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Organic Food is a Nutritional Joke

There is an old saying, and I paraphrase (shorthand for saying that I am too lazy to look up the actual quote): you are what you eat. If you eat good, nutritional food, you will be strong and healthy, contrariwise, if you eat fattening, sugary, nasty food, your health will be equally bad.
This is total nonsense, and I shudder to think how many people have mutated their existence attempting to confirm to this incorrect belief.

A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON
I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1980. At that time, http://www.ccof.org/ was merely a glint in the eyes of local farmers. When I bought a bag of, say apples or nectarines, the dude at the table in the farmers' market could tell me at what time and even which tree those fruits came from. Yes, more expensive than grocery stores, but he would always give you superior quality for your money.

WHAT IS 'ORGANIC'
I learned that 20 acres is, more or less, the limit of how much land a single guy (and maybe a couple of family members during harvest season) can till, de-rock, fertilize, water, care for, and love without hiring illegal workers. In my mind's eye, this is the genuine definition of “organic” food.

WHAT IS NOT ORGANIC
Clever 'organic' farms are really just regular, corporate farms who have slightly altered their agricultural and botanical practices to legally meet the easily-exploited requirements of 'organic'. There is little, if any, difference from ordinary corporate farms and 'organic' ones. A recall, from, say, E. coli is just as likely to occur as with generic supermarket or corporate agribusiness produce as from an organic farm (organic spinach, anyone?). Does using fertilizer from waste products make food any safer or healthier than using a bag of chemical fertilizer or seed stock that comes out from, say, Monsanto? Do they contain more vitamins, minerals, or fiber? Hmmm? How? Why?

CHALLENGE
Take a vegetable, say broccoli or cauliflower, and buy one from the supermarket and an organic one from a farmer's market (I was about to suggest this for apples, but it is not apple season; however I suggest you do this test in the fall getting the same apple variety from the generic supermarket and organic farmers' market). Cook up both in exactly the same way, and look, smell, and taste. Is there any difference? Do they both taste and look exactly the same? Yes, then why spend the extra $$$ on organic?

SPARING THE ENVIRONMENT
Neither does this contaminate our environment any less: ammonium nitrate will contaminate water supplies, and it does not make any difference if the source is organic or chemical.
However, there is one aspect that is helpful: organic discourages the use of insecticides and herbicides. A small farmer will use these chemicals, but sparingly if at all, because he understands that he is disrupting nature's balance, and will not use it prophylactically as is the practice at corporate/organic farms. Using, say, hand soap as an insecticide rather than Sevrin might make us feel better psychologically, but they will both end up drifting around our environment in unpredictable ways. Arguing which is more effective is an equally useless activity.

WHERE'S THE BEEF?
The above applies only to produce, but there is a such thing as organic meat. Here again, we must ask: is it effective or helpful? In this case, it discourages the prophylactic use of drugs and assorted hormones and enzymes; this is a very good thing, but we can accomplish the same thing with a short, simple law without the kabuki dance of being 'organic'. How does it benefit the cow or pig or chicken to eat field corn that is organic rather than not? Maybe husbandry: more humane treatment of animals destined to sit, butchered and cooked, in my sandwich? Perhaps it would be more effective to be vegetarian? Are the animals happier? Have more vitamins or minerals? Lower in fat? Taste better? Happier just before we butcher them? Beef that is grass-fed tastes better, not because grass is organic, but because grass tastes better (though some think corn-fed tastes nuttier and fattier).

LOVE YOUR LAND
It is important to love and care for our land. These are a gift from God, and we surely ought not to waste it, but nurture it. However, pretending that we are 'being organic' is not the same thing.

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  1. Boy are you all over the place. I will just stick with your first paragraph in which you write "If you eat good, nutritional food, you will be strong and healthy, contrariwise, if you eat fattening, sugary, nasty food, your health will be equally bad. This is total nonsense." So you believe that it makes no difference what you eat? That you could just eat candy, Coke and bacon cheeseburgers w/ mayo all day and have no problems. How about scurvy and rickets for a start? Not quite sure what your point is but I guess you have some problem with organic...clarity would help.

    2 Replies
    1. re: escondido123

      *Boy are you all over the place*
      my point exactly. it is not clear or obvious that *organic* bag of Doritos is better than a non-organic version.

      1. re: jerry i h

        This is so true. But certain brands are minimally processed and do have less additives, etc.
        I'd hazard to bet that a bag of red Hot Blues has more nutritutional value than the equivalent amount of nacho cheese doritos.

    2. I am old enough to remember the commercial stressing the superior taste of corn fed beef versus the best grass fed, which rarely became prime. In a state with plenty of grass fed beef, I am pleasantly surprised by the texture and taste differences when I travel to the midwest.

      When I had a citrus grove, My mangos where 2 to 3 times the size of the ones in the stores and never had anything but natural fertilizer. Usually by the guys during a party as we only had 1 bathroom at the time. I sold these huge things to the local stand 2 for a dollar and they went for $3.59 each with huge organic signs. Based on my say so.

      How many state inspectors are veryfying "organic"? When was the last time you verified that that local purveyor of free range chickens do more than give them an hour or so of sun each day. I have eaten 2 year old free rangew chickens and roosters. Nice flavor and about as tender as old shoe leather. 3 to 4 hours in the stew pot. i no longer get rid of friend's pets as they are too much of a hassle. I would rather enjoy 10 pounds of leg quarters for $6.59 at wally world.

      Thanks to agribusiness, we are not fighting wars over food. We have passed 7 billion inhabitants of the world and still feed a billion pets a year. As a former oceanographer, I have witnessed the inhililation of the fin and shell fish stocks in the seas. There has been a systematic failure by local and federal regulatory boards in order to support local business as well as the recreational industry. A truly organic industry that is no longer viable in central Florida.

      Organic to me is the same marketing ploy as Angus beef. For the few times when I value it, such as antibiotics or growth hormone, the cost far outweighs the benefits for me.

      2 Replies
      1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

        $3.59 for an organic mango? Where the hell do you live?

        We sell organic mangoes for $1.29 where I work.

        1. re: Jackie007

          A one woman food stand. And in an area of backyard citrus, they sold out the two bushels in 2 days.

      2. Your post sure is provocative, Jerry. Two points:

        While I'll grant you that eating good food does not necessarily guarantee good health, I do think it's pretty well established that it improves the odds. You can eat healthy your whole life and still wind up with a terrible disease, and there are those who eat awful stuff every day and live long & healthy lives. Like smoking- some smoke two packs a day and never suffer any consequences; others never touch the stuff and die young of cancer or heart attacks. This doesn't mean that smoking has no effect on health.

        Second, there are still sincere organic farmers who consider themselves stewards of the land and ethical providers of quality food for their consumers. It's true the legal definition of "organic' is essentially meaningless nowadays because our government's been corrupted by countless millions spent through corporate lobbying- certainly the evidence is plain everywhere nowadays. But that doesn't mean that nobody anywhere is doing it right anymore.

        You're sure right that they've made it easy to feel good about "being organic" without really being organic though. The joke's on us.

        36 Replies
        1. re: eclecticsynergy

          "Take a vegetable, say broccoli or cauliflower, and buy one from the supermarket and an organic one from a farmer's market. Cook up both in exactly the same way, and look, smell, and taste. Is there any difference? Do they both taste and look exactly the same? Yes"

          You either have amazing supermarkets in your area or terrible farmers markets. Lets forget about cooking food for a second and go to food in its raw state like you wanted to do with apples but they are out of season. Tomatoes happen to be in season. Do you find grocery store tomatoes to be of the same quality as local vine ripened tomatoes at the farmers market?

          EDIT Didnt mean to reply to you eclectic, meant to respond to the OP

          1. re: twyst

            *Do you find grocery store tomatoes to be of the same quality as local vine ripened tomatoes at the farmers market?*
            yes. If you get a *beefsteak* tomato from both sources, they will taste identical. farmers' market tomatoes are better, not because they are organic, but because they have: zebra or cherokee purple, varieties that chain supermarkets usually do not offer.
            *amazing supermarkets in your area*
            I live in the SF/bay area.

            1. re: jerry i h

              "yes. If you get a *beefsteak* tomato from both sources, they will taste identical"

              In my experiences that could not be farther from the truth. Local tomatoes, even those of the same variety, are several orders of magnitude better than supermarket tomatoes. The same is true of most fruits. Supermarket produce has to be harvested with being shipped and remaining shelf stable in mind, it often doesnt even hit the store shelves until a week after harvest.

              1. re: twyst

                Agree completely. Claiming otherwise is sheer idiocy, or else provocation for the sake of being provocative.

                1. re: carolinadawg

                  Which, I believe, is the point of this thread.... provocative. I agree, a store tomato will never taste like a garden tomato. period.

                  1. re: wyogal

                    Not to speak for the OP, but I think he crossed up his argument when he laid out his thesis (organic does not necessarily equal better) and tried to support it with a challenge (test an organic farmers market tomato versus a supermarket tomato).

                    To support his thesis (which I think has some merit), I assume the more relevant challenge would be a test of organic versus non organic from the same type of vendor, be it super or farmers market. To that point, I haven't been able to tell a difference, although supposedly its more nutritional so I do it. However, there is clearly no comparison between farmers market produce (organic or not) versus supermarket produce (organic or not). obviously, fruit that is picked at the peak of ripeness and meant to be consumed within 1 - 2 days is better tasting than the stuff at supermarkets that is picked early in order to survive transport.

                    1. re: FattyDumplin

                      yes, that's what I said. I never said that organic was more nutritious. Or that organic was more tasty. I said that a supermarket tomato will never taste as good as a garden (farmer's market) tomato.

                      1. re: FattyDumplin

                        Supermarkets don't simply pick the fruit early. They are selling deifferent tomatoes.

                        Different tomatoes are grown for supermarkets vs food service (think Subway) vs farmers markets.

                        A supermarket tomato must look gorgeous or it won't sell. Must be deep red. Cannot be bruised. Taste doesn't matter. Consistensy doesn't matter.

                        A food service tomato is served to the customer already sliced, is usually 'free' with purchase, so what it looks like unsliced doesn't matter. Since it's free, taste doesn't matter.They can be as pink as can be. What matters is that they cannot be liquidy inside or they will make a ton of mess in the slicing machine and they will lose product.

                        Farmers market tomatoes are grown for taste first. Most customers have learned to accept the imperfections and possibly the bruises. That doeasn't mean they all taste good, but that is the number one criteria for why they are grown.

                        1. re: Steve

                          Great point.

                          All I know is that organic or not, I love the fruits and veggies at the farmer's markets around me. Before moving to Cali last year, I had no idea how many varieties and how amazingly delicious stone fruits could be.

                2. re: jerry i h

                  "yes. If you get a *beefsteak* tomato from both sources, they will taste identical."

                  Surely you jest.

              2. re: eclecticsynergy

                * legal definition of "organic' is essentially meaningless nowadays*
                thank you - my point exactly. being a loving steward of the land and being an 'organic' farmer or agricorporation are not synonymous.

                1. re: jerry i h

                  This I can agree with you on. I dont really care about foods being organic per se, but I just cant get on board with the idea that grocery store produce is as good as farmers market produce.

                  1. re: twyst

                    I'm with you twyst. On a couple of occasions I have had to buy produce from the grocery store that I usually buy at the Farmers' Market. The difference in appearance, taste, texture and freshness was amazing. As to whether organic tastes better that is not why I choose it but rather because produce certified organic at my FM cannot use pesticides and chemical fertilizers and are inspected to make sure they meet certification standards.

                  2. re: jerry i h

                    The USDA does have a very precise legal definition of "organic" as it applies to food, which can be found here: http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/of..., or summarized in the Wikipedia entry on "Organic Certification". It's been enforcing it since 2009.

                    The problem is, there's never been any scientific evidence to support the idea that organic produce is any healthier. safer, better-tasting, or more nourishing than non-organic produce. The superior taste some people discern in organic produce is generally attributable to its being fresher or &/or from a more flavorful variety. Same is true for farm stand produce.

                    The aura of healthfulness and purity that surrounds the notion of "organic" produce is mostly superstition, albeit a very strong and persistent one.

                    1. re: dr_mabeuse

                      I do remember when the legal definition of organic was being created - I remember that those on the side of organics thought that the standard was inadequate and even harmful - I don't remember what the controversy was about, though.

                      dr mabeuse, so it's OK to consume pesticides?

                      1. re: sandylc

                        Organic food, as defined and regulated by the USDA, is essentially a "no chemicals" label. Most farming techniques are ok as long as they do not use synthetically produced chemicals. This is both antithetical to what many "organic"/holistic/sustainable/etc growers believe is appropriate farming, but it also supports the misconception, as evidenced above, that organic farming is ABOUT food being healthier/safer/better-tasting (ie, that if it is not, there is no point in growing organically or supporting organic farming).

                        The organic standard allows for monocropping, for heavy inputs rather than crop rotation, for broad-spectrum pesticides (as long as they are naturally derived), for heavy tillage and other topsoil-depleting techniques, and many other farming practices that have negative and unsustainable effects on the farmland and broader environment, so long as the inputs are not derived synthetically. It also allows for hydroponically produced foods -- just add the organic formula rather than the synthetic one!

                        So basically, anyone who was growing "organically" before the standard went in place (ie, for ethical reasons rather than marketing ones) found the official organic standard to grossly mischaracterize what organic farming is about. The larger, established agribusiness growers were ecstatic because they could now market their product as Organic without really changing much about their growing practices.

                        1. re: yellowstone

                          Thank you! Excellent explanation. It also highlights what was bugging me about the original post - it seemed like something was being missed about the idea of organics. A lot of nay-saying regarding organics has happened here for sure!

                          So, I'm getting here that products labeled organic are following the letter of the law but giving the finger to the spirit of it?

                          1. re: sandylc

                            No, just that there is as much variation in the quality of farming practices with in Organic farming as with in Conventional farming.

                            1. re: AAQjr

                              This is a very important point and often missed. You can have crappy organic soil which will result in crappy product. I still prefer the organic when I can afford it as I don't like eating herbicides and pesticides.

                              I have certainly noticed an improvement in the quality over the years. I hope it's from improved technique and not some exploitation of a loophole in the standard.

                        2. re: sandylc

                          Outside of industrial accidents, I'm not aware of any scientific studies that link consumption of residue levels of common pesticides to health problems. What evidence there is appears to be anecdotal and probably psychological. Meanwhile, pesticide-free produce can be demonstrated to contain more insect filth and infestation (under the skin as well as on it) than its pesticide-treated counterpart, and there are more recorded cases of people getting sick from eating organic produce than from non-organic.

                          But still, I wouldn't dismiss the placebo effects of eating organic foods, which can be real and significant. If you believe in the superiority or organic produce, then you're probably going to feel better if you eat it. In an objective double-blind test, though, I'm unaware of any studies that show any demonstrable health advantages. One of the big reasons there's so much controversy and contention about the standards for 'Organic' is that they're based on no scientific evidence, and therefore merely reflect people's opinions of what 'organic' should mean.

                          1. re: dr_mabeuse

                            "there are more recorded cases of people getting sick from eating organic produce than from non-organic."

                            Do you have studies that show this? I'd find it hard to believe given that far fewer people eat organic foods that there would be more incidences of people getting sick from organic than non-organic.

                            1. re: chowser

                              I'd like to hear too. I have read articles that claim such things, but every time I have traced their authors/funding back to the Hudson Institute, which is in turn funded by Monsanto, ConAgra, etc.

                              http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?...

                              1. re: chowser

                                Here's an article from the NY Times about an outbreak if salmonella that occured in organically grown peanuts:
                                http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/04/din...

                                And here's one from the FDA about the danger of organically-produced eggs:
                                http://www.fda.gov/safety/recalls/ucm...

                                Better yet, just check out this Google search page for reports of contamination in organically grown spinach, pistachio nuts, and bean sprouts:
                                https://www.google.com/search?source=...

                                Part of the problem is, we've come to equate "natural" with "wholesome", whereas in truth, Nature is quite capable of making some very nasty toxins without man's help, and without man's intervention, food can be a lot more dangerous and less appealing. The most potent carcinogen we know of is a natural product: Aflatoxin, which comes from a a mold which grows naturally on stored peanuts unless they're treated to prevent it. All almonds naturally contain cyanide compounds, and mushrooms, no matter how organically grown, contain a host of chemicals linked to cancer. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

                                We are a chemophobic society. We assume anything that has a chemical name is a poison, which is just nonsense. At its worst, our chemophobia leads to mass hysteria like the Alar scare of 10 years ago, which devastated the apple business for years after Meryl Streep, that notorious expert on food chemistry and safety, testified before congress:
                                http://www.acsh.org/publications/pubi...

                                There's no scientific study I'm aware of that shows that man-made chemicals and pesticides in the doses permitted under USDA/FDA guidelines are harmful to humans. Believing in something for which there's no factual evidence is called "faith" by some, "superstition" by others.

                                But my point isn't that organic food is bad, or a scam, and I believe that if it makes you feel better to keep an all-organic diet, then by all means, go for it. But organic food is not the Philosopher's Stone to good health that some advocates would have us believe.

                                1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                  I'm not disputing that organics have problems. I'm disputing your fact that there are MORE recorded cases of people getting sick from organics than not. Given, as I said, fewer people eat organics, I'd find that fact hard to believe and none of the articles you've linked have shown that. I don't think anyone here has stated that organics are perfect and have no disease. But, an organic tomato is no more a "nutritional joke" as the OP asserts than a conventionally grown tomato.

                                  1. re: chowser

                                    Well, when I said 'more', I meant 'proportionally more'. I apologize for not being clearer.

                                    I'm entirely willing to be proven wrong on this, if you can find some documented examples of (proportionally) more people getting ill from eating 'inorganic' produce than from eating the organically produced counterparts. I say produce and not meat, because the problems with factory-farmed meat are well-known.

                                    But there's a price to be paid for not using pesticides, and that's that organic produce is simply exposed to more pests, including insects and their eggs and larvae, and fungal infestations that you just don't see in treated produce. And the use of manure as fertilizer carries with it certain risks, especially if it's not composted properly.

                                    1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                      "I'm entirely willing to be proven wrong on this, if you can find some documented examples of (proportionally) more people getting ill from eating 'inorganic' produce than from eating the organically produced counterparts."

                                      I think we have to define "ill" here. Periodic food poisoning from natural organisms that a person or persons doesn't/don't happen to have the right intestinal bacteria to fight off? Or, cancer from thirty years of ingesting pesticide-laced food (hard to EVER pin that one down)?

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        It IS hard to pin down. Because no one has ever been able to show a cause-and-effect relationship between FDA-allowed levels of pesticides and cancer, at least as far as I know. In other words, science, which seems to be the best method of establishing empirical truth that we've been able to devise, cannot find evidence of such a link.

                                        People are entirely free to choose their foods by whatever criteria they like, and I have no doubt that one's attitude towards one's food has an influence on one's health. But so far, there's no scientific evidence that FDA-approved levels of pesticides in food are harmful. And I'm on the side of the scientists.

                                        1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                          "And I'm on the side of the scientists."

                                          Any scientist worth a dime will tell you that absence of evidence is not proof of absence.

                                          For many years, plenty of tobacco industry scientists offered support saying there was no proof that cigarette smoking caused cancer. Smart folks didn't bet their lives on the absence of that iron clad "proof."

                                          Lots of our most prestigious researchers claimed it was long proven that HRT prevented CVD, stroke and dementia in menopausal women, til independent research found that HRT actually promoted them. Smart women didn't take those 25 years of "proven" benefits to heart and didn't take the pills pushed on them by their doctors.

                                          I'm on the side of objective science and biochemistry, because there are too many with the title, but not the ethics or discernment of real scientists.

                              2. re: dr_mabeuse

                                Are there any studies which focus on looking at an entire community/society that eats organic and those they don't? Say, Buddhists in the mountains of TIbet vs. John Q Public USA? Are there different cancer rates, for example?

                                1. re: Steve

                                  That's a great question. My only problem with it is that studies seem to be usually skewed/biased/misrepresented/misinterpreted/edited, etc. to the point where I don't think most reports that make it to the media can be trusted. Any study that contradicts things that big business relies upon for their big money gets buried.

                                  1. re: Steve

                                    It would be hard to find identical societies, with similar genetic backgrounds to compare two groups ones that eat all organics and ones that don't. Far too many factors other than diet.

                                    1. re: chowser

                                      From my un-scientific viewpoint, the ignoring of millions of extraneous complicating factors seems to be the norm for health/diet studies. Also, cause and effect seem to get muddled around. Maybe it's just that by the time info hits the media, it's become misinterpreted and summarized incorrectly.

                                      1. re: sandylc

                                        Yeah, but if the conclusion were that Budhists who live in the mountains have lower detected rates of cancer than someone eating in NYC, non-organic, that would be meaningless. I don't think studies are all poorly done, just that it's hard to get two large, similar groups. Most studies do have some sort of control groups.

                                        The cause and effect conclusions that the media draw is a pet peeve of mine. Or, as I said to my stats class when I was teaching correlation, you could correlate wearing bikinis w/ eating popsicles but that doesn't mean one causes the other!

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          The real problem with most nutritional studies is this: Food just doesn't really make that much of a difference. Certainly not enough of a difference that it emerges as a smoking gun in nutritional studies with a clear cause-and-effect relationship.

                                          Yes, if you live on a diet of lard and twinkies you'll be sicker than someone who follows a more prudent diet, but any health difference between drinking 2 and 4 cups of coffee/wine/whatever are dwarfed by other lifestyle factors, many of which are still unknown, and so the statistical results they come up with are pretty much meaningless. And that's why last year eggs were poison and fish oil prevented Altzheimer's, and this year eggs are nature's perfect food again while fish oil does nothing.

                              3. re: dr_mabeuse

                                <<
                                there's never been any scientific evidence to support the idea that organic produce is any healthier. safer, better-tasting, or more nourishing...
                                >>

                                how about studies like this? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/...

                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  Okay, I apologize and I stand corrected regarding polyphenols in tomatoes.

                                  "The more stress plants suffer, the more polyphenols they produce," points out lecturer Lamuela.

                                  So factory-farmers need to scream and abuse their plants more.

                          2. I agree that organic vegetables and especially fruits tend to taste better, even if some probably comes from factory farms that may be organic in name only. Not claiming I'd always be able to taste the difference in a blind test though. But the big beautiful ruby red strawberries in my supermarket's produce section are a good example- they're almost entirely flavorless. And the apples you were gong to cite are another good one: I'd much rather have a couple of small apples with some imperfections than huge ones that look great and taste little better than cardboard. Same goes for carrots, especially when I'm juicing 'em.

                            You probably know already that there's a strong and growing trend in quality restaurants of looking for locally sourced organic produce because it tends to taste better. Again, perhaps not universally true in every single instance (and I admit that local non-organic produce would probably taste better just because it's fresher), but they wouldn't be paying more if there were nothing to it. Mostly the chefs and establishments are not using this as a selling point. They're doing it because the food simply tastes better.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: eclecticsynergy

                              Where I work we also own a local farm. It's not certified organic, but it's grown organic...certification is just too expensive and I think the taste/freshness is amazing. Our carrots are pretty ugly and small, but they are delicious. The rest of the produce is certified organic, though.

                            2. This is a post I wrote on another thread, but it applies here
                              Just another reason not to buy any meat/poultry raised/grown on factory farms, not only are they raised in very inhumane conditions; but the quality of the product is affected too. Beef that is injected with antibiotics, not for sickness, but to make the animal gain weight faster,growth hormones also feeds made from other"animal by-products", How about those battery cage raised chickens fed a meal that includes chicken feathers as a primary ingredient, along with "poultry by-products" and in the case of beef, feed lots where the animals are chest high in liquid manure, is not where I want my food sourced!
                              I have adjusted my purchasing of beef, pork, poultry to finding local, small producers who are proud of the way they raise, feed and process their livestock. Sometimes these operations are very small, but they are around, even close to "big metro areas". I have been successful finding eggs, from pastured chickens, meat chickens fed grains only, also pastured, naturally raised rabbits, grass fed beef that is also finished on grass, no grain fattening, and heritage pork not raised in cages but, again in pasture, Even met a guy who raises Bourbon Red Turkeys for Thanksgiving, had one last year and reordered for this year, Delicious!! Now, working on getting aged cheese (90 days) from a producer of raw milk.
                              Anyway, my point is it is out there if you have the time to do the research and investigation.

                              1. I don't often buy "organic" produce, but I see value in what "Organic" farming is doing. It isn't about nutrition, really, even though some advocates may claim that it is. "Certified Organic" farms must follow practices which keep poisons not only out of the food, but out of the environment. This really should be the role of various federal agencies, and today it is, but the agencies have been followers in environmental protection. The demand to keep poisons out of the environment came from the people, when government agencies were devoted mainly to production.

                                I remember when "Silent Spring came out, and watched when Rachel Carson defended her views against representatives of the established farming practices of the day. Ultimately, her arguments carried the day, so we now have an Environmental Protection Agency, greater environmental awareness in other federal and state agencies, and dangerous products such as DDT have been banned. We take all this for granted today, but it was a long road getting here.

                                "Organic" farming is the leading edge of a heightened awareness in the population generally of the need for a cleaner environment and safer food. Even if the claims of promoters of "organic" food are sometimes kooky, farming practices have been improved everywhere as a result of the environmental movement of which they are a part. We are better off today than we were in 1962 when Silent Spring came out.

                                1. Coming from a somewhat different background I can only laugh when I hear about those wonderful and healthy organically grown fruits and vegetables and how good they are all for you.
                                  When I grew up, we could only buy fruits and vegetables grown without pesticide and artificial fertilizer. There was nothing else around and you ate only what was in season that year. That could be plentiful in some years and non-existent in others. In some years we had a tremendous cherry harvest, the cherries were large sweet and wonderful, except - once you started looking, you had two choices, either quit eating or fling that maggot aside and keep chomping.
                                  Apples, they way they looked, not a single one would make it to the market around here. You always opened them up first to make sure you are not eating extra protein. Ditto for other fruits.
                                  That is what true organic stuff looked like!!

                                  Oh btw Natural fertilizer was certainly used, particularly appetizing on Strawberries.....

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: RUK

                                    I'm old enough to remember that too. I was a city boy, and I recall the scary job of husking corn my dad would bring in from the farm stands on the edge of town, and the nauseating feeling of finding some big brown worm wiggling around in there. I remember finding thrips turning the inner leaves of a head of lettuce into brown slime after I'd already eaten some, and maggots floating to the surface of my raisin bran after my grandma poured the milk in.

                                    It's no wonder I didn't eat fruits or vegetables for the first 25 years of my life.

                                    1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                      You are absolutely correct. Not a pretty picture, I would say. To this day I would never bite into the center of an Apple without looking first.

                                      1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                        Wow, I remember things like that, too. But as someone once said to me, "I'd rather eat food that insects can survive in than food that has been poisoned so they don't want it...." Someone else once told me that "flies don't land on margarine"....don't know if that's true or not, LOL!

                                      1. You have done a great job of pointing out many of the flaws in the standards set by the National Organic Program. Many small-scale, sustainable, diversified, chemical-free farmers similarly object to the National Organic Program and refuse to participate, instead selling direct to consumers and obviating the need for any certification. I am one of these farmers. I disagree strongly with many of the NOP regulations regarding both vegetables and dairy (can't speak to meat regulations personally). For example, Horizon brand dairy products are certified organic, but still produced unethically and the profits go to a conventional big-ag umbrella business. I would sooner buy conventional milk than Horizon's up-charged greenwashed nonsense. So I can certainly understand people's disillusionment with the national certified organic brands. I can tell you though, that it is still hurtful to hear people say things like "organic food is a scam!" because it feels like they are lumping my food in with big-ag organic food as all the same scam. I would much prefer it if people would take the time to clarify -- "the National Organic PROGRAM is a scam!" because it acknowledges that there are people who are doing organic farming right.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: yellowstone

                                          You are right - I remember true organic small farmers fighting the national standard for organic because they felt it allowed too much that they were against.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            One can only know what's "true" if it's defined in a standard of some kind. Do you think the NOP standard should be revised or do you think that another standard should be written? It seems to me that if enough growers agreed that a new standard was needed, they could form an association to do that.

                                            1. re: GH1618

                                              "One can only know what's 'true' if it's defined in a standard of some kind."

                                              Do you really believe this? This is not my definition of truth, personally.

                                              Specific to this discussion, I can think of any number of ways to find out what is going on with your food that doesn't involve a standard. There is the locavore's favorite -- ask the farmer or go to the farm. For those who desire a middleman inspector, the inspection could result in a narrative writeup or a list of practices used, without a summarizing yes or no answer.

                                              The problem with a standard is that all farmers and all informed consumers have their own ideas about what is acceptable and what is not. So rather than have a committee come up with a yes-or-no certification standard that pleases nobody, why not just give the consumers access to information about the farm, and each consumer can decide for themselves which farming practices they agree with.

                                              The Cornucopia Institute runs a voluntary survey for organic dairies that sheds some light on the differences between the various certified organic dairy operations. Definitely worth checking out: http://www.cornucopia.org/dairysurvey... It's not perfect and I certainly don't agree with all their assessments (the Bay Area is a "challenging climate"?) but I think this approach is much more illuminating than certification. Interesting writeups include Strauss and Horizon. There is an egg scorecard as well: http://www.cornucopia.org/organic-egg... The entry on Judy's Family Farm is quite illustrative of the drawbacks of the standard/inspection/certification system.

                                              1. re: yellowstone

                                                "True organic" is not an objective truth. It is merely someone's opinion of what "organic" should mean. Reasonable people can disagree on precisely what such a term should mean, which is why the term is meaningless in the absence of a formal definition.

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  Which is why my entire post was about not using a single term at all.

                                                  1. re: yellowstone

                                                    Sure. Nothing wrong with just putting all the information on a website. But most people, myself included, are not going to do research before shopping for most things. They buy on price and quality based on their own experience.

                                                    I just don't understand the objections to "USDA organic" which haven't been articulated with any specificity here. Producers don't have to sell under the USDA regulated labels. If they do, they can still add additional labels as long as they are truthful. They can also publish as much information as they like about their product on websites and elsewhere. The only things they can't do are put prohibited ingredients in food and label products fraudulently. What is there to complain about?

                                                    Taking eggs as an example, the package I'm using today is marked "cage free" and "vegetarian diet." These are an example of optional labelling. Then there is the survey on the link which you so helpfully posted. Interesting, but not something I would have searched for on my own. When I have changed eggs in recent years, it's because I wasn't satisfied with what I was getting. Being satisfied with the brand I am currently using, I'll just stick with it. Others for whom labeling and experience are insufficient can seek out whatever information they feel they need to make their choice. That's a free market. Where is there a problem and what does anyone propose to do about it?

                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                      Another twist in this plot is that many very conscientious farmers say that they cannot afford to become certified organic - it costs money to gain what some say is a questionable legal status.

                                          2. If I want a great tomato or peach, I'm going to my local farmer's market.

                                            1. I always wondered what was the point of producing Organic milk that is then UHT pasteurized.

                                              12 Replies
                                              1. re: Sparklebright

                                                This I agree with. For milk, I am much less concerned with the "certified organic" label than with how it was produced, how the animals live, and avoiding UHT pasteurization. Kills the milk.

                                                1. re: Sparklebright

                                                  I'm missing your point here. "Organic" means that certain chemicals are not used in production. UHT pasteurization means processing with high heat to kill bacteria. There is no conflict between these two unrelated ideas.

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    It's only that we seek out Organic foods because we feel they are better for us. But once milk us UHT pasteurized pretty much any nutrition that was in it has been destroyed.

                                                    1. re: Sparklebright

                                                      I've heard this before. I just googled the question and on both sides of the issue there are claims of scientific proof to support completely contradictory answers. It frustrates me how many people on this Earth manufacture "proof" to support their preconceived views and/or financial interests.

                                                      This pasteurization issue is important - don't you think we should know the undisputable truth?

                                                      1. re: sandylc

                                                        I agree, sandy.... as someone oft-quoted once said, "We're all entitled to our own opinions, but we're not entitled to our own facts."

                                                        It may be too much to aspire to the "indisputable truth" but at least we should do our best. Here's a page from EUFIC, which has a reasonable reputation (or reputation for reasonableness?): http://www.eufic.org/page/en/page/FAQ... Not the indisputable truth though.

                                                      2. re: Sparklebright

                                                        But the ostensible reason that "organic" is better for you is because it should not contain poisons. Milk can contain pathogens which are poison and which pasteurization kills. Pasteurization does not destroy the nutritional value of milk. That's just nonsense.

                                                        1. re: GH1618

                                                          There are different levels of pasteurization. While I think "destroys the nutritional value" is too strong a claim, ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization does kill off any beneficial bacteria in the milk and, IMHO, does destroy the taste. I have not found a single convincing argument for UHT having any benefits over lower temp pasteurization beyond extending the shelf life, which really benefits no one but the producer.

                                                          1. re: Rilke

                                                            Evidently it does change the taste (see Scientific American link, below). As for pasteurization killing beneficial bacteria along with the pathogens, that's certainly true. I favor plain, live yogurt made from pasteurized milk myself. Some prefer other sources of probiotics. I think milk is mainly for babies, anyway, and mother's milk is best.

                                                            As for benefits, organic milk is produced in fewer places than ordinary milk, so is UHP processed to allow greater shipping distances (see Scientific American article). Suppose consumers of organic milk were to all refuse to buy UHP milk. The likely response of producers of organic milk would be to reduce their output and ship to a smaller area. This would hurt consumers by reducing availability of the product. Everything is a tradeoff, and the conflicts are resolved through market forces.

                                                          2. re: GH1618

                                                            Well I am a raw milk lover and come from generations of people who produced and drank raw milk and find it amusing that people think naturally occuring enzymes in naturally produced milk are somehow "pathogens".

                                                            1. re: Sparklebright

                                                              It's not the enzymes that are the pathogens. This is basic.

                                                      3. re: Sparklebright

                                                        Here's a link to a short article from Scientific American on UHP Organic Milk:

                                                        http://www.scientificamerican.com/art...

                                                      4. Many concepts, that start out, meaning well, get usurped and highly compromised, through marketing and advertising.

                                                        "Organic," can be such an example.

                                                        "Green Energy" can be another.

                                                        Much of what we experience is totally about marketing, and advertising.

                                                        Also, much for what sounds "healthy," really is not, but is marketed to be. All too often, it is NOT about the scientific analysis, but how the masses think of it.

                                                        Hunt

                                                        1. If you're saying that "organic" labeled foods might not be more nutritious than non-organic, I'd agree with you. It's important to look more into the methods than the labels. That said, what you're saying about

                                                          1)"i f you eat good, nutritional food, you will be strong and healthy, contrariwise, if you eat fattening, sugary, nasty food, your health will be equally bad.
                                                          This is total nonsense, and I shudder to think how many people have mutated their existence attempting to confirm to this incorrect belief."

                                                          What you put into your body is important, organic or not. A diet filled w/ whole foods will make you healthier than one filled with Twinkies and soda. So, it's not nonsense. Filling your body with "organic" Doritos, as you mentioned, is filling your body with crap.

                                                          2) I can't speak for you but I can tell the difference between a supermarket tomato that was picked unripe from far away, trucked in, sitting on the shelves for days vs one off the vine from a local farm or my own garden. Huge difference.

                                                          You're mixing up ideas here in trying to downplay organics. Factory farms don't produce great foods. Organics are as healthy as the farmer makes them. But, that doesn't make them a "nutritional joke." An organic tomato grown in a small setting is very nutritious, no joke.

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                            Aside fro variety, the most important factor in determining the organoleptics of fruits and vegetables seems to be freshness. So it could very well be that your close-by organic tomato tastes better because it's fresher, not because it's organic.

                                                            To be sure, you'd have to test a fresh-picked factory-farmed tomato against a days-old, shipped in organic one.

                                                            In my own experience, the best produce I've ever tasted has always come straight from the garden, whether raised organically, inorganically, or by robots from Mars. Fresh-picked lettuce is unbelievable.

                                                            1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                                              Seems to me that there are many topics being touched upon here. Taste, nutrition, vine- or tree-ripened and eaten soon after vs. picked green and gassed/shipped, pesticide/herbicide residues, small & local vs. Big Farm, the meaning of "organic"....

                                                              You get the idea. This is a multi-dimensional topic.

                                                              1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                                                I'm not supporting organics. I'm supporting local, fresh picked, ripe. A factory farm tomato, organic or not, is picked early so it can survive the drive. Unless you're making fried green tomatoes, I'll take the tomato picked ripe. My example in #2 is from the OP in a subsequent post the he/she can't tell the difference between a fresh picked tomato and one off the shelf in a store that's been sitting there.

                                                                Fresh picked produce is great, when it's picked when it's ripe. That's not the case with most vegetables that are trucked in for days and have to survive the drive. That's for both organic and non. I've worked for both Dole Fresh Vegetables and Fresh Express/Bruce Church. I've had their produce fresh from the field from large ag. And, I've also had vegetables fresh from avid home gardeners. Both are great--the latter is superior. Since the OP said organic food is a nutritional joke--my comment about a locally grown organic tomato isn't to say it's always superior to a conventionally grown one. Just that it is not a nutritional joke as the OP asserts.

                                                                1. re: chowser

                                                                  Chowser, I agree, and the same is true with livestock/poultry; there is a difference in taste, texture, and overall health of a bird that is pastured, foraging for seeds, bugs, etc and supplimented with a natural grain mix, vs. a factory raised bird that is jammed into battery cages stacked 4 or 5 high, hmmmm the ground floor birds have an interesting view of life as the waste from their upstairs cousins rains down on them for their entire miserable lives. How about the feed they are given, feather based, chemically laced, "poultry by-products"( now imported from China) YUM! disease can sweep through an entire growing house and wipe out thousands of birds. Just think you may be lucky enough to find a survivor's carcass on a nice styrofoam plate with a diaper seperating the over sized breast from the carton, all neatly wrapped in clear plastic. Ah, yes, I can't wait to dig into that!!

                                                                  1. re: ospreycove

                                                                    I thought the same thing about eggs but wasn't sure if it was placebo or not. The shells feel much firmer with the eggs I've bought from a small local farm, which I generally buy. The conventional ones from the store have a thinner shell, yolk not at dark. It's not the label but the method.

                                                            2. I am just a regular shopper and buy into the idea that organic prodcuts are better for me. Ingesting fewer chemical herbicides and pesticides seems like a good idea. While the organic certification may not be perfect I assume it at least means that I'm accomplishing the above stated goal. It may not be perfect, it may not, in the opinion of some, go as far as they would like, but it seems a good start. If there are farmers who think additional practices are worth doing they should do so adn they should let people know about them and why they are important rather than railing against a standard they don't think goes far enough.

                                                              Now if the standard is false and doesn't accomplish even my minimum goal that would be bad and good to know.

                                                              jb

                                                              1 Reply
                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  Good article. I don't buy big organics because I don't think they're worth the extra cost, in general. I pay more, much more for small farmer produce and will pay for sustainable practices.

                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                    I work at a co-op. The stuff we get from the distributor is all certified organic. We also buy local eggs and produce that's not certified organic (but raised/grown in an organic fashion). The local stuff is better than the organic stuff from a big distributor. It's the freshness.

                                                                    1. re: Jackie007

                                                                      The reason I buy milk in a glass container that's not certified rather than Horizon. Being certified means the owner is willing and has the money to jump through the hoops. But, if you know the farm, you can learn more about their practices than a certification.

                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                        Oh trust me, I know all about the hoops/money involved in being certified and knowing the farmer.

                                                                        Horizon we won't carry. It's basically factory farmed.

                                                                        1. re: Jackie007

                                                                          Exacty.When a company adds organic milk powder, I'll skip it and go for the non-organic from a local farm.

                                                                2. This will most certainly start an argument, but I stand by it. I am in my fifties, and years of eating all sorts of apples has revealed to me REPEATEDLY that a conventional grocery store apple is TASTELESS compared to even a Big Farm organic one. Same variety, same season, same store, etc. The organic one always wins. For years.

                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                      "evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids"
                                                                      "38 percent of conventional produce tested in the studies contained detectable residues, compared with 7 percent for the organic produce"

                                                                      Enough reason for me to continue buying organic, particularly for the "dirty dozen" list published by the EWG.

                                                                      I wasn't aware that people believed that organic food is higher in vitamins and minerals.

                                                                      1. re: Rilke

                                                                        Sadly yes, there seem to be many people who believe organic = significant increase in nutritional value. I also know several people who believe organic = lower fat and/or calories per serving. I have heard several well educated friends complain about failed diets, completely astonished that all organic was not enough (similar to those who try vegetarianism to lose weight and fail). It all ties into a general lack of food and nutrition knowledge, and a strong undercurrant of fat phobia, for lack of a better phrase. If calorie restriction is good,and organic is good, then organic must = calorie restriction...

                                                                        1. re: mpjmph

                                                                          "I also know several people who believe organic = lower fat and/or calories per serving"
                                                                          "I have heard several well educated friends complain about failed diets, completely astonished that all organic was not enough"

                                                                          Wow! Do you respond at all?

                                                                          Also, I think "fat phobia" is a fine phrase. Now that is something of which I *am* aware, as I run into it on a regular basis at work (Trader Joe's). A lady a few days ago refused the demo sample as it included guacamole and "avocados are terrible for you, so much fat!" Perhaps she has been living in a box? She said she was disappointed that "a health food store" would "push such a product". Sigh.

                                                                    2. The significant thing about "organic" is not about what it is, but rather, what it isn't.

                                                                      1. I don't think organic is a joke. It is a movement to make our food supply better. Organic is substantially more expensive and not accessible to all and for me I buy mainstream produce as I cannot justify the cost. Am providing you with a link posted in the Globe and Mail on this issue:
                                                                        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/h...

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                          I have misgivings about that G&M article. It does not provide a link to the actual article, nor at minimum to the synopsis published by Stanford School of Medicine [see the link in my post above - i.e. http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/sept...] with quotes from the authors themselves.

                                                                          Although the NYT article I cited above also did not link to the actual article nor to the Stanford synopsis/interview, it did discuss the findings in a different way with attributions and quotes, statement of the non-external funding, discussion about what the findings did or did not mean etc.

                                                                          The G&M article also mixes in various viewpoints and other related stuff whether the personal opinion of the writer or of other people without clear demarcations or attributions. I suppose some of the wild comments on the G&M article, and fierce or disparaging or dogmatic statements from some commentators could be related back to that, perhaps? Amusing too that some instantly jumped to the conclusion that "the study" was another snow-job funded by Monsanto. (The study authors declared they received no external funding)

                                                                          Interesting.

                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                            I posted the article it has a viewpoint indeed and thought it contributed to this discussion. If I could afford to eat 100% organic I would, the reality is that most North Americans cannot, it is just far to expensive for consumers. I think the organic farmers are making a real contribution to farming, I try my best to buy local. The author is a nutritionist, I think her goal is to get people to eat healthy as much as it is possible.

                                                                            1. re: Ruthie789

                                                                              Yes, that much seems clear - about the author's goal, that is.

                                                                        2. I think the joke is the focus on nutritional content (though some of the differences have significant health implilcations) and ignoring the significance of the 80% of U.S. manufactured antibiotics being dumped into feedlots and sprayed onto produce.

                                                                          They're producing strains of diseases we die from and disabie our antibiotics as weapons against them.

                                                                          For starters.

                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                            " ignoring the significance of the 80% of U.S. manufactured antibiotics being dumped into feedlots and sprayed onto produce."

                                                                            Can you back up that statement please?

                                                                            1. re: RUK

                                                                              "The Food and Drug Administration says 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are fed to livestock and even healthy chicken to protect them from disease in cramped quarters. It also helps the chickens grow bigger and faster."

                                                                              Sold, not manfactured: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/20...

                                                                              http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/G...

                                                                              However, the above quote ignores the large amount of broad spectrum antibiotics used on produce as well.

                                                                            2. re: mcf

                                                                              Factory vs organic produce and factory vs. organic meats are two different balls of wax. Science hasn't been able to establish any negative health effects of factory vs. organic produce, but the deleterious health effects of additives and antibiotics in meats have been pretty well established.

                                                                              1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                                                                That's not true. In fact, I recall a very strong NY Times article in about 1985 quoting scientists as saying that if we did not stop dumping our antibiotics into agricultural operations, we were going to be defenseless against increasingly resistant pathogens. If you die of one, that's a "deleterious health effect."

                                                                                In addition, factory farmed beef, for example, has a pro inflammatory lipids and arachidonic acid profile. Higher levels of AA cause ht in some folks, and the role of inflammation in disease is well established across many disciplines.

                                                                                If you're saying most folks don't keel over dead with their first bite of a hamburger and that's proof that all hamburgers from factory farming are safe, I guess we just differ about what constitutes harm.

                                                                                Then there's those pesky pediatric deaths from contaminated fast food burgers. If you don't consider those non antibiotic responsive infectious mortalities "deleterious effects" we can agree to disagree on that, too.

                                                                                1. re: dr_mabeuse

                                                                                  You were probably using quick and easy terms to define the two as "factory vs organic". although "conventional' vs "organic" is more the question. I would rather look at factory vs small farm, though. There are factory organics and there are small farm conventional, or ones that have more sustainable practices that are not certified organic. I'd prefer a small conventional farm to factory organic; that's the biggest deception, imo--that people tend to lump organic with small farm and that's not the case. That's true of produce or meat. Keeping it simple, knowing where your food comes from is more important to me than certification. Polyface Farm, held up as the ideal from Michael Pollan so many years ago now, is not certified organic. But, I'll take their practices over large factory farmed labeled organics.

                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                    So would I, though I'd investigate. I don't want CAFO organics.

                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                      Yes, it's all about knowing the source and not depending on a certification label.