Reading Joan Gussow's message on 18/4 I thought she made a lot of sense. However it made some thoughts pop up that have refused to go away since. I will make this as short as I can.
1) As a non native English speaker I have always wondered why alternative and organic agriculturist have so readily accepted the term " conventional " agriculture, when what is really meant by this is " chemical " agriculture. The word " conventional " to me means that it is generally accepted and that is obviously not the case. What is now called " organic " agriculture has probably a better right to the name since for untold generations it was the only form of agriculture known to man and so truly conventional.
I for one will try to call a cat a cat in the future and it might do some general good if more people refused to take part in this double think and new- speak.
2)Is organic food more nutritious than chemically produced. Does it contain more protein, vitamins or micro nutrients? I do not know. I must confess that a lot of organic labeled vegetables in shops around me look rather awful, wilted and over age. As Joan said : " the mineral content of plants largely depend on the mineral content of the soil where they are grown, and that most differences in vitamin content are likely to be either genetic or caused by climate or other variables unrelated to specific growing techniques "
You can not recognize an organic carrot by its color. Taste and smell are probably more reliable as markers for vitality (as Hugh stated before ). Unless they are really hungry my dogs refuse to eat industrial broiler chicken and my cattle, sheep and goats prefer organic grass by far.
3) It can be very difficult to prove that organic is healthy, it is a lot easier to see that chemical food and the production of same can be rather unhealthy.
About twelve years ago I received two bags of very nice red carrots from a chemical grower as payment for some help I had given him. The only aspect of them that was different from the ones that went for sale was that they were out size. After coming home I fed some of these carrots to my rabbits and within two hours the first rabbit died. Within three days all 80 of them were dead. We later learned that excessive pesticide residue was due to a spell of dry weather and rather general in Europe at that time. So the commission that rules over food-safety increased the residue norm temporarily.
That same farmer ended up in hospital several times because of pesticide poisoning and has given up commercial vegetable growing since last year due to hill health.
Another neighbor of ours complained about a tingling feeling in his fingers and toes after using organo phosphate sheep dip for about six months. He was rather lucky, there are quite a number of sheep farmers who suffer permanent paralysis because of this.
A few years ago we had a cucumber scare in Ireland. Several consumers had to be taken to hospital with severe symptoms of poisoning. And for a while all cucumbers, even the organic ones, were taken of the shelves in the shops. About a week later there was a very minor news item that the problem had been due to pesticide use and that now everything was safe again.
Here in Ireland agricultural chemicals are routinely used by farmers to poison foxes and crows. They are even used for suicides. It seems that in countries like India similar products are used for poaching tigers and leopards.
All this is of course circumstantial evidence, given in an anecdotal, completely un- scientific manner. But there is so much of it that one can't miss it when one lives in a rural agricultural community.
The strange thing is that the general public is aware of all this and seems to accept temporary danger of poisoning by agro chemicals since it is after all " conventional ".
Personally I would not touch a vegetable any more if I have not grown it myself.
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