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Jay MackDougal

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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!

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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 (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0011250). 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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