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Old 07-01-2009, 11:27 AM   #1
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Organic or Not Organic?

Russ Parsons, the L.A. Times food columnist, has a great column in today's food section:

Organic Label Doesn't Guarantee Quality or Taste

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Old 07-01-2009, 11:44 AM   #2
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In fact, the sustainable agriculture movement recognizes this, claiming as one of its central tenets the much vaguer requirement of "environmental responsibility" and stating plainly that that doesn't necessarily require growing strictly organically.
I agree a lot with this point. I buy organic frequently, mostly fresh, and I favor locally produced. But the Organic label isn't an end all, be all. It's only a list of standards and I don't think it's regulated that well. I know I've read a couple of articles recently about producers complaining about the authenticity of Organic (although I can't reproduce them).

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And as far as the image of organic farming being the domain of small family farms, for the most part, that is no truer than with conventional farms. A study by UC Santa Cruz professor Julie Guthman, included in her splendid book "Agrarian Dreams," found that the sizes and ownerships of working organic and conventional fruit and vegetable farms are not that different.

That probably shouldn't be that much of a surprise. Contrary to the image of farming being run by a few giant industrial agricultural corporations, roughly 85% of all farms in California -- organic or conventional -- are owned by individuals or families, and 75% are smaller than 100 acres. (On the other hand, Earthbound Farm, which grows organic lettuces and other vegetables, now cultivates more than 40,000 acres.)
Some people like to point out that a majority of farmers are small, and this is true, just like it is in business, but they deliberately exclude the point that the vast majority of acreage and production is in the hands of corporate factory farmers. I'd be willing to bet that his study included that information and that he consciously excluded it. Just a pet peeve of mine =)
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Old 07-02-2009, 05:56 PM   #3
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I don't know if either of you have read The Omnivore's Dilemma, but a good portion of the book addresses the question of organic food and how it has become similar, in fact too similar in my opinion, to the industrial food chain it was designed to question and reform. They also warp words on packaging and in the regulations of organic agriculture to allow for ease of mass production and whatnot. Local produce and meats are the best option for sustainability in the long-run in my opinion and the best overall for quality and taste, if the farmer is passionate about his work and really wants consumers to come back despite the unsubsidized prices.... Good find on the article, and it's great that you posted it :)
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Old 07-02-2009, 07:40 PM   #4
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Forgive me if this point is included in some of the links above, but I just want to highlight the point that organic does not mean no chemicals at all. Some may be used in limited amounts at specified intervals and the produce can still be marketed as organic.
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Old 07-02-2009, 10:40 PM   #5
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Organic strikes me as largely a marketing device. It allows small producers to differentiate their products from larger producers, playing on public perception. They have created a niche market.

The produce mostly looks crappier, and I do not notice a taste difference, except maybe in tomatoes.
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Old 07-04-2009, 07:56 AM   #6
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qmax, I agree. Plus it isn't all that well regulated. As with recycling garbage, you really have no way of knowing if it is really happening. (Unfortunately, a few places I lived had scandals involving stuff we were laborously separating for recycling being regularly thrown in the same landfill, and stuff some were paying considerably more for "organic" just being packaged differently from the other groceries). So I just look for the freshest produce and hope for the best. Never gotten sick, never had a guest get sick, from food I prepared.
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Old 07-04-2009, 09:15 AM   #7
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Ah. but there is a difference, at least if the food is truly grown organically, with natural fertilizers. Chemical fertilizers release their nutrients to the plants very quickly, accelerating plant growth. This enables the producer to get the produce, meat, or whatever to the market at less cost due to faster product development. But it comes at a sacrifice.

The studies were done by, I believe, but don't quote me on this, the University of California, San Diego. They tested produce grown with chemical fertilizers and with natural fertilizers such as fish emulsion, worm casing, manure, etc. It was found that the plants that took more time to develop contained more complete, and more numerous nutrients than their accelerated growth cousins, even though the same strains of plants were used. The slower growing pants had more time to do their own chemical magic, at the cellular level, creating more phyto-chemicals, vitamins, isoflavones, and absorbing more mineral nutrients from the soil. They were significantly superior to the chemically fertilized products.

Organic, though more expensive, is better, and that's a scientific fact. It just goes to show, IMHO, that whenever humans try to do it better than what was given us by nature, we fall victim to our own lack of understanding of how the world really works.

Locally grown food products also cut down on our carbon footprint as they don't have to be shipped over long distances, also meaning that they can be ripened to perfection on the plant. Better flavor, more nutritious, lower carbon footprint; any questions?

Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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Old 07-07-2009, 11:18 AM   #8
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I definitely agree with Goodweed, except in that organic is always better. Really, organic is a marketing tool in many instances, and sustainable agriculture also uses those organic-style farming methods, but without the ridiculous carbon footprint and false advertising. This is also for the meat aspects, not just produce.
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Old 07-07-2009, 08:42 PM   #9
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Question

My experience with organic is that it costs twice as much and is not usually as fresh, maybe because of the extra cost. Personally, I am not all that impressed with organic from a taste standpoint.This leaves the question - is it really healthier?
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Old 07-09-2009, 05:15 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Asmodean View Post
I definitely agree with Goodweed, except in that organic is always better. Really, organic is a marketing tool in many instances, and sustainable agriculture also uses those organic-style farming methods, but without the ridiculous carbon footprint and false advertising. This is also for the meat aspects, not just produce.
I was refereing to organic gardening as is practiced in my own garden, and by a growing number of smaller farmers who wish to practice sustainable farming practices, without the use of chemical fertilizers, utilizing what nature provides rather than what humankind has concocted. True organic farming practices are different that much of what is labled "organic" in the grocery stores.

I agree that the term is used too loosely, and is not regulated correctly. That being said, natural food is healthier and usually better tasting than is food produced by the monster farms of big agri-business.

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