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Old 04-10-2011, 10:35 AM   #61
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It wasn't my impression either until I began seeing some of the opinions posted by conventional farmers. I'd never given it much thought until the subject came up here and on the Ag forum at about the same time. This is an example of what I'm seeing. The discussion continues there if you're interested.
Viewing a thread - What is wrong with Organic food?

....Interesting subject. Always enjoyable to learn.
I don't view that post as "looking down on organic", I think those are reasonable points to debate, and learn from. And I think they have a pretty good basis in fact.

There is no learning if anyone is to say "I know it's better, and that's that!".


edit/add: Here's another post in that thread - how is this "looking down on organic"? It looks pretty reasoned and accepting and polite. Far more reasoned and polite than what I've seen in this thread, some of which has essentially said - "I don't need no stinkin' evidence, and you must be an idiot if you need evidence"....

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Upon reflection, I don't have anything against organic food, and am happy for folks to produce, buy, and consume it if they choose. I do find I am continually frustrated by the fear-mongering and wanton disregard of science, fact, and reason in the discussion of organic vs. non-organic foodstuffs (from both sides).

Thanks for your thoughts.
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Old 04-10-2011, 10:40 AM   #62
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I have a rough idea of what the organic farmer faces in order to market his crop as 'organic'. They do receive more per bushel ( around $2/Bu. corn?), but I can see how their yield might at times be limited by the constraints of being organic.

I can't help but admire an organic farmer, especially one in Saskatchewan.
Do farmers in Saskatchewan even grow corn(maize). Kind of dry out there isn't it?

Ha
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Old 04-10-2011, 10:46 AM   #63
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Do farmers in Saskatchewan even grow corn(maize). Kind of dry out there isn't it?

Ha
Correct. It looks like it'll grow if you put plenty of water on it. I wonder what the environmental impact of all that irrigation is, but hey, water is 'organic' (by their definition), so it gets a pass! Just ignore those diesel pumps behind that curtain!

Corn Production - Agriculture - Government of Saskatchewan

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Corn offers significant potential for production on irrigation in Saskatchewan. Variety selection based on the end use and CHU available for an area are the most important initial management decisions. Producers need to pay attention to weed control, fertility, and irrigation water management to ensure a successful crop and harvest.
I don't know what the growing season is there, but I know that you get more yield from the longer maturing varieties, so that is going to be a factor.


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Old 04-10-2011, 11:07 AM   #64
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Do farmers in Saskatchewan even grow corn(maize). Kind of dry out there isn't it?

Ha
I don't know, to be quite honest. It would need to be short maturity corn if it were. It seems I recall the Canadians discussing canola and wheat more than corn or soy beans.

I was trying to get a rough idea of how much more an organic farmer might get per bushel by comparing something I was familiar with.
$9.50-$10.50 organic http://www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/nw_gr113.txt

Conventional corn roughly $7.70 CBOT

Keep in mind you still have to subtract basis depending on your location. This regional basis map (lower) is somewhat out of date, but it gives you the general idea.
http://www.card.iastate.edu/ag_risk_...aps/INDEX.ASPX
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Old 04-10-2011, 11:38 AM   #65
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Do farmers in Saskatchewan even grow corn(maize). Kind of dry out there isn't it?

Ha
It's dry and cold.

I've seen a very few corn crops in Sask. but they are either cut for silage or left standing for cattle to eat during the winter. The growing season is too short (100 - 120 days) and to cool (very few days hotter than 80F) to grow grain corn.
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Old 04-10-2011, 12:34 PM   #66
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It's dry and cold.

I've seen a very few corn crops in Sask. but they are either cut for silage or left standing for cattle to eat during the winter. The growing season is too short (100 - 120 days) and to cool (very few days hotter than 80F) to grow grain corn.
No Problemo! Free-Range Cows raised on Organic Silage taste better, anyway...
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Old 04-10-2011, 01:17 PM   #67
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Really? I'd challenge anyone to identify the organic produce in a blind test to some statistically significant degree. Like many others, you are probably attributing the taste to the produce being fresh and of a variety bred for taste over shipping/keeping qualities. Compare those same varieties, at the same freshness, with just "organic" being the variable, and see what you get. My garden tomatoes taste better than the store bought whether I throw "chemicals" on them or not.

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Yes - it is my humble opinion that it does. Many non organic seeds are bred for shipping thousands of miles and so they won't bruise when dropped a couple hundred feet (super tomatoes), or bred for aesthetics and size (ie pretty and large - mostly just full of water, no taste) so I personally enjoy organic produce's taste. They do tend to go bad faster and I try to consume them as soon as we get them within a day or two. I'm sure you don't spray your tomoatoes with the amount or variety of pesticides or fertilizers the agri-business farmers spray theirs with, but hey I could be wrong about that, or maybe it's just the taste of pride that comes through from growing your own!

You also asked about impact of irrigation - yes the water itself has an impact on the land - it salinizes it - yes, I learned that in school too. But the megacropping/fertilizer/pesticide cycle tends to use a LOT more water and causes a lot more salinization, which causes the soil ph and other balance to be off, requiring more fertilizer, more run off, etc...



ERD << "I don't need no stinkin' evidence, and you must be an idiot if you need evidence"....>>


ERD - I know it frustrates you to no end that someone like me can decide organic is better for myself and family and that I've read enough research to satisfy myself that it's better for us for a variety of reasons. I really admire your relentless pursuit of data to make your own decisions. But people are different that way and both styles of decisionmaking work to benefit humankind in many ways. I hope you weren't referring to me - I do have evidence - I'm too lazy to go find it all and even if I did - I'm pretty sure you could find evidence to counter it and I don't think people who disagree or have different decisionmaking styles are idiots and I hope you don't either.
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Old 04-10-2011, 01:41 PM   #68
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I really admire your relentless pursuit of data to make your own decisions. But people are different that way and both styles of decisionmaking work to benefit humankind in many ways.
I's like to see data that supports the notion that decisions made counter to (or in the absence of) factual data have ever benefitted humankind.
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Old 04-10-2011, 02:08 PM   #69
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Yes - it is my humble opinion that it does.
I don't doubt that 'organic' tastes better in your opinion. Not at all.

I'm not trying to get into an argument, but I am just trying to shine some light on this. In your post, you are actually confusing 'organic' with "fresh", "bred for taste versus shipping". I addressed these earlier.

The qualities you mention are a product of the variety, the genetics of the seed. What I'm saying is, if you take a bunch of those seeds that are bred for flavor, and you grow half 'organically' and half with commercial fertilizers and pesticides, and you taste them side by side, picked fresh at the their peak, I do not think that you could tell the difference in taste in a blind testing.

I do believe you can tell the taste between varieties grown for good shipping qualities and those grown for taste - I know I can!



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ERD - I know it frustrates you to no end that someone like me can decide organic is better for myself

Not at all. Enjoy it if that's your thing. My only problem is when people try to tell others that something is better w/o any evidence. In some cases it can hurt others (I'll give an example in a minute).

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and I don't think people who disagree or have different decisionmaking styles are idiots and I hope you don't either.
Of course not. Differences are what make the world go around. But (now to my example), when people make non-evidence based decisions, it can effect me. They can vote based on their 'beliefs', which may be wrong. Their actions convince others that their way is 'right', and they may be wrong. As an example, many people believe that electric cars are "zero pollution", or that hydrogen powered cars are wonderful because hydrogen is plentiful (but it isn't plentiful in the form a car needs - it takes energy to get it to that form, and that creates pollution), or that a solar charger for your iPod is 'green' (it isn't - it took far more energy to make the solar panel than you will ever recover in that kind of use).

So yes, I do open my mouth when I hear non-evidence based comments. Hey, I'm OK with someone saying "I prefer Chocolate to Vanilla", that's their opinion. But when they say (w/o qualification) that organic is clearly "better", I think it warrants cautious evaluation, before we possibly go down the wrong path.

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Old 04-10-2011, 02:23 PM   #70
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I's like to see data that supports the notion that decisions made counter to (or in the absence of) factual data have ever benefitted humankind.
I never said I made my decisions with no factual evidence, in fact I dedicated several years of study to this. I just don't have the inclination to play data ping pong here. There is plenty of data online and you can decide what is right for you. I stated what I decided based on op's prompt...
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Old 04-10-2011, 02:34 PM   #71
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I do wonder about the locally grown stuff in farmer's markets being "organic" (i.e. raised without "artificial" pesticides and fertilizers")

Here''s Farmer Bill trying to make a living selling from a stall in the farmer's market. He has a small plot of land. He needs to maximize production. He's doing a lot of the work by hand, maybe irrigating to make sure he gets a crop, etc. He's going to have high costs per pound of produce, and he needs to maximize the price he gets for the food he raises. I'm fairly sure nobody ever checks to verify that his crops have no artificial chemicals. When a few nasty cutworms show up and threaten his livelihood, or his adding a bit of fertilizer would increase his yield 25%, it would be very tempting to get some "help." Actually, I'd think this "cheating" is probably a lot more common with small scale producers than with the "big guys" who market themselves as organic and ship crops hundreds of miles.

Crops in Europe had much higher levels of pesticides than those in the US (maybe they still do). Why? Because of government price supports and acreage limitations. It was economical for European farmers to use lots more of the expensive chemicals because the crops were worth more,US farmers had a much lower cutoff point for chemicals just based on cost/benefit. Folks can draw their own conclusions about how this relates to the US "boutique"/locally grown foods scene. There's a lot of trust out there.
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Old 04-10-2011, 02:56 PM   #72
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I never said I made my decisions with no factual evidence, in fact I dedicated several years of study to this. I just don't have the inclination to play data ping pong here. There is plenty of data online and you can decide what is right for you. I stated what I decided based on op's prompt...
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I do have evidence - I'm too lazy to go find it
Interesting approach; makes it difficult to verify or dispute your credibility sources on this topic.
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Old 04-10-2011, 03:28 PM   #73
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I do because I think many organic fruits and vegetables taste more like the veggies my parents and grandparents used to grow on the farm back home. I don't know what factors the difference in taste can be attributed to.
The answer to issue raised by your second sentence, is in the words I highlighted in the first one. Also, maybe you are not comparing the same varieties of each item; perhaps organic producers, who can charge premium prices, can also pass on the cost of using varieties which are inherently less productive but taste better. Or, maybe you buy your organic produce in a context which means that it's a day fresher. Whatever the reason in your case, properly designed scientific studies consistently show that the "organic" factor, on its own, makes no difference to taste or nutritional content.

Organic is a scam, pure and simple. Well, not so simple. It also has overtones of a cult (check out the origins of the organic/bio-dynamic movement from 1870 through 1950), and/or politics. Consider this: in the UK, you can buy out-of-season, organic vegetables, such as green beans in January, flown in from places like Egypt and Kenya. The CO2 footprint of these is very high. Now, since organic supporters are not allowed to make nutritional claims for organic in the UK, they fall back on the argument that less use of chemical fertilisers, etc, is better for the environment. How to reconcile that with CO2 usage? They have an answer. They've got together with the "Fair Trade" movement (which aims to get farmers in poor countries a better price for their food). Now, air-shipped produce from farms which otherwise meet organic voodoo standards can be sold as "organic", but only if it's also labelled as "Fair Trade". If that isn't politics, I don't know what it is. (Disclosure: I am a fan of the Fair Trade movement.)

Another reason why I don't like the organic scam is because of this claim that it involves "fewer chemicals". Firstly, it actually allows quite a lot of "traditional" chemicals; organic apple trees can be sprayed with copper sulphate. Copper is a heavy metal, highly toxic, and not biodegradable. Secondly, the main fertiliser used in organic farming is derived from abattoir waste. In other words, organic is piggybacking on meat production. Now I like meat, but nobody should pretend that the production of meat is anything other than bad for energy usage, land use, and CO2 production.
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:42 PM   #74
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Bruce Ames' conclusions are not altogether accepted by the scientific community.

Ames, pesticides, and cancer revisited. [Int J Occup Environ Health. 2002 Jan-Mar] - PubMed result
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Old 04-10-2011, 04:53 PM   #75
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The answer to issue raised by your second sentence, is in the words I highlighted in the first one. Also, maybe you are not comparing the same varieties of each item; perhaps organic producers, who can charge premium prices, can also pass on the cost of using varieties which are inherently less productive but taste better. Or, maybe you buy your organic produce in a context which means that it's a day fresher. Whatever the reason in your case, properly designed scientific studies consistently show that the "organic" factor, on its own, makes no difference to taste or nutritional content.
Or maybe I am tasting the goodness of the cow manure that was well rotted in a steaming pile and mixed with the soil. As I said (twice), I don't know. If you want to have a debate with my taste buds, have at it, but I doubt you'll get much answer.

I would love to see those "scientific" studies that attempt to measure something as subjective as taste.

As for the "organic" movement being a cult, it seems silly since all vegetable were grown organically until the late 19th century. Organic farming has a much longer track record than intensive farming.
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Old 04-10-2011, 05:06 PM   #76
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A metastudy on organic v. conventional food nutrients:

Organic food: nutritious food or food for thought?... [Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2003] - PubMed result

"Although there is little evidence that organic and conventional foods differ in respect to the concentrations of the various micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace elements), there seems to be a slight trend towards higher ascorbic acid content in organically grown leafy vegetables and potatoes. There is also a trend towards lower protein concentration but of higher quality in some organic vegetables and cereal crops."

"Several important directions can be highlighted for future research; it seems, however, that despite any differences, a well-balanced diet can equally improve health regardless of its organic or conventional origin."
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Old 04-10-2011, 05:26 PM   #77
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I would love to see those "scientific" studies that attempt to measure something as subjective as taste.
They don't attempt to measure it. They just ask people who don't know which is organic and which isn't, to say which tastes better. The results are consistently the same: nobody does better than chance would predict.

You can see this effect yourself even more easily: give someone two strawberries from the same box, organic or not. Tell them that one is organic and the other isn't, and see how many of them say "actually, I can't detect any difference".

That shouldn't surprise anyone, though. We know that people who are experts on the subject can't tell the difference between red and white wine if they don't have the huge visual cue of seeing the colour in the glass.

We delude ourselves, all the time, about a large number of subjects, and there are people who know this, and have found ways to make money off of us as a result. Organic food ticks all the boxes: worries about health, wanting to get back to traditions, help the environment, etc. And of course, the biggest winners from it are the supermarkets. They only pay the supplier 15 cents a pound more for his organic zucchini, but they can stick a couple of bucks on the price in the store for Mr. Health-Conscious Consumer; after all, what's a couple of bucks when it will stop me getting cancer and reduce global warming ?
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Old 04-10-2011, 05:43 PM   #78
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I buy some organic stuff (canned frozen) because it's the only stuff without added sugar and salt.
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Old 04-10-2011, 05:45 PM   #79
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Bruce Ames' conclusions are not altogether accepted by the scientific community.

Ames, pesticides, and cancer revisited. [Int J Occup Environ Health. 2002 Jan-Mar] - PubMed result
Thanks, I'll take a look later. I hadn't seen anyone counter his work, so this will hopefully be an interesting read.

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I would love to see those "scientific" studies that attempt to measure something as subjective as taste.
I'll add to what BigNick said - it is actually quite easy to test this scientifically. You can perform a "triple test" (similar to the A-BX tests used in the audio field).

You give someone three samples. Two are identical, one is different. All randomized, all blind. Now, if people cannot statistically pick out which one is different, then it's game over. There's isn't anything subjective about that, it isn't about like or dislike, but simply is it different enough to identify.

Secondly, of the ones that did pick out the different one, did they assign it some common attribute? This is getting into subjective territory, but if half said it was more bitter, and half said t was less bitter, you have to wonder about that. You would expect something to stand out.

BigNick - they could not tell red from white wine blind? Wow, that is hard to believe, but this would make an interesting do-it-at-home test. I hope I would pass that, but now you have me worried!

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Old 04-10-2011, 05:48 PM   #80
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I buy some organic stuff (canned frozen) because it's the only stuff without added sugar and salt.
Ah, now that's a whole nother issue. Organic is associated with "high end" and "old style" preparations, again because if you're prepared to pay $6 a pound instead of $4 a pound, maybe you're prepared to pay $7.50 a pound. It doesn't surprise me at all that for some processed foods, the "healthier" version also includes organic ingredients, since the overlap in the demographics is likely to be very high. That still doesn't tell us anything about organic produce, though.
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