frequent severe weather phenomena), and you have an unpredictable future for industrial farming. Which is why I choose to buy as many products raised in what I believe to be a more sustainable manner. Sometimes that includes organic products, sometimes local, and eating less meat. My family grows some of its own food (my mom and brother have a kick ass garden). Is my consumption going to make much difference? Probably not, but I would rather not contribute to the problem.

The issue of feeding a growing population is related, but is even more complex.

Finally, I believe it is likely that many heirloom varieties are better for us than hybrids which are bred for things other than nutrition. But I also think we have better nutrition than our forebears because we have an abundance and greater variety of available foodstuffs.

Great post

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Because of the children I had always assumed organic milk prices would hold their own, but they got hammered over the past few years. It makes it hard to convince farmers to go organic when they end up taking a higher risk for a lower profit.

The discussion is difficult because most regions have different problems and both organic and non-organic regulators try and make a one size fits all solution.

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