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Organic Farming vs. Conventional Farming: Why do you favour one over the other?

I have a background in commercial agriculture - namely tree fruits, and more recentley vegetables and berries - and now work in pesticide research and integrated pest management programs. I'd like to know what people think of the organic vs conventional farming debate - this means what you believe the word "organic farming" entails, what you think the problems with either system are, what your opinions on pesticides are (organic and synthetic), and if you have ever heard of Integrated Pest Management (IPM for short). If you feel comfortable, I'd like to know if you have an agricultural background or not when you are sharing your opinions - this way we might be able to see where any divides might occur. I'd like to limit this to a debate/conversation that does not include GMOs (although I'm sure it'll come up, as it always seems to find a way into these sorts of conversations), as that is an entirely different topic. Let's hear some passion! But try not to attack others opinions, let's use this as a learning platform as it is meant to be!

  • Feb 28 2012: I give you guys credit for your diplomatic demeanor and your sincere interest about this stuff. Im glad to hear methods are improving in the apple industry. I apologize for acting like a jerk. Maybe i was perhaps slightly disrespectful. There are some valid points here and i need to take a closer look at that article about the organic fertilizer study but i am a busy guy and will have to get back to this tomorrow or within the next few days.
    • Feb 28 2012: Organic pesticides, not fertilizer. But no need to apologize - I asked for passion and that's what I got!

      I probably shouldn't have started the thread the way I did - it was a little blunt to say the least. I appreciate your genuine interest and concern as well, regardless if our views don't line up.

      We kind of have to have a sincere interest in all this, as it's our way of making a living!
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      Feb 28 2012: That really very big of you thank you.
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    Feb 27 2012: (continued)

    And under these standards we will be even better able to maintain our land and our water for sustainable use, do we need to improve our methods? yes Is it important to reduce and even replace the current chemicals with new safer ones sure if for no other reason they are mostly based on petro chemicals and therefor not available for ever, we have to use a blend of what works in the meantime. We have to build owlhouses in our orchards to promote natural pest control , and we need to subject the ideas of new methods to scrutiny to assure our selves that what seems like a good idea isn't going to do more harm, than good. I wonder if the people who are promoting Organic farming via their computers are aware of the amount of toxic waste that the internet has generated in the form of heavy metal and dioxin contamination world wide as the generation after generation of computer is junked to allow slightly faster sleeker systems? I wonder if the Organic food promoter here uses chemicals to clean his home? or himself? what he drives? what he smokes? I wonder where his clothing is manufactured by what methods and how it is transported? I even wonder if it has escaped his notice that even his own argument, not to mention the articles he quotes, don't say that anyone was hurt or might be hurt by apples.

    Your friend is sick because of the application of the sprays not from eating fruit,

    You get that right? Not from eating the fruit. before you knock me and my entire industry for our "endangering your health" you self centered jerk, you should make sure you are A: not full of fertilizer, and B: not doing more harm yourself than the people you accuse. I'll listen when you have given up your car and have moved to spending more money for American Made products rather than the toxic toys of c
    • Feb 27 2012: You're right - people seem to quote stats on farmers getting cancer all the time without even thinking or knowing about it. The danger of being exposed to pesticides on a farm does not come from the application, it comes from improper procedures when MIXING, when you could be exposed to a highly concentrated mixture.

      There are other factors to take into account as well - I saw one study talking about rates of skin cancer being much higher. Well ya - farming requires a person to be outside for their entire job! Increase the exuposure to the sun, and you increase your risk of skin cancer, it's a fact any school kid could tell you. But there was absolutely no mention of that in the study.

      People often talk about how bad RoundUp is to the environment and to people's health - you know what? Go do a search for the Glyphosate (which is the active ingredient for RoundUp) MSDS (which is inculded with every single pesticide purchase someone makes) and take a look at it and compare it to the MSDS for NaCl. That's right, table salt. The LD50 (or dose that would be required to kill 50% of a sample population - rats, usually) is TWICE as much as table salt. That means that you would have to consume twice as much concentrated active ingredient (and RoundUp is already diluted) than you would have to salt in a day to have a 50% of killing you.

      I'm not saying glyphosate is totally safe - I'm just saying that if properly used the risk is neglible - and, by the way, it is illegal to use pesticides at any rate not on the label, and they tell you exactly the protective equipment you need, how far away you must *legally* be from a water source, etc, So, it all comes down to using chemicals properly.

      People seem to forget that farmers are people that don't want to put themselves, their families, or their land at risk just as much as any one else does.
  • Feb 23 2012: I do not believe an agricultural system based on petrochemical inputs can last longer than an organic system.

    If you look at just calories, which can be myopic, we have almost as many overweight people as malnourished people in the world. This makes me think that we have an unbalanced world diet. We definitely have the means to regenerate soil and start growing food in very inhospitable places (reference: greening the desert, therefore we do not need an industrial machine to generate food at one spot and distribute it all over. We can have decentralized food production systems all over the world.

    Pesticides are needed because of pests, right? Pests arrive when there is something wrong with the system. There is a function for pests in the system. Nature is trying to tell us something. There are too many plants together. Nature's way of saying "no no no" is by sending pests to balance the ecosystem. Therefore, we need to diversify our crops to prevent pests from arriving. IPM is great though, but think about integrating IPM from the initial farm design.. what plants will attract the pest-killers that you are buying from the IPM store?

    Animal manure can become a contaminant if you do not know how to apply it. There are safe ways to transform it into excellent, safe, and healthy compost. Same thing with humanure (human feces).

    This topic is too large to cover everything, Jesse, but it's something that needs people's attentions. Thanks for starting it.

    For a study comparing organic and conventional, please see the 30-year-long comparison study by Rodale Institute (

    My background: Environmental Engineer, Peace Corps Sustainable Agriculture Trainer, Permaculture Designer, worked at an organic farm, worked with farming parents and children, started and maintained 2 urban gardens with chickens and no pesticides grew delicious carrots, tomatoes, peas, kale, strawberries, and more.
    • Feb 23 2012: I read through that study you supplied a link to - and I read it trying to keep an open mind. I personally would take what that study says with a grain of salt - it gave no scientific data at all, and relied on the reader to connect dots in their head that should not be connected. For examplem, the bolded part that states that synthetic fertilizers (Nitrogen in this case) leach into the soil quicker than manure based compounds is true. However, what they fail to mention is that manure releases these nutrients very slowly and over a long period of time, while synthetic is avaliable right there. So what's the problem?

      An example of why this is a problem comes from the Fraser Valley (BC, Canada) and the Abbotsford Aquifer (which is shared by northern Washington State). The organic cranberry growers here who reply on manure from the local dairy and poultry operations (recycling local waste, sounds great right?) have been asked to change to synthetic fertilizers because they are poisoning the aquifer - in fact it is at the upper limit of UN standards for safe water consumption now (forgive me, I could be wrong on this but I believe it's 10 ppm Nitrogen). This is because there are growing seasons when the crops will readily take up nutrients (such as N), and the amount of each nutrient varies as the crop stages change. But the manure keeps on releases Nitrogen and other chemical compounds into the soil, which then leaches into the aquifer, because the crops are not taking anything in.

      As far as till and no-till practices go, I have been led to believe that organic systems must usually till (especially to til in the manure), and this is very detremental to the soil - the microbial ecosystems do not have a chance to establish an equilibrium, which is very important to overall soil health. This study, however leads me to believe that they rely on no-till operations. So, I'm not sure what to think of that.
    • Feb 23 2012: Conventional doesn't mean petrochemicals - that's a specific family of chemicals. Some conventional chemicals are derived directly from natural sources.

      I totally agree with you on the part about setting up farming operations in areas where it's currently not supported, and believe that is an extemely important idea. But we have to remember that just because an area can grow one crop, does not mean it will support all - the prairies where wheat and canola are grown would not do well for tree fruits, for example. So, at least for the time being, there will be a need to ship different crops to different places if people are going to continue wanting a highly varied diet. Growing a crop does not just depend on the soil, but on a huge range of variables such as weather, altitude, water sources (some crops do not require as much, while others are water reliant), pests, etc.

      Your comments about IPM are bang on - as far as I'm concerned. We definitely need to diversity our cropping systems and try to shy away from the monoculture farming - at the very least have blocks of different crops alternating side-by-side. This goes for both organic and conventional, however. IPM has been around since the early 70's, when the danger of pesticide overuse was first exposed, but it's taken this long to really bring it to the forfront. It's picking up steam as the responsible way of growing, so hopefully as new farms are established it will be the norm to use these techniques from the very start and plan accordingly. I know I am trying to!

      Some farms already have 'beetle banks' interspersed throughout their fields. These are areas set aside where the predatory beetles can overwinter and have a population base, which then radiates into the surrounding field as a natural pest-control.

      Thank you for your input! I am glad you have an informed view to back your opinion! Kind of a side note, but what is the Peace Corps Sustainable Agriculture Trainer job all about? Sounds interesting!
    • Feb 23 2012: I have to wonder that if that report is true - same or better yields, healthier soil, less expensive to grow - why wouldn't everyone grow organic? And also, if they are less expensive to grow... why does organic generally cost more in the store?

      Just a couple of thoughts I wanted to add.
      • Feb 24 2012: Hi Jesse,

        I'll try to answer from the bottom to the top..

        Everyone doesn't grow organic for many reasons. One of them is that it takes a while to build a healthy soil to meet the conventional cost-produce ratios, but once that occurs then you can become way more productive. Many small farmers and growers can't afford to give up producing less one or two years because they do not have enough money saved up to allow his/her family to go through the transition. Another one is that your market will change. You will be producing fewer things of many different crops, therefore you will also need to diversify your market. Many people do not know how to go about that, may be happy with their 1 purchaser and do not want to bother changing. Some times organic seeds are hard to find, and you are left with treated seeds that actually need pesticides and water. You also have partnerships between the government and agribusiness companies that advocate for conventional farming, and then you have farmers getting trained on conventional techniques, putting organic aside as an utopian model.

        Bettle banks sounds like an awesome idea! I have heard about owl boxes, iguana and lizard nests, and bees getting integrated into farms as well!

        In regards to the no till / low till / till ... my take on that is that if you are dealing with poor soil, you will need to till during the first time just to break up the soil, allow air pockets to be created, add composted manure, healthy soil, carboneous/dry materials, and water. After this, a microecosystem will form, reminiscent of a forest, where you will find many different types of microbes and bugs that will help to create a balanced soil. This soil should now be protected, because if you break it up, it will have to recreate itself once again. The different plant roots and bugs will play a role in shaping the soil beneath and around it so that it becomes healthier and healthier as time goes by.
      • Feb 24 2012: You should not apply straight manure. You need to allow it to be composted. You need to "dilute" it with other carbonaceous materials so that it does not impact that plants negatively and so it does not leach nitrates into the aquifers. There are several techniques that you can google, people and institutes post recipes, and you should make your decision based on what is around your local ecosystem.

        About setting up decentralized food production places.. we need to remember that at one time we did not have a global food production/distribution network as we do know. People got by, just fine, with what grew around them: meat and plants. They had, and some still do, very bioregional diets. We have all the technology in the world to grow food in greenhouses, to regulate temperatures very well. I am not pretending to say that we can grow everything, everywhere. What I want to say is that I believe we have the capacity to diversify our crops in various areas, with and without greenhouses.

        And in order to further the conversation of conventional vs organic, you need to find definitions for both. I do not think that USDA organic is necessarily better for the environment. It might be sometimes, but not others. There are "USDA organic" farms that are depleting aquifers because their crops need so much water. I would not consider this very holistic, yet they seem to be working within the limits to obtain the organic certification..

        At Peace Corps I work setting up trainings for Volunteers that will teach rural and indigenous community members low-tech and low-maintenance strategies to grow food locally in an economical and ecological manner. I get to visit different farms, volunteer communities, travel around Panama, and work on demonstration gardens. It's pretty fun and keeps things interesting!
        • Feb 27 2012: Organic is always better for the environment, always.
        • Feb 27 2012: Jorge I'll reply to you soon -

          Daniel, true organic would be better. But the certified organic food grown by commerical organic growers will not be - they spray just like conventional growers do... just different chemicals. PS, arsenic is an organic insectice.

          Please see this study:

        • Feb 27 2012: Sorry, I meant insecticide, and just to clarify - arsenic isn't the insecticide being used in the study, it's just to provide an example of organic pesticide use
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    Feb 19 2012: I like "organic farming", but really what I like is local farming. It will not supply for the global demand, but it will supplement it, and provide jobs for people in cities who like to work in the earth. Hydroponic farming, is an entertaining notion to me, especially when combined with a sustainable energy source.

    I live in Los Angeles, CA, and we get a lot of sun, I'd like to see us build the worlds tallest building, a giant warehouse farm. Such ideas would certainly require less pesticides, but i'm not against pesticides 100 percent, they are necessary. Making them as harmless to children as possible of course, is a good idea. A few of the ones still in use have to be very well washed I believe. I am just a consumer though.

    I also just want to mention, that people are allowed to believe what they want... Some people don't like chemicals, so there is a market for organic fruit. It probably won't disappear, but I don't think it will replace conventional farming. I think when people say organic, what they are really thinking, is as healthy and natural as possible.
    • Feb 19 2012: I wholeheartedly agree with you!

      The only problem I have is that people believe that organic is chemical free - it most certainly isn't. Sure some small operations will not use chemicals (and that's where your buying local comes in! - 'organic' you buy in a grocery store will not be chemical free). In fact, the very low residual levels of organic-rated pesticides means that the growers must reapply again to get protection. If somebody wants natural - that's fine with me, but I have a problem when people try to push organic as healthier and better for the environment. Some of their practices are extremely detrimental to water sources... and it does very crop-to-crop, but for example applying manure to their crops is a huge contamination source.

      I'm sorry if this seemed pushy - I know I got on a bit of a rant for a few days there - and I really appreciate the response! When I wrote all this I was really only trying to spur some conversation on the topic because I know that people generally have a misunderstanding of what it means to be 'organic' as far as commercial practices go - and it just really got to me at the time, and wanted to try to share what I know of the industry. I have extended family members and know unrelated growers that are organic, and some of the mixtures that are considered 'organic' are probably much more toxic than what a conventional grower would apply. Actually, one of my colleagues told me that she avoids buying organic fruits and vegetables because she doesn't trust the chemicals and mixtures that are applied to organic crops.

      Like I said I don't really have a problem with buying organic fruits and veggies - but my problem comes from the industry leading people to believe that it is something it is not. I know people want as 'healthy and natural' as possible - as do I!
    • Feb 19 2012: Oh, and IPM (Integrated Pest Management), which is what I truly am a believer and supporter of above all else, can and is applied to both conventional and organic operations!

      Thank you for the response, I'm glad that someone else shared their thoughts on this, and I'm so happy to hear about the local support - that is the best way, regardless of whether you are more supportive of conventional or organic

    • Feb 27 2012: Ive been eating 100% organic for almost a year and i feel much better. I have much more energy than i used to and i look noticeably healthier. I know poor people cant afford organic and thats sad that they are the ones who have to suffer from the diseases associated with conventional agriculture. It is worth the extra 10-20% that they charge in the markets because you will save money from not having to undergo cancer treatments in the future and the more its supported, the cheaper it will become. I am not just a organic farmer but a farm owner. I know people like Jesse have to find a way to feel good about what they are doing but i grow veggies without using pesticides and i never have problems. Read a book called: 'The Soil and Health', if you are interested in how to naturally eliminate all pest and plant disease problems before buying into this idea that people need pesticides.
      • Feb 27 2012: I'm not trying to feel good about myself Daniel - my program is aimed at reducing pesticide use through the use of other control methods, however as of yet we haven't been able to justify pesticde bans. Part of my program is the health side - we overspray (more times than the label, at higher concentrations) and then sample the fruit/veggies/beans/whatever and send them off to a lab (and this is after the Pre-Harvest Interval, at which point a grower is not permitted to apply chemicals to their crop). It must still come in at at the very least 100-1000X below the MRL (maximum residue levels - the point at which POTENTIALLY someone could START to feel any side effect at all).

        My program is aimed at reducing risks to both consumers and the environment, while still giving growers ways to control pest injury to their crops. Please tell me what part of my job it is that you don't approve of?
      • Feb 27 2012: Sorry - that's if they ate the fruit before the chemical had time to break down - this, for example, is if we sprayed and harvested in the same day - which does not happen because commercial growers legally have to follow the label and the pre-harvest intervals, etc. And it still has to meet regulations as if it were to go to shelf immediately after being sprayed - no washes, no time to break down, etc. This is true in both Canada and the USA (Minor Use Program and the IR-4 programs, respectively).
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      Mar 1 2012: My small orchard will be suppling a portion of what is sold localy what is sold globally and what I will be donating to Haiti assuming the transportation issues can be worked out.
    • Mar 5 2012: David - I thought you might be interested in this news article that I was shown on greenhouse growing which fits in perfectly with your mention of building 'greenhouse skyscrapers'
  • Mar 8 2012: "And yet we are told ceaselessly that sustainable or organic agriculture cannot feed the world. I find this claim very hard to understand. Especially when you consider the findings of an impeccably well-researched International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, conducted in 2008 by the United Nations. The report drew on evidence from more than 400 scientists worldwide and concluded that small-scale, family-based farming systems, adopting so-called agro-ecological approaches, were among the most productive systems in developing countries."
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      Mar 8 2012: Very true and if we could transport the food to markets that were distant without loss of food quality and or overwhelming expence that would be great! I'd like to see great airships of grain and dried or treated foods sailing around the sky just waiting for a crop failure or a drought to strike near them and then they could chug down and feed the hungry, its not like airships would cost much after the cost of building them, expessially if we made them sailships
    • Mar 8 2012: Hey again Jorge,

      I want to start out by saying I have nothing against organic commercial production and am not an opponent of supporting it, it's just my personal decision that I support and buy conventional. So I am not trying to sway people away from supporting organic - it is their choice and that is fine with me. It would not be good for the world to rely on one system of anything.

      The only thing I would have to say in response to the article is that he clearly states that the report he refers to is for developing countries, who may at this point not have access to the same knowledge and technologies that places such as Europe, Canada and the US do. But then again, I could be completely wrong on that. I've read one article (which was referenced in a report on agriculture and the food crisis in a report published in the Economist) which clearly states yields from organic cereal crops were far below conventional, and 'natural' (nothing done to them, just planted and left to grow) were at about 50% yields - and this was from the UK where this quote is sourced from.

      I know one of my friends went to Gambia as a part of an agricultural teaching program for 6 months, and when he got there he was appalled. Not only did they not know how to use the *illegally imported* pesticides and fertilizers on their crops... but it wasn't rare that the pesticides would be used as shampoo to kill lice on their children. This, obviously, is not healthy. But what I am trying to say is that the knowledge or lack of knowledge can be extremely beneficial or extremely detrimental. It's all in how you use a tool. So yes, maybe organic production is better in those areas - which is great. Maybe there are other factors though, such as knowledge of proper use, that come in to play.

      I also have never dismissed 'sustainable' agriculture. But I believe the practices that make a system sustainable will vary substantially from region to region - what works in one will not in another.
    • Mar 8 2012: Those are just my thoughts
      • Mar 8 2012: I agree with your last statement that practices will vary from region to region, there´s not one answer to all. This is what is so great about farming. You need to learn from your surroundings, need to learn the water flow patterns before wanting to flatten the whole field, you need to understand the native nitrogen fixers to avoid going to the store to buy nitrogen fertilizers, you need to learn that trees are needed to prevent erosion, and more.

        We are currently living in a 3.8-billion-year-old living experiment--in a living laboratory--that has been practicing sustainable farming for all its existence until the culture/time-based agricultural revolution and then the industrial revolution. Then.. humans began to shift things a bit. How can we sustain ourselves for generations to come with machinery that requires a fuel that is finite? Switching to biofuels is not a viable option at this moment. How can we sustain ourselves for generations to come using agrochemicals which are detrimental to the environment? Why not just learn from the living laboratory we are in? Figure out its tricks and begin shifting our way of doing things.

        For more that I support different strategies to do things, I cannot give my support to a strategy that is so dependent on a finite resource that damages the lungs of farmworkers, cuts down the trees to maximize the flat area so that big machinery can come and till the soil destroying bizillions of microbes that all they are doing is sequestering carbon, increasing the topsoil, and working for us.
        • Mar 9 2012: I pretty much agree with everything you've said here... and while I support a conventional strategy, it's out of limited options. While weighing pros and cons, I personally came to this conclusion. I don't expect everyone in the world to come to the same one... obviously anything that requires gas machinary or anything can't be sustained forever! But as far as technology that exists, I support this system - obviously it will HAVE to change as time goes on... no doubt about it
      • Mar 8 2012: The Economist study you mention sounds interesting, but studying the ¨natural¨ growth of cereal crops sounds quite odd, unless they followed nature´s way of growing cereal crops--which I haven´t looked into--now, that would be natural, not just planting it somewhere and leaving it to grow. The sustainable agriculture that I practice isn´t just leaving things to grow. It involves studying the landscape, making use of edges, integrating trees, flowers, fruits, vegetables, and roots together, it´s trying to convince nature that I´m weaving a good enough ecosystem to call on bugs and prevent pests from getting created, harvest its own water, etc. This requires a lot of observation and design work. Then it requires a bit of land work, and then just a bit of maintenance alongside produce gathering. Then you just wait to see if the plants will go to seed and replant themselves. If not, save the seeds, collect them, and replant them.

        How old is conventional agriculture? How much money are farmers and growers making (exclude large agribusinesses)? The positive rate of urbanization kind of tells me that people don´t want to be farmers and ranchers anymore because maybe they don´t see a future there. Don´t you think they should try something new? Shouldn´t the system shift a bit to really reward the farmers and ranchers for literally allowing our peoples to grow and develop?
        • Mar 9 2012: Sorry I think I misled you with the Economist study (actually they didn't do the study, they just referenced it).

          It wasn't a study on the "natural" growth of cereal crops. I meant to say that they had different treatement plots including a conventional plot using the newest technologies (including fertilizers and pesticides), certified organic (using "certified organic" processes, fertilizer sources and pest controls) and then a control plot where fertilizer and crop protection was not used... it was left to grow without any 'help'... although it was still a field plot and not technically 'natural'. I just used that term for lack of a better one. Sorry about that!

          Might I ask how big of an operation your farm is? Is it how you make a living? A farmer who depends on his annual crop could not afford to plant seeds and wait to see if they will grow and then replant them.

          I'd say that "conventional agriculture" has been around since there has been a need to differentiate between two or more systems of agriculture. And as far as growers making money - it depends on their crop. Apple growers here aren't making anything nowadays, but cherry growers are. Fifteen years ago it was reversed. As far as people not wanting to become growers - that's a big issue we will be facing... it's been noted that there is barely a new generation of farmers coming once this one isn't around. Big problem. And that will lead to more large farms owned by few people who do want to be involved with agriculture.

          A lot of people have a huge disconnect about where their food comes from... they think it comes from the store and that's it. No second thought is given to the people that actually grew it.
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    Mar 5 2012: Jesse whats your email adress? I want to talk to you about that Haitian thing...
  • Mar 2 2012: I am a member of general public, but my research leads me to another definition of organic. Plants and the 'things' that feed on them have been doing a 'war-dance' ever since plants first left the oceans and the plant-eaters followed. If IPM involves using the individual plant's strengths as well as our ability to meld groups of plants that help each other in defense, then I am all for it. That to me is organic.

    Any system that leaves residual materials (either directly or through photo-decomposition) on or in the foods we eat in such a form that they cannot be eliminated by our own body and allowing the accumulation of these materials in our body to our detriment is conventional... at least as currently practiced.

    I feel, through my looking at pre-industrial farming techniques (not for the farming, but for the linkages between land and political power), that those methods were better 'conventional' systems than today, although not as productive.
    The use of the commons, and the belief in stewardship rather than profit were better than the mono-culture agri-farms that have spread so much across the fertile lands we still have.
    • Mar 3 2012: IPM does use individual plants strengths, such as cold hardiness or disease resistance, but that is generally already practiced in agriculture in general. It is more about using mechanical, physical, cultural (this includes the plant's inherited characteristics), biological, and other control methods (such as phermones, or sterile insect release) all together in an effort to reduce or eliminate pesticide use. It's about having a 'toolbox' of control methods to choose from, with chemical control being a last resort. It's about using pest behaviour and life cycle to maximize efficancy, minimize cost, and minimize damage to your crops. I suppose the end goal is to completely eliminate chemical controls, however that is something that will not likely happen soon. I suppose what you are talking about is more 'naturalistic,' if you don't mind me suggesting that?

      Would you consider something that allows residue into your body, but after which your body flushes it out as conventional still? Just a question, I'm rather curious by your response. Do you buy locally from farms such as Daniel (whom I've been conversing with in this thread), where you know they don't use any chemical controls? Or do you have acces to a store that supplies garunteed no-pesticide use foods?

      In regards to your last comment about stewardship and profit, what do you think about the statement that farmers, regardless of size of farm, still believe in stewardship, even if it is because that would mean profit in the future? In my experience, growers are very good stewards of their land, and care deeply for it. It is their life. It is in their best interests to be good stewards.
  • Feb 29 2012: Part 7. I plan on sticking around the industry for a very long time, and if organic and/or conventional changes so that it is not reminiscent of what it is now I would not be surprised. If the new system(s) are studied enough, and the first-hand experience with them shows that they are better than the previous system(s), I will change my stance and support them. I am not stuck in my ways, and make my decisions based on what I have learned over years of study and first-hand experience both in the agricultural and scientific industries. Science changes, I’m sure I will too. But for now, organic is not the alternative that will sway my mind, there are too many problems that I see with it and not enough benefit . Sure, maybe the people who can afford and do eat organic will get marginally less chemical residue in their diet (not that the amount they would get would make a difference) – a study I didn’t link to said organic foods had 1/3 less residue – but will it really make a difference? That 1/3?? I’ve heard – and admit I don’t know if it’s true – that a person will get 1000X more chemicals inputted in their body from one cup of coffee than in a year’s worth of eating conventional fruits and veggies. Most people don’t see any problems with organic at all (blindly believing it is the perfect answer, and everyone else is an idiot type of thinking), and refuse to – even though there are obvious problems if you just think about it. I’m not saying conventional doesn’t have problems – clearly it does. But for me, weighing the pros and cons ended in conventional support.

    In one of my past posts I asked you what you plan to do when a pest comes in to your fields and establishes a population. You ignored it. What do you plan to do? Just let it devour your crops? What makes your organic operation exempt from pests coming in to eat it? Because it’s ridiculous to think that an operation that does not use pesticides is exempt from pest pressure.
  • Feb 29 2012: Part 6. conventional and organic.

    I know where my food comes from, and what is put on it. You, apparently don’t, as you stated earlier on you didn’t even know there was pesticides for organic growers (which I supplied examples of the labels and MSDS’s including toxicology for just two of them, as well as the list of OMRI approved chemicals). So at least I don’t go around believing my food is something that it is not, like so many organic consumers seem to do, refusing the admit that there could ever be any problems with their choice and that it could EVER have a negative effect in any way.
  • Feb 29 2012: Part 5. There’s that perception that those practices are exclusively-organic. They are not, they are regular farm practices.
    Conventional farming also “uses various methods to enhance or maintain soil fertility, such as crop rotation, tillage and cultivation practices, cover crops, and natural [and synthetic] products… [and use] specific methods to minimize air, soil, and water pollution.”

    I mean what’s the point in all this organic hype if they are using chemicals just like the rest of growers – just different ones? And doing environmental damage, only in other, newers ways? People say organic growing has been done for thousands of years. Yes, that’s true. But it’s also true for thousands and thousands of years the population was a fraction of what it is now, and per person there was a ridiculous amount of land for use. It’s also true that people starved to death because they didn’t have access to food. People are still comparing conventional growers these days to the days of DDT. Organic as it is today would have won hands down in probably all areas if compared to those days. But farming practices have changed… even from ten years ago. And they continue to change; it’s not a static industry. Every year more chemicals are being deregulated, and safer, more pest specific chemicals are coming available. So now you know why I support conventional. It’s been said that people might support organic purely on principle, which I am fine with. But for me, I support conventional because I believe that with current practices it is the only way to support the global population, and have not been convinced of any health benefits. The studies I’ve read just aren’t very convincing, and the studies that study those studies have come to the same conclusion. As for environmental benefits, as far as I’m concerned – you solve one problem conventional might have and create another with organic. And that is why I am such a firm supporter of IPM, which is applied to both conventio
  • Feb 29 2012: Part 4. While something like this wouldn’t bother me so much, since you’re so worried about health, here is a study about E. coli and Salmonella on conventional and organic farms (as a result of the manure use – which, while great that people recycle, I have to remind people that it does not mean environmentally friendly. Where does it come from? Cows and poultry. Cows are one of the largest methane sources in the world.) So you’re trading in residue levels (which should be minimized if farmers could just learn to use the pesticides properly and follow the labels) for pathogens. Great, that sounds reasonable.

    I just read this somewhere else, and while there is nothing wrong with the statement I do have something to say about it:
    “Organic farming uses various methods to enhance or maintain soil fertility, such as crop rotation, tillage and cultivation practices, cover crops, and natural products (such as natural fertilizers, pesticides, and so on). The use of synthetic materials is not allowed in organic farming unless the materials are on the Natl. List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. A synthetic material can be defined as a substance that is formulated or manufactured by a chemical process or by a process that chemically changes a substance extracted from a naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral source. Organic farmers use animal and crop wastes, botanical, biological, or nonsynthetic pest controls, and allowed synthetic materials that can be broken down quickly by oxygen and sunlight. Organic farmers also use specific methods to minimize air, soil, and water pollution.”
  • Feb 29 2012: Part 3. built a manmade pond which now is home to frogs, turtles, dragonflies and other critters you’d expect there, which came in naturally and now are part of the orchards biocontrol scheme. All these things that are used by the organic industry as selling points for organic, but they fail to mention that those are just regular farm practices. And that really bothers me. And like studies comparing the fossil fuel inputs (from what I’ve seen conventional usually requires more fossil fuel input) – sure, they might be true, but what about the environmental damage of the cattle and poultry, not only in emissions from them, but in the farmland that is required for all this? Methane is far more reactive than CO2, and they are releases tons and tons of it into the atmosphere.
  • Feb 29 2012: Part 2. What I am trying to state by sharing that is that there are benefits to both. What I am ‘against’ with organic is the almost religious nature by which people follow it and support it, as if it is completely clean and earth and health friendly. It is not, and while some aspects may be better, others will be worse (have you read any studies on yields? The above one mentioned that organic yields were 17-84% below conventional, meaning less food on the same amount of land, requiring more ecosystems to be destroyed for farming purposes to support the same number of people). You claim that there are all these studies showing how organic is better for you – I have seen plenty of studies that show inconclusive that data is. I’ve read talk after talk that discuss the inherit problems with all these nutritional studies, and those done in the marketplace. The fact that you can’t trace the product back to the farm, and check out what their practices really are. The fact that on these farm studies, they don’t discuss how long the earth has been farmed (you better believe that would make a difference on soil health, regardless of your practices). I know you said you don’t care if everyone has access to the food produced, but I do. With current organic practices we would not be able to support the current world population, much less the two billion more that are expected in the next thirty years or whatever it is. The real problem I have with organic isn’t the system itself, it’s more the consumer perception that they are so radically different from conventional. It’s not true.
    My parents, for example… apple growers in BC. Yes, they use synthetic pesticides (one insecticide in the past nine years, a herbicide and a chemical thinner for blossom thinning in the spring once a year) and synthetic fertilizers. However, they also use biocontrols, including kestrel boxes, they do crop rotations, fallow land, cover crops, pheromone traps, monitoring programs, etc – they even
  • Feb 29 2012: Read this after you read the replys you ignored last time.

    1. Daniel, I wrote a heck of a lot more than that post you commented on. If you had scrolled down you would have seen my reply to the posts you copied and pasted again. Please read them.

    Regarding the studies done on nutritional benefits of organic foods:,5

    Here is another study that delves into nutritional information

    It includes data that sometimes is in favour of organic, and sometimes is in favour of conventional, but the part that I really want you to read is the conclusion, which I’ll post below:

    ” Many studies have compared the nutritional values of organic and conventional foods. The strength of the present study lies in its exploration of the mechanisms underlying the differences found between mineral concentrations in organic and conventional grain. The study indicates that the aspects of organic management that induce the nutritional value of produce to differ from that of conventional produce can be explained using conventional scientific knowledge and processes. In addition, it appears that organic management and, specifically, elimination of soluble fertilizers will not induce dramatic increases in grain mineral concentrations. We contend that a continued focus on proving either organic or conventional agriculture to be superior is unlikely to be productive or even provide a clear outcome. A more mechanistic and less ideologically driven approach to the issue of food nutritional value must be adopted if we are to devise and implement the varied agricultural systems and practices which will be required to maintain the health of an increasing world population”
  • Feb 29 2012: [continued]

    The certification rating would change on a yearly basis as new research is applied, that way it is always the newest, best practises.

    I realize this will cost more to the grower, which is why people must be willing to pay a little bit more. But if they are willing to pay a little more for a stamp that says it's the best practices available and is following the standards set for by that certification, then I believe growers will do it. This is not a jab at you Daniel, but I know the money is why a lot of organic growers that I know made the switch.

    Thoughts? This is the jist of it, but I have more on the go for it... I have talked with one member of the BCFGA about it and she liked the idea, however I don't know if it'll ever be possible to actually pull off.
    • Feb 29 2012: Roundup has many other ingredients than just glycophospate. I don't know any organic farmers who grow soy, corn, wheat, or anything like that. Maybe we need conventional methods to feed the overpopulated world but i don't really care because organic products are not for everyone and organic farmers are not trying to take over the world like monsanto. Although surprised, I was not overly impressed with that scientific article. The article was too specific and not comparative and whenever a scientific article is titled with words like ''may'', they have not come to any conclusions but rather making suggestions. When you claim that organic farming permits harmful chemicals, you are misrepresenting the honest, hardworking, majority of small farmers that want to keep small farms alive and who choose not to suck the c*ck of big chemical corporations. I just read about IPM projects being more environmentally focused and you may be doing a good thing. The apple guy said that organic apples can be worse for the health and i cant figure that one out. Lester is curious about my character, well i actually don't use soap on when cleaning my house or in the dishwasher or washing machine. My cloth and dishes wash very well in just hot water, and hot water is fine for mopping floors as well. I use eco friendly soap in the shower and for my hands. I do however drive a nice car, wear generic cloth and always carry my glock19 pistol since washington allows concealed pistol licenses. I smoke stuff that is apparently semi-organic. Im 26 years old and I believe in good old fashion silver dollars and hard work that we should not hand over to mexicans or supplement with chemical herbicides just to save a buck on a cheeseburger or pound of strawberries.
    • Feb 29 2012: Like i said, i don't go around promoting organic Lester. I haven't even told a single one of my friends about how i think organic is better because they are just not interested, and i have many friends. I just tell my family that local is better. Sure i go out to eat at normal restaurants when i am with friends, so i guess i should have said i consume about 95% organic total. When people ask me about this farm i recently bought, i just simply call it a farm and im a farmer now. I am hardly ever engaged in this topic because most people don't care or are already convinced. Organic food products probably cater to only 5% of the market depending on where you live. There are many reasons people choose organic. Some for health reasons, some for the environment, some to support local family farms, some know about how unethical corporate farming is, some don't like animal factory farms, some don't like gm crops, etc.. Generally speaking, all of these are true and very good reasons. The other reason i don't like the focus of your argument Jesse is that i am familiar with 50 or so organic farms and i have never heard of these pesticides you claim that organic farmers use. I didn't know pesticides were allowed at all. Your statements misrepresents the vast majority of organic farms. Its more about supporting the principal, idea, and concept that organic is better and should be 100% natural. Its important to have the choice and empower the consumer with the freedom of choosing. I simply prefer organic mostly because i did some research and found that most experts/scientists agree its healthier and better for everything. Hopefully conventional methods improve and corporations like monsanto become more ethical and stop giving caring conventional farmers a bad name. The thing is that you presented a broad question about the general pros and cons and which one is ultimately better, then state you prefer conventional and gave few reasons. Other credible reasons had not been mention
    • Feb 29 2012: Sure Jesse, i agree with you that organic certification should truly mean organic and not allow chemicals. That is hardly a reason to say you prefer conventional over organic. Your argument against organic is based on what an expert would call a 'red herring' argument, which you would have learned in logic 101 like i did. A 'red herring' argument is a very weak argument. You keep drifting away and distracting us from the most important points of the entire issue, and draw a conclusion from faulty reasoning. I expect more from a Canadian bcause you cant use the dumb American excuse a? lol! Educate yourself
      • Feb 29 2012: Daniel, that was an afterthought. Please actually go down and read the replys I posted in response to all that and the three studies you suppled. Instead of assuming I'm trying to trick you, take that for what it was. An afterthought that I thought you might agree with. If you don't care about that, then fine, just ignore it, but don't play me out to be some idiot who needs to resort to tricking people. Just scroll down and read the responses you ignored before, both after the three articles and after you informed me you bought your farm with cash.
        • Feb 29 2012: Sorry about that. I missed a few of those things you said. Didnt mean to make assumptions. I had never used this before i stumbled upon your discussion and this is kinda confusing. Agree to disagree i guess.
        • Feb 29 2012: I also dont want to give off the impression that all organic farmers are against conventional farming. Most of them are really not and dont go around preaching against it. Its just a personal choice not to partake for whatever reason
        • Feb 29 2012: Yeah farm life aint bad. It can be better than showing up at a cubicle at 8 in the morning every day in my opinion. Sometimes i miss living closer to a city but at least i dont dread my job like some people. It has some pros and cons but mostly pros. Plus i get a lot of free time in the winter since i dont have livestock.
      • Feb 29 2012: I agree - and I don't want to give off the impression all conventional are against organic either. It is a personal choice for sure. Haha, and yeah I know what you mean about living on a farm. I love it, and I miss it right now because I'll be away from mine for quite a while.

        [Edit] I don't want to say I am against organic either, just given the two options I, personally, would support conventional - it's not that I am 'against' organic. Don't mean to come off that way. I am more pro-farm than anything.
  • Feb 29 2012: I walked away from my last post exhausted, so lay down in bed. Couldn't stop thinking. Then I realized I have the perfect opportunity to ask you guys (Daniel - completely organic, no chemicals - and Lester (if you're still with us) - a conventional grower) your opinions on something I have only briefly referred to.

    So, we know where we all stand, and we know that I am a big supporter of IPM. I think we all can agree on this next statement that I have said before:

    If there are organic, but chemical and pesticide using growers, such as myself and Lester claim, and completely chemical-free growers, such as Daniel claims - could we agree that as far as the public is concerned, and has any knowledge of (Daniel, you yourself said you didn't know about the pesticides) - "Organic" encompasses both to the average consumer with no knowledge otherwise?

    Could we also agree that proper, environmentally sensitive conventional growers and improper pesticide-using and environmentally damaging conventional growers are clumped into one group even though the danger from one farm to another could be drastic? And that it is all looked at the same way to a consumer, no matter that difference, as far as buying produce in the store?

    If yes to both those, what do you think of a revised classification system: a certification that can only be recieved by using the best environmental practices (with proof) on a REGION SPECIFIC basis - because let's face it, every new region has new problems that must be dealt with properly. This way, the 'organics' that use pesticides, if accepted by the public, could use the chemicals that work better but still get a certification, the environmentally friendly conventionals could get the same certification which sets them a part, and the zero-chemical using organic growers (Daniel) would actually be seperated from what it is now with a 'true organic' rating?
  • Feb 28 2012: Here are three articles about the harmful health effects of common pesticides. They are not only talking about how people ingest them from contaminated drinking water caused by agriculture run off but also traces in the foods. Unlike the ONE you posted, these are conclusive studies that are not titled with frivolous, wishy washy words like 'may'. That experiment was also specific to soy beans, which is not a common crop among organic growers. I am open for convincing but you got to do a lot better than that buddy haha! I used to read scientific articles in college so dont think im a complete idiot here. There are hundreds more where these came from. I would take these seriously and drop any predisposition.
    • Feb 29 2012: First of all I want to say that I am sincerely overjoyed that you care so much about where your food comes from. I definitely think that is something that is on a downward slide in our society these days - and there is more and more of a disconnect. That is definitely a breath of fresh air for me, so thank you.

      Another thing that I wanted to mention - but not get in to - is that you mentioned Monsato and how you don't trust them. Fair enough, while I don't necessarily have a problem with GMO foods (if properly tested, used, and regulated) I do believe RoundUp-ready crops was a HUGE mistake. People say it causes farmers to use more pesticides, this is not true, but it is true that it encourages growers to use RoundUp instead of other herbicides (which is also made by Monsato). This is just smart business wise - it's like what Apple does with their products... encourages connectivity and brand loyalty. The problem I have with this is that if you rely on one chemical, this is how resistance builds up. And that is not a good thing. But anyways, just my two cents on that! I don't like what they did there either, even if it's for other reasons.

      While I don't dispute the links you sent me (even though the first one was not a scientific paper, just quoted one), I would like to say that because the article I showed you uses the word 'may' means nothing. One of the articles you supplied on Glyphosate states in the last sentence of the abstract that it 'could' cause damage. I do not dismiss it because of this word. The second one finishes the abstract by stating that "A real cell impact of glyphosate-based herbicides residues in food, feed or in the environment has thus to be considered... etc," leading me to believe it is incomplete. Anyways, not dismissing them, just pointing that out. Obviously there are safety hazards, and I like to emphasis - especially if used improperly. They are chemicals. The point I am trying to make is that "organics" have access to chemicals
    • Feb 29 2012: that are no safer. (And I'll post some links for you to check out in a sec). I will say that I'll keep these articles in mind next time I use Glyphsate, as I'm usually pretty lax on my own safety with that particular chemical (my own fault). You previously said Glyphosate has other ingredients - of course it does, it's a chemical mixture. Glyphosate is just the "active ingredient," which is the one that does the work. One of your studies pointed out the added adjuvants that must be used - I've never used either of those with it, but I have used others. I'll keep that in mind. Another point in regards to the use of language in the scientific studies. I do believe you've read studies before, but I'd like to point out I have read and written (not published, but used for regulations) quite a few myself, and I use language like 'may' or 'appears'. (Continued in a sec, just gotta gather my thoughts)

      [Edit] I also wanted to add that Glyphosate should never come into contact with a person if it's used properly. You are told in the label to wear all the protective equipment, and it is not applied to the actual crop (with the exception of the famous RoundUp-ready crops) - it's applied to the weeds you are trying to kill, and it has a re-entry period just like every other pesticide. So, once again, if used correctly should never come into contact with a person, worker or consumer.
    • Feb 29 2012: So first of all I'd like to know what you and your friends use as pest control on your farm? Not supposed to be a snarky comment, just a question. If nothing, how much of your crop do you lose to pests every year? If you haven't had a problem yet, what do you intend to do when a pest problem does appear?

      Here is a list of chemicals registered for use on organic crops in pdf form (includes over 2,300 products) in the US:

      It includes: insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, biopesticides, petroleum based oils, acids, microbial controls (including BT), adjuvents for pesticde mixing, SYNTHETIC micronutrients (with a note, saying they can only be used when soil tests show they are needed - I don't know what farmer would apply them and waste money when they aren't needed. Haha, found that kind of funny)

      Here is a link to a page where you can see the Label and MSDS of Entrust, a chemical used by organic (and generally not conventional, because of it's price). The label will show you the crops it is registered for use on, as well as the pests it is effective against (and what life stage it is effective for). MSDS will show you the toxicological characteristics of it:

      And this is for PyGanic, a pyrethrin I believe was just put back into the system for organic growers last year after being taken away from them. If you look at the label, its registered for use on 23 GROUPS of crops (and each group consisting of multiple crops - including a group with soy, just FYI), AND 31 animal types (so you can apply directly to the animal) for control of about 160 pests (so, we've established that it is an extremely broadspectrum killer). The pdfs are on the right hand side.
    • Feb 29 2012: It's interesting to note I asked someone today if they knew where I could find a list of pesticides available for Canadian organic producers, as I couldn't find it on the internet. They said it's not on the internet, the only way to get access to it is to order a hard-copy from one of the certification organizations. Seems rather ridiculous to me, but I guess I don't have proof of it in Canada this way. The OMRI site is that site of the official organic regulatory organization in the US, and that's where the list of US approved pesticides for organic production is.

      Annnd one more thing I just thought of about the my one study vs. your studies thing. The study I presented wasn't meant to prove organic pesticides were worse (even though that study claimed they are worse for the environment, in that particular case), just that they can be just as bad. There was nothing about people's health in there, and that must be done on a chemical to chemical basis (can't lump organic and conventional into two different piles and be done with it). I know you say you don't know any organic grower that uses these 'organic pesticides'... but I just find that extremely hard to believe, and I admit that could be just my own head failing to grasp it because I've never seen it.
    • Feb 29 2012: Afterthought, just in case - most of the things I am referring to on the OMRI list are in the seond half/last third of the list, just fyi
  • Feb 28 2012: My friends, there is a battle on many fronts and we cant win em all but we need to prioritize our fights and do what we can to help the planet in our own way. Did i mention i have solar panels and am putting up a 3kw wind generator on my 19 acre farm because i disagree with coal power. We organic farmers just want to make a honest living and not get ousted out by the big guns. The reason i can sell my vegetables for far less than conventional is because i payed cash for my farm, tractor, and greenhouse, and dont have any bank loans looming over my head. Can you believe a college educated rich kid from Bellevue Washington would want to pick weeds all day?!-I love doing it and my organic farm ain't going no where. You would be surprised what a 19 acre farm can produce. My friend has a 20 acre organic farm and he sold over $250,000 in veggies last year! I have yet to build such a customer base but im in no hurry. He doesnt care about the posotive aspects of organic farming, he just does it for the money. I could have bought a bigger farm but this is plenty of income for me and a few hired pairs of hands.
    • Feb 29 2012: That's great - and I wish I had that kind of money. My mom has been talking about putting a wind generator up for years, I dunno if there's enough wind in her area for it to be worth it though.

      That's awesome your friend is doing well with his farm - I also have a friend similar to that back home who is organic and only sells local. He doesn't need the money either, but he does it because he wants to. If anything, I support local (and have nothing against pesticide-free growing, but it's the 'certified organic' that is bought in the store by people who think it's pesticide free that really bothers me).

      The farm life is an awesome life, no doubt about that.
    • Feb 29 2012: Also keep in mind that it's not only small, organic famers against the 'big-guns'... there are also a LOT of small conventional farmers. Actually, where I am from it is all small farms, organic or non-organic. The lay of the land just doesn't allow for large farms to be planted.

      When it comes down to it, in my experience, there is no divide in the farm world between organic and non-organic growers (aside from the occasional finger pointing for pest sources or pesticide drift problems), a farmer is a farmer. It's mostly in the consumer world, as far as I can tell.
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    • Feb 27 2012: I've been asked to define what I mean by organic, and I haven't yet, so you're right on that I may have asked too broad of a question. I should narrow it down to commercial certified organic and commercial conventional. I was actually hoping to get people excited about Integrated Pest Management, which can be used on both conventional and organic crops, but that seems to be besides the point now.

      I am not trying to discourage organic growing, but it really bothers me how people believe certified organic is the way to save the planet and people's health. Granted, you really believe it is better for you and say you have studies that can back it (and you're right, I wouldn't read them all, although I did skim a couple of the wikipedia links right away). I believe you, but I have read probably just as many studies that conclude that there are no health benefits to organic - and that is what I believe. I do not believe eating organic will be worse for a person, but I do believe there is no benefit. Also, I did post one link to a study on organic pesticide use already, which you just asked for ( This is only one study - I am surely not saying every organic/conventional pesticide study would give the same results., because that would be ridiculous to claim. It's just a point that I'm bringing up that it can be just as harmful.

      From some quick research I just did - turns out we are both not completely right/wrong on the arsenic. There were inorganic forms used conventionally, and more recently an organic arsenic form used by both systems. It was deemed unsafe in 2006, and is now not permitted at all.

      You say that it is common knowledge about the health issues surrounding pesticides - I say it is NOT common knowledge about the access to chemicals that certified organic growers have.
      • Feb 28 2012: Arsenic is an organic chemical/compound. That is a term used in chemistry which im assuming you know but i actually heard some idiot a few weeks ago talking as if organic arsenic had something to do with organic food. I know the study was however referring to certified organic pesticides.
    • Feb 28 2012: Also - and this may be different in other parts of the world - but I have never heard of a conventional grower using manure as a fertilizer. But then again, this is just two regions where I have been involved in the industry, but in those two regions it has only been organic. If you have seen otherwise, then I stand corrected. But here, it is not that way.

      I want you to know that I really would side with you if we could have small local farms everywhere, producing without pesticides and fertilizers like would have happened a long, long time ago. But the way the world is, it's just not possible without these large commercial farms to support the urban areas - which is where I am coming from on all this.

      The point of it was to let people know about the pesticide usage of commercial organic farms (and how it is not chemical-free like many believe), and to discuss if people would pay more for the most environmentally friendly product available, even if it wasn't 'certified organic' (because it would cost more to produce if Integrated Pest Management was used, but doesn't absolutely garuntee that pesticide use would be null - just that every step would be taken to try to reduce it as much as possible).
    • Feb 28 2012: If someone really wants to be truly organic and stand for the environment and getting away from pesticides - buy local, and know where your food comes from. It's not just big companies coming in and trying to capitalize on it, I know plenty of small-scale (not small-scale as in hobbiest, but less than 40 acres), including my uncle, who grows and sells certified organic but doesn't believe in all the hype surrounding it. If you want real organic, you have to grow your own food, or buy from someone you trust to not use anything - because it is standard even for organic growers to use pesticides. Like I said, about 1/3 of the pesticide trials I do are for new 'organic pesticides' that are being demanded because the current ones aren't doing it for the growers.
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    Feb 27 2012: You'll be pleased to know that we no longer use organophosphates , not that there was any actually reaching consumers in the apples anyway. The fact is that organophospates are used after the apples have developed as fruits with thick skins. Now we do spray it twice, but believe me it cost s too much to soak the apples in it repeatedly or whatever the yahoo article said, the danger of organophosphates was to the workers(including the farmer by the way) and in the danger of run off to water. Now the only time I have heard of repeated use of organophosphates is when orchards are near a organic orchard. Forcing repeated and larger doses to combat the pests breeding next door. SO its often the case that organic orchards cause more harm to the environment by making the neighbors use more chemicals, not to mention the fact that many poisons are organic and are used in organic orchards nicotine for example. The pesticide issue for organic or conventional apples is mute however because while we apply our sprays 2 or 3 times at the most, we apply hundreds of gallon s of water over and over and over. The spray we put on is carefully timed to catch a pest in its mating and egg laying stage and is worthless to us if used to early or to late because it has no persistence, it does not last in useful concentrations foe more than a few days. Not to mention that the first two stages of apple packing involve the apples being floated and then rinsed, in water, Your friends story is tragic of course I don't believe for a second that he used the proper protection when applying his sprays, almost no one including me does all the time. My fathers father who used much worse chemicals than organophosphates lived to 101 years of age. Now what sort of cancer? Is he going to die from it or has the technology improved to allow early detection and treatment? That same detecion technology is improving our ability to safely use chemicals. We have just moved to become compliant with UN standards
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    Feb 27 2012: Really? such as? I mean I have to know please?
    • Feb 27 2012: This Yahoo article lists foods to avoid, including conventional apples. They also explain why. Take a look.

      Here is a Wikipedia article about one of the toxic ingredients in conventional apple pesticide called chlorpyrifos. Read the section about uses, health effects, aquatic effects, and exposure. They cite many scientific articles to support the claims about it being very damaging to both humans and waterways.

      This stuff should be alarming to any health conscience consumer. I simply prefer to spend a little more and stay on the safe side until my apple trees start producing. I know not everyone can afford organic but fortunately i can buy what i dont grow myself, and i dont have to eat the same food poor people buy at walmart. I prefer the premium product. I was raised on Mcdonalds and crap food like every American and I dont go around preaching this stuff because i know its a touchy subject for everyone but when im browsing around online and happen stumble upon some arrogant pesticide promoter claiming that conventional agriculture is better, i will sure as hell put my foot down and put him in his place for spewing out pure ignorance. Again, im not trying to offend anyone and if you think people are passionate about conventional agriculture, you have no idea about the level of passion on the other side of the argument. My neighbor had been doing conventional farming all his life and been safely applying chemicals as instructed, and recently the doctor told him he has cancer at 45 because of the pesticides and herbicides. Now his beautiful farm is for sale for 3.5 million bucks. He is now offering to sell it for half the appraisal price if someone promises that it is kept organic. He is a real salt of the earth guy. The poor guy says that as long as he is alive, he wont let anyone apply any bit of conventional chemicals.
      • Feb 27 2012: I am making this short but will reply again sometime int he next few days - I am not a pesticide promoter and am not saying it's good for the environment. If you don't use pesticides I think that is great! I would definitely support that if the industry could survive and produce the yield needed over pesticide use. Probably 1/3 of our trials have been on 'organic' pestiicides.

        What I was trying to say is that the 'certified organic' you buy in grocery stores is no better than conventional - because a large-scale 'certified organic' operation will use 'organic' pesticides, which are often just as bad/toxic as conventional ones (and I never said that they were synthetic). While the orgnaic growers who don't apply anything are awesome, most of the stuff you buy in stores will not be that way - unless, like Ted Hamilton stated - you are supporting local farming where you can be sue of what goes on with their farming operation.

        Certified organic does not necaessarily mean organio - that is the message I wanted to convey. If you can get your food from farms where nothing is applied, then I think that is awesome and fully support that - obvisouly no pesticides are better than using them. But the 'certified organic' you buy in stores will not be truly organic, and will be no better than conventional.

        And as far as raving about that one example - I was having a conversation. Obviously every region is going to have it's own problems to deal with... but the Fraser Valley, where I was talking about, just so happens to be one of the biggest berry producing regions in the world - so it is a problem here. I'm not saying that problem will be everywhere.
      • Feb 27 2012: In fact, I have been trying to come up with a proposal to start something that takes the best practises (environmentally) of organic and the best of conventional growing on a region-to-region basis and combines them. I want to give incentive to growers to use the very best environmental practices - but to do that we need the publics support, because it will cost more to produce if this is to happen. Right now there is a divide between conventional and organic growers on a consumer basis. We have the calender spraying conventionals who spray lots, the integrated growers (and especially those in low pest-prevelance areas) who might spray once a year and use synthetic fertilizers - who are clumped in as simply 'conventional' and assoiciated with the calender spraying growers, and then we have the 'certified organic' growers, who are also two groups - the pesticide using commercial growers who often use highly toxic and damaging organic mixes (but are still certified organic because the pesticides aren't synthetic), and the truley organic who don't use any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides at all (which are usually small-scale and only sell locally - which is great, but can't support cities) - and these two are lumped in together as 'organic'.

        I can tell you that the practises of some (usually commercial) organic growers and the things they apply to them are no better for you or the environment and I would never eat their food after seeing what they apply to them. I'm just saying it's not as black and white as the public seems to think it is.

        I have no problem with completely pesticide free growing - in fact I think that is awesome. I don't believe it can support our population as it is now - so we have to find the best ways of doing things with what we have now. The research I do, while pesticide based is apart of a broader research directive called Integrated Pest Management, which uses physical controls, biocontrols,
      • Feb 27 2012: ,phermones, monitoring, etc, all an effort to REDUCE chemical use - but it is still there as a last resort. For organic and conventional growers. In fact, one of our scientists just presented some research which would mean that the use of a particular chemical would go from 60 g/ha down to 0.33 g/ha for control of wireworms in cole crops, just by applying it differently, and it had the exact same control as the high rate. That is the type of research we do. I'm not some pesticide pushing nozzle head ignorant scientist. I know what I'm talking about and the point of MY research is to REDUCE pesticide use and the risk to humans and the environment.

        What I am trying to do is to talk to people and make them realize that most "organic" that you buy isn't what you think it is, because if things keep going the way they are going, we will be absolutely NO better off with organic than we will with conventional. If you don't apply pesticides, that is great, and I support you. But not all organic is organic like people talk about their gardens being - it just doesn't work on a large scale that way.

        PS, ifyou're going to quote sources, don't quote yahoo and wikipedia, get some actual scientific sources by people who actually are part of that field of study - not some journalist trying to get his/her article on the front page.

        I don't appreciate being attacked like you did to me, and if you read through the previous conversation (which I know you did because you referred to it), you'd see that I wasn't attacking, I was having a conversation.

        Thanks for your input.
  • Feb 27 2012: Jesse, i think you have a serious misunderstanding. There are no synthetic chemicals used in organic farming as you have stated, just simple minerals. If manure is applied properly, it does not contaminate anything, accept it. Manure does not have to be used in organic farming anyways. The USDA has reported that the oceans are being contaminated, largely by conventional agriculture. And what about the hundreds of other studies that directly link toxic conventional chemicals to contaminating water with atrazine and other poisons? You keep raving about one example of manure contaminating water which has no validity in the broader context. There are also studies linking conventional pesticides and herbicides to many cancers and other diseases. The belief that certain organic food costs more to produce is a myth, with the exception of few monoculture crops. I own an organic farm and I can sell organic veggies for under the cost of conventional, whether wholesale or retail value, and still make plenty of profit. I would lose money buying high priced seeds and herbicides from the biotech industry. I dont use any pesticides and i never have significant losses. Its hard to respect your opinion because if you did more research you would find that there is not much of an argument anymore about which method is better for everything. I have nothing against gm crops and i dont give a shit about saving the planet anymore or sustaining populations but i do care about my health and i will take my chances listening to the scientists who don't have special interests like you. You asked for passion, well i could tear you apart on the topic all day by sending numerous links to science based research that boldly claim your preference for conventional method is wrong. Don't get the wrong idea, Im not some hippie, peaceful protester but rather a gun wielding, bourbon slamming true American loving patriot. Have fun eating cancer causing fruits and veggies that have been drenched in poison
    • Feb 27 2012: The growers I am talking about know how to apply manure - they do this for a living.
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    Feb 25 2012: where exactly are you? I grow apples in Washington State ,Manson Growers CO-op
    • Feb 27 2012: I was born and raised in Washington state. After reading some things about conventional apples recently, i will never eat one again.
    • Feb 27 2012: My parents are apple growers in the Okanagan Valley, BC. I just recently planted peaches on an empty plot we had, but I'm working three hours away in the berry-producing region of BC near Vancouver... definitely will be moving back there in the next ten years though!
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    Feb 23 2012: I am an orchardist in Washington state, I am a conventional farmer. In my experience the organic farmers in my area use organic pesticides that are more dangerous that mine, also the create"pest holes" where pests thrive and require higher use of pesticides by neighboring farms. I think that people forget that farmers have a vested in maintaining the land. We have recently adopted the GRAASP program which will bring our pesticide and sanitation requirements up to a level that is demanded by European countries. And in many cases these are ridiculous requirements such as no dogs in an orchard or contradictory ones like dont impede wild life access(just domestic dogs) but in our attempts to embrace the most green and most sustainable agriculture with the greatest care for our water and the health of our customers we are willing to experiment with anything. All that Organic means to me is that you have been talked into paying more for a product that is often worse for you and the environment than mine.
    • Feb 23 2012: haha, I laughed when I read your comment about having no dogs in the orchard, because the same thing happened to us in BC a couple of years ago. Absolutely ridiculous!

      Everything you've said I feel like could have come right out of my mouth. People seem to forget that even if a farmer isn't necessarily an environmentalist, it is in his/her best interest to care for the land that they own, and to care what is happening to the land in the surrounding areas. And they do care, and very passionately, I might add. And also - people seem to talk about conventional growers as people who love to go out and spray the crap out of their crops. I don't know a single farmer that would spray if they didn't have to - pesticides are expensive and not fun to apply! Why would someone if there was a better option?

      Your last sentence is exactly the way I feel as well.
  • Feb 10 2012: I'll start out by saying that I am a firm believer that organic farming cannot support our global population, has a more negative effect on the environment, and has no health benefit. I also, however, do not believe in the "nozzle-head" approach, where the pesticide is always the answer.

    I, like most agricultural researchers I know, believe in Integrated Pest Management (which can be both organic and conventional; however, I am pro-conventional, given the choices). This approach takes many different pest management options - physical barriers, phermone and bait traps, monitering programs, and chemical controls, etc, and uses them together to ensure minimizing of economic injury (and environmental damage). IPM was once described to me by a colleague as "The difference between using a stilleto and a sledge hammer."

    What do you think? Have you ever heard of IPM before? If not, does it interest you at all?

    There have been studies done on the reception the general public has to IPM vs Organic, and while the general public generally has a very skewed understanding of what it means to be "organically grown," it has no idea of IPM at all, and therefore does not connect with it. "Organic" seems to be the answer to them - when they do not even truley understand what that means.

    Obviously I am pro-IPM, however I'd like to know what people outside of the industry think about it, if anything. Would you support it in your local grocery stores?Would you pay the premium you pay for organic foods if you knew that IPM was better for the planet?