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 Post subject: Organic = Best?
PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 12:59 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2004 11:53 pm
Posts: 39
Location: Creston B.C. Canada
I'm conflicted regarding organics. I'm by no means an apologist for chemicals but can't help but feel a place for them in transition to responsible organics. Both sides have can and do have reprocussions. The best argument against chem solutions in my mind is that no amount of tinkering will fix their ill effects, their use is simply not sustianable, which is the ultimate goal. We strive to manipulate enviroments to suit our needs (good garden, lawn, yields etc) and organics strives to do that in the most sustainable fashion bar doing nothing at all. Here's my issue with organics though. To often the picture is painted to look as though an organic solution is an enviromental, social, cultural, moral free ride. Make no mistake I'll take an organic solution over chems any day if it's avialable, sustainable, and has a lesser impact when all things are considered. It's the last part that tends to be hard to determine, for example, I frequently see posts recomending the use of either mollases, corn gluten meal or alfalfa pellets or combinations of, rightfully, as organic solutions but I can't help but be concerned about the inputs required to produce those products. Was the source corn, alfalfa, sugar cane organicaly (sustianably) farmed, was the cane produced in a third world enviroment where workers and land has been exploited, were the cane fields burned off. how much diesel was burned to farm the corn and alfalfa, how much was burned to tranport it around the continent, is it GMO. What about the coal, nuclear, natural gas electricity consumed to process the materials. The list goes on.
I guess the point is just because the end product is orgainic and its application is safe and sustainable can we ignore the inputs when deciding to use it? untill we can be assured we tread with the lightest footprint is there room to integrate approaches?

We can safely flat out scream "no" to the heavy chemicals, I'm refering to the "softer" non-organic solutions. :(


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 16, 2004 9:36 am 
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Joined: Sun Apr 06, 2003 10:59 am
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Your question is a complicated one to be sure, and it reaches into the realm of the "beyond organics" thought process. I suppose one threshhold issue is what constitutes a "softer synthetic." There is a fair amount of information available on the life cycle comparisons of organic vs. synthetic processes, but the methods used in those comparisons can vary among studies. At some point, intensity probably equals nonsustainability, but below that limit there are distinctions. On the soil fertility/productivity side, there are at least two very important distinctions between organics and the synthetic approach. One is the practical effect that the need for inputs tends to decline with time in an organic approach, whereas the opposite tends to be true in a synthetic approach. That differential can depend some on the intensity involved, the species adaptations, and the manner of execution. The second is that soil erosion and ground water contamination are two things we cannot afford in any event. The organic approach practiced in a responsible manner is demonstrably superior at retarding/avoiding both. On the benefit/detriment question, what is the cost of having a 7000+ square mile hypoxic area in the Gulf of Mexico? If the population ate on the organic food chain, would the resource expenditure for health care be as great and would there be less medicine residue to manage in the waste water stream? Many organic gardeners probably are organic because they do not want the exposure to synthetics, which is a legitimate personal decision. Ironically, I think that gardeners often are more aware of what it takes to generate the organic fertility inputs than they are of what is required to generate and deliver the synthetic counterparts. Synthetic fertilizers don't grow on trees. I doubt if most can generate ammonium sulfate or anhydrous ammonia on site or that they can be generated without coal or the petroleum that apparently requires a substantial military force to deliver. (The same applies to most production of concentrated acetic acid, unfortunately.) To trace your quite legitimate manufacturing concerns to an absurd point, we can generate corn meal without/with very little petroleum--the Amish do it every season. There really isn't a good synthetic substitute for two of the cornerstones of sustainable growing--compost and mulch, both of which can be made on site from the residues that the synthetic approach often discards.

Part of the organic approach is to use somewhat locally available inputs and to grow adapted species so as to minimize the need for inputs. On the micro scale of home gardening, we sometimes use inputs in an unsustainable manner, so there is some distance to go there. It is not essential that we use some of the processed products that we do use in organics--some of them can be produced on site if we want to do that, including substitutes for molasses. As with many things in the developed world, impatience and convenience often rule. It's hard to discuss organics vs. synthetics on the macro scale without addressing food policy, the unsustainable way that those in the developed countries eat, and population growth issues. In that framework, Asia increasingly dictates how the bulk of production agriculture is conducted around the world. On the local level in the U.S., lenders often determine how production agriculture is conducted, and that is not likely to change under the current societal conditions. Whether the organic method is better able to manage the burgeoning climate change than is the synthetic approach is another question, but I bet that it is. I yield the soapbox to the next writer on your important and legitimate question.

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In theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they aren't -- lament of the synthetic lifestyle.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 9:49 am 
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Location: Odenville,Alabama
This sounds like the classic "sustainable farming" vs. pure USDA certified organic farming argument. I'm definitely 100% sustainable on my 3 acre no-till farm home, but I'm not really a pure USDA certified organic farmer, and I don't desire to become one either.

Some of the stuff like cheap or free cattle/horse feeds, fish scraps, grass clippings, and various sugars and syrups that I use in all my super-hot active compost piles and aerobic tea brews are not certified organic, but they are totally sustainable, and the earthworms and microherd love it! (LOL)

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The entire Kingdom of God can be totally explained as an Organic Garden (Mark 4:26)
William Cureton


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 Post subject: Organics = Best
PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 9:53 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 5:33 pm
Posts: 829
Location: Dallas,TX
While your thoughts on the far-ranging effects of organic product production are valid, let me philosophize on my own part in this plan.

I know that when I use the fertilizers, soil amendments and pest controls that are natural and organic I am not poisoning the earth I put them on or in. I am not poisoning the air, the water or the soil around them. I am not poisoning my children, my pets, the wildlife or myself.

I realize that getting products to me has caused pollution and that measures to decrease or eliminate that less than desirable part of the equation are ongoing. Air, water and soil contamination regulations are up for changes and rollbacks all the time. So we sign petitions and contribute money and write to our congressmen. Yes, they do hear us, but only if there are enough of us.

I buy and use local products whenever possible and never does the last few drops of honey, jelly, molasses or syrup leave its container unless it goes into my family or to the compost pile. I recycle everything I can. I drive a car that has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, air pollution emissions level available today. Yes, it does take a lot of effort, and sometimes I don't do it perfectly.

The point is that for me, using organics is a way to contribute to the daily efforts made by all of us to stop the poisoning of our home, this small blue and green circle in the heavens. I know that my small contribution makes a difference. So do we all. But untiil enough of us take that step the tide won't turn in our favor. That's the point. That's why every person's actions do count. That's why you still do what you can, even in the face of those enormous conglomerate controlled machines.

If we were to wait until all the criteria you propose were met, we would never make any progress at all. It's not a perfect solutiion, but it's one that takes us forward toward our ultimate goal.

So release your conflicts and embrace organics. As long as you are moving forward, even at a crawl, you will ultimately reach your goal. Don't wait for a perfect time with perfect conditions, because there is no such thing. Face your goal, and move toward it, and don't stop until you get there. And lastly, take heart, because you don't travel alone.
We're here with you.
Kathe :D


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 22, 2004 12:25 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2003 10:35 am
Posts: 94
Location: houston, tx
Well here is what I think :D

My father was an avid vegetable gardener and he taught me how to pick tomato worms at dawn and smash them at the age of 5. When I was older and asked him about his not using chemical fertilizers and poisons - his reply was "I just never wanted to eat poison." This discussion took place while drinking a beer together!

While that may sound simplistic and dysfunctional, I think it is a great place to begin. If you don't start somewhere you can't have hope. If your goal is to be a purist that is wonderful and incredibly admirable.

I learned a long time ago, I can't behave for one day, much less be a purist at anything. I find organic gardening fascinating and grateful to those so dedicated to helping flawed souls as myself learn a few things about dirt.

_________________
"Life ain't in holding a good hand, but playing a good hand well." - William Smeathers


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2004 2:52 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 24, 2004 11:53 pm
Posts: 39
Location: Creston B.C. Canada
Well I must say, some very thoughtful responses and I very much agree but, (OH NO!!!) allow me to dive into another organochemical problem for me. My wife and I propagate and grow ornamental trees. Every year we expand what we are doing so we can make the leap and have it become our primary source of income. I love what I'm doing and that's why I do it and I try to do it organicaly. Aha, problem #1, not my primary source of income, hence you can imagine my panic and pain at all the work to be done especially right now. To be truthfull I'm time strapped. Over time my inputs don't deminish with an organic program because at the end of the day they go out the door but I do it any way because to me it's the right thing to do. I don't use chemical fertilizers (anymore). I don't use copper treated pots. I use a home brew compost/perlite/vermiculite/peat medium. the compost I make and I'm working on replacements for the rest , so many options, lots of experiments. At this point I propagate everything that I grow to avoid bringing in disease and conversely shipping it out. I drip or micro irrigate controlled with timers, we have lots of water but wasting water is wasting water and there's not as much as we think. the list goes on but at the end of the day when the weeds get out of control and I don't have time to pull 'em for compost I hit 'em with round up, I refuse to let them go to seed. In the greenhouse when the whitefly, mites, thrips, fungus nats out run best practices and boilogicals (introduced predators) I bring out the big guns. Pythium? not on your life, I keep things well ventilated, lots of air movement and monitor humidity but when I see it I treat it with a Fungacide, if I don't it will destroy my seedlings. This is a labour of love but it's also a business and I can't take the losses. I fear to confess, as though its not allready obvious, I employ an IPM approch (integrated pest managment) heavy on the organic side. It's a walk softly and carry a big stick approch. I haven't abandoned organics due to an inability to be a purist just as I haven't abandoned chemicals completely due to there detrimental effects. As I learn I can replace the chemicals in my closet But I won't throw them out, they are my big stick and are there as a measure of last resort, to be used in an emergency or before things get out of control. I just don't believe we can right the wrongs of our chemical laden past or present by abandoning them all together. We need to learn diplomacy with our enviroment and be as good to it as we can but remember that we are manipulating it to suit our desires and our diplomacy may not always work. In the event our best attempts are met with too much resistance we can either get out of dodge and aviod a fight or we can use a carefull, restrained and purely defensive application of the big guns.

We live in conflict with nature as we have opened the pandoras box of expectation with regards to how we live on this planet. It's important to realize there's no turning back the clock to 12:01 am and without the efforts of organic minded poeple we'd be snowballing towards mindnight. I just wonder if we properly measure the steps we take to mitigate and reverse the damage done. Is it the wisest choice to vilify the chemicals themselves instead of the people who ABUSE them. Remember nature herself produces the most carcinogenic substance on earth but keeps it neatly tucked in her closet.


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