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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 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

      -Jesse
    • 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 3 2012: that's awesome you're going to be donating to haiti!
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          Mar 3 2012: thanks but I still need to work out how
    • 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'

      http://www.greenprophet.com/2012/02/pink-leds-grow-future-food-with-90-less-water/

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