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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 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.

    http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/pesticides-block-male-hormones

    http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/tx800218n

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X09003047
    • 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:

      http://www.omri.org/omri-lists/download

      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:

      http://www.dowagro.com/ca/prod/entrust.htm

      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.

      http://www.mgk.com/Crop-Protection/PyGanic_5_0.aspx
    • 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

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