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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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  • 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.

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