> BUT if one of the reasons behind organic farming is
> protecting the environment, THE CARBON CYCLE MUST BE CLOSED.
I cannot ponder any definition of "sustainable" which fails to recognize
this fact. Agreed. And please, I would very much like to hear any
suggestions on how to influence public policy toward source separation
of human waste.
> I simply do not see that the organic movement is SUSTAINABLE
> if it allows and indeed forces the disposal of huge amounts
> of carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc. as garbage.
However, I also think the choice of words above indicates a fundamental
misinterpretation of responsibility. The "organic movement" did not
force that stuff to be generated in the first place, and so cannot be
forcing any kind of disposal. I think the organic folk would be the
FIRST to welcome the use of source-separated and composted human waste.
I would disconnect from my own sewer in a heartbeat if I could do so
legally. Nothing goes down the drain in my home that I wouldn't put on
my own compost heap.
> Why don't we
> make this sludge a more valuable resource by demanding
> source separation of industrial inputs from municipal inputs
I am demanding this as well as I am able! At the end is an excerpt of
one of my letters to the USDA in response to their appalling proposal,
regarding the use of biosolids in organic agriculture. The centralist
types, like big civil engineering firms, the construction industry as a
whole, water treatment and sewage treatment industry, all are well
funded and ready to say it can't and mustn't be done, but of course it
> If the organic movement also wants to be a sustainable
> movement, it should not force the disposal of sludge as
> waste, but promote its value as a resource and work to
> improve its value.
I agree, but again the suggestion here is that the "organic movement"
has somehow caused this problem, and is forcing something bad to be
done. As I see it, this group is rather saying "well, you went ahead
and made this awful stuff, despite our objections. Now you have a
costly problem and want to make us out to be jerks for refusing to use
it. Too bad." I don't know about any movement, but people of my
acquaintance who buy organic produce are frequently found working toward
just such sustainable environmental goals as you suggest.
> Instead of denying farmers the use of
> sludge as an organic fertilizer and demonizing the USDA,
> demand that the USDA work toward a goal that would benefit
> everyone: to make sewage sludges into materials that ARE an
> appropriate and valued resource for any farm.
As far as I know, the USDA doesn't have any say over what is allowed to
be connected to municipal sewers, or what poisons my neighbors can, and
do, go buy from the local home and garden center and spray or pour all
over the place. I DO know that Sears, Agway, and Home Depot have entire
aisles of stuff I will not purchase or use for any reason. If this is
under the USDA's control, I'll apply to work on it the minute my
dissertation is written.
The agency richly deserved all the criticism it got, and embarrassed
quite a few good people working for divisions other than the AMS. If
there is such a conflict of interest that the USDA simply cannot do what
congress said to do, the Secretary of Agriculture should have made that
clear (actually, isn't the former Sec'y of agriculture in jail or
something?). Mr.Glickman appears to be an international cheerleader
for everything that organic farmers and shoppers find abhorrent.
Glad you brought up the sludge and carbon issue. I take for granted
that it is an essential part of any real contemplation of sustainable
(excerpt of letter to USDA follows)
"In the Preamble, the USDA asks if municipal sewage sludge biosolids
should be allowed, and if biosolids should be classified as a synthetic
Biosolids should be classified as synthetic. Biosolids are an
inseparable mixture of natural and synthetic substances by virtue of the
process by which they are produced. Such a mixture of natural and
synthetic substances must be classified as synthetic.
As such, biosolids should not be permitted in organic production.
Organic agriculture is based on keeping food-system biogeochemical
cycles and industrial cycles completely separate. Once the error of
mixing human urine and feces with industrial waste streams is committed,
there is no recovering from it. It is unfortunate that such potentially
useful matter is thus contaminated and wasted, but this proposal is not
about the regulation of the waste industry; this is about organic
Human urine and feces is joined in the sewers by myriad synthetic
chemicals in daily use in households and industries from coast to coast.
Many POTWs also receive storm sewer runoff, such that materials from
suburban lawn care and sidewalks and streets also becomes part of the
brew in the treatment plant. Furthermore, within sewage treatment
plants, and as an inseparable part of their processes, synthetic and
undisclosed materials described only as "flocculants, adjuvants,
dewatering agents, and polymers" are routinely added to the slurry and
persist in the sludge, biosolids, and any products made therefrom.
Wastewater treatment was designed as a disposal technology; that is, the
treatment was designed to release clean water and dispose of the
residuals, also known as biosolids. Well, you cannot make a silk purse
out of a sow's ear, nor can you make organic fertilizer or soil
amendments out of biosolids. Industrial contaminants of low solubility,
and those which present our most persistent environmental contaminants,
inevitably concentrate in the sludge. Materials which do not biodegrade
readily, including of course toxic elements, also end up in the sludge.
Municipal sludge is known to contain varying residue levels of heavy
metals, pesticides and other contaminants, such as PCB's, according to
the restrictions on the use of sludge contained in 40 CFR Part 503.
Clearly, its use is not compatible with the principles of organic
production, and it should be prohibited in the final rule. It has been
historically prohibited for use in organic production, so its inclusion
as a prohibited substance would cause no hardship to organic producers.
On the other hand, the allowance of municipal sludge, or the failure to
clearly prohibit its use on organic farms, could negatively impact
organic producers, since the substance is not allowed for organic
production in other countries. This could place American organic farmers
at a competitive disadvantage in international trade, because products
from the United States could be excluded from certain markets. It could
also damage markets for organic producers in the U.S., since consumers
choose to purchase organic foods because they understand it is grown on
land to which toxic materials, such as those known to persist in
biosolids, have not been applied. This holds irrespective of whether,
or not, any damage or illness is ever documented.
The 40 CFR Part 503 rules practically guarantee degradation of soil
quality on land to which sludge is applied. One example of degradation
is the increase of the levels of heavy metals which is an inevitable
consequence of land application of sludge. Previously contaminated land
might not be further damaged by sludge, but that would not hold for land
used in organic production. Irrespective of whether the metals and
other persistent contaminants are taken up by plants or mobilize in the
groundwater, they will accumulate in the food chain and represent an
ecological risk completely disregarded by the already weak 503 rules."
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command