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Blistering critique of the organic food industry December 16, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Admin, family, farm, General Catholic, It's all about the $$$, non squitur, scandals, Society, technology.
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I’ll admit……I’ve always thought the organic food label a scam. Just like most “free range chickens” have never seen a blade of grass in their life.  Many products labeled “organic” have a surprising, and some might find revolting, etymology.  An article at Forbes (certainly in thrall of big Agribusiness) offers a blistering critique of this industry.  I’m not staking a hard stand here, I’ve revealed my bias (another one – we use pretty much all the latest technology on our farm, including Roundup and Anhydrous Ammonia fertilizer, and I’m sure much of the seed is now GMO though we don’t seek that out, it’s just what is available these days):

Consumers of organic foods are getting both more and less than they bargained for. On both counts, it’s not good.

Many people who pay the huge premium—often more than 100%—for organic foods do so because they’re afraid of pesticides. If that’s their rationale, they misunderstand the nuances of organic agriculture. Although it’s true that synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibited, there is a lengthy list of exceptions listed in the Organic Foods Production Act, while most “natural” ones are permitted. However, “organic” pesticides can be toxic. As evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcox explained in a 2012 Scientific American article (“Are lower pesticide residues a good reason to buy organic? Probably not.”): “Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones.”…..

…….Some consumers think that the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) requires certified organic products to be free of ingredients from “GMOs,” organisms crafted with molecular techniques of genetic engineering. Wrong again. USDA does not require organic products to be GMO-free. (In any case, the methods used to create so-called GMOs are an extension, or refinement, of older techniques for genetic modification that have been used for a century or more.)……..

……..Few organic consumers are aware that organic agriculture is a “trust-based” or “faith-based” system. With every purchase, they are at risk of the moral hazard that an organic farmer will represent cheaper-to-produce non-organic products as the premium-priced organic product. For the vast majority of products, no tests can distinguish organic from non-organic—for example, whether milk labeled “organic” came from a cow within the organic production system or from a cow across the fence from a conventional dairy farm. The higher the organic premium, the stronger the economic incentive to cheat.

Think such nefarious behavior is purely theoretical? Think again. USDA reported in 2012 that 43% of the 571 samples of “organic” produce that were tested contained prohibited pesticide residues, and that “the findings suggest that some of the samples in violation were mislabeled conventional products, while others were organic products that hadn’t been adequately protected from prohibited pesticides.”

 Some more, on why organic foods are much more prone to E. coli and other infectious disease vectors:

Contrary to popular wisdom, organic produce is not pesticide-free. Instead, it’s grown with primitive pesticides that can be significantly more hazardous to humans and to the environment. Organic agriculture also lacks the benefits of the many crops genetically improved with modern molecular techniques, like Bt-corn, which reduces the population of insects that allow toxic molds to infest corn. (Organic corn has higher levels of the toxins produced by these molds.)

Chipotle rejects modern synthetic fertilizers in favor of suppliers who use manure on their crops. This approach may be “all natural” and “organic” and make some customers feel warm and fuzzy, but it should not come as a surprise that applying stool, feces and excrement to growing fruits and vegetables significantly raises the risk of spreading disease. Bruce M. Chassy, food science professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana scoured U.S. Food and Drug Administration data to conclude that organic food is four to eight times more likely to be recalled over safety concerns than conventionally grown products.

Food poisoning is a serious business. Four years ago, 53 died and 3,950 were sickened from an E. coli outbreak in Germany caused by organic bean sprouts.

With the above in mind, I will say that there are certain products I don’t like to buy and places I don’t like to shop.  I try very hard not to get groceries at Wal Mart. And I find most commercially sold poultry meat really nasty.  There is a reason why we buy a heifer every year from our farmer in Kansas.  Yes, it’s cheaper (though not a lot), but mostly because I know that beef has never been on a high density feed lot and has generally fed on grass or silage its entire life.  I’d like to find a source for home grown pork, because modern pork raising has gotten quite barfy, too.  So I get many of the concerns.  But I think people need to be very wary of any industry as surrounded by hype as the organic food industry is.

And never eat at Chipotle.  I never liked that place, anyway.  $9 for tasteless rice and beans?!?

Comments

1. Angelic Doctor Games - December 16, 2015

My family and I used to raise our own pastured, non-GMO fed Red Wattle hogs and then sell the meat. Nowadays we just raise feeders for the family. We raise 100+ chickens for eggs and meat. Truly free ranged and also not fed GMO. Eggs from these guys sell like hot cakes especially at my workplace in Plano. Also have dairy goats, again on pasture and fed non-GMO food. I would not have it any other way. Had a completely organic garden last year but had to cease that daily work due to the demands of my primary career. We’ve learned as well that organic as defined by the USDA does not necessarily mean untouched by chemicals. To that end, we’ve had to be very discerning in our food choices.

2. MFG - December 17, 2015

This article is misleading in one sense. In 2011 or 12, under pressure from Big Ag groups, Congress and the USDA decided to establish a government organic certification system. The legislation was problematic because it set low or misleading standards for what classified for organic. Organic groups at the time cried foul and said this would adversely impact the organic industry. It appears it has.

Before this legislation, organic foods were regulated or self policed by the organic farms or private certification. It appears USDA involvement has weakened organic standards.

A good book to read is the Church and farming, by Fr. Denis Fahey. Written back in the 1950s, it details the problems of synthetic (chemical based) farming and how it was decreasing the nutrients available in food, causes health problems, and how modern industrial farming was ruining rural Catholic family life.

Perhaps there is no perfect ground to stand on in this debate, as one could be obsessed with organic foods, it seems the USDA has hurt the ability to identify good food.

Angelic Doctor Games - December 17, 2015

I agree with everything you have written. Thank you.

3. LaGallina - December 17, 2015

No offense, but I would eat the food from Joel Salatin’s farm any day before I’d eat the Round-Up Ready food from yours! I do think that organic is ridiculously expensive, and many of the packaged and boxed items are not even good for you. (I used to work at Whole Foods when I lived in Dallas, btw.)

Is that chicken really free range? I don’t know, but I know it wasn’t injected with growth hormones and antibiotics. My 7 kids have never had antibiotics — except in the food we buy.

Grain-fed cows, and the milk they provide, are not nearly as healthy as their grass-fed counterparts. That’s just a fact. If you want a sick animal, feed it food for which it was not designed. Same goes for humans. God knew what he was doing, and he did not create Round Up!

GMO tomatoes? Yeah, I buy them because all of the tomatoes in the grocery store are GMO. But I really could do without the fish DNA with which those tomatoes were injected.

It is heartbreaking to see ancient varieties of corn completely annihilated due to cross pollination of GMO corn. And I really don’t want corn that is sterile or is classified as a “herbicide.” And there is very little, if any, non-GMO corn left in the U.S. Because of cross-pollination.

Sorry, but don’t get me started on this. I’m sure there is much to criticize about the organic industry. But there have been quite a few stories of Amish farmers being raided in the middle of the night by FBI agents, and their businesses shut down, because they dared to sell food that was grown the old-fashioned way. My family eats probably about 20-30% organic. We almost never take pharmaceutical meds, relying nearly completely on homeopathic medicine. And we are probably the healthiest family I know (thanks be to God.)

I hate the Sierra Club and PETA and all those other psychotic environmentalist groups. But I want my food the way God intended it. And I’ll worry about the “dangers” of organic produce as soon as the FDA stops recommending psychotropic drugs for children.

Sorry, for the rant. It’s just been so long since I’ve been able to rant about anything other than Francis the First!

4. LaGallina - December 17, 2015

Hi Tantum. FYI, I left a long-winded blistering critique of my own, but it did not show up in the comments, Dang it! I must have spent a half hour or so arguing with you🙂

5. Sobieski - December 17, 2015

Just came from the store tonight: $12 for 1.5 gallons of organic milk. My wife is concerned about “regular” milk, however, because even the milk labeled as being hormone free may be from cows fed with feed consisting of dead cow. All that crap can negatively impact kids. It seems the hormones can cause kids go through puberty earlier and earlier (picture 9 year old with a mustache). Please correct me if I am wrong — I’m not excited about spending 3x the cost for milk. Anyway, all this is a result of our non-Catholic, pagan and materialistic culture. Another good book is The Framework of the Christian State by Rev. E. Cahill, SJ (don’t worry he’s a good Jesuit).

6. Margaret Costello - December 17, 2015

If you are looking for a good pork source (they have a yummy sugar free pork sausage), check out US Wellness Meats http://grasslandbeef.com/sugar-free-pork-breakfast-sausage It’s out of stock right now, but that’s b/c it’s so dang yummy. Give it a few days…it’ll come back:+) They are organic but since someone at the State level decided to charge
a huge amount for the organic USDA seal, they decided to drop it.

Also, Round Up is some nasty stuff: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/ I won’t go near it.

Agree that getting the USDA in the mix lowered the standards. If you’d like to know the difference between organic and synthetic pesticides, this is a good article on it: http://news.agropages.com/News/NewsDetail—8680.htm

I agree with MFG and others here that the synthetic, materialistic super farming has hurt us. We need to get back to our Catholic roots and get natural again. Organic might cost a buck, but I can only do my best to protect myself from synthetic chemicals and give myself the nutrients I need to do God’s will here on Earth. I’ve been severely ill and housebound for almost 7.5 years, and switching to organic only, dropping the chems from my personal products etc. has helped me immensely. If the Organic farmers lie and sell me food laced with synthetic pesticides, then they will have to answer to God on that one. In the meantime, I’ll pray my grace before meals and include that my food be protected from the nasty stuff sprayed in this world:+)

God bless~

Margaret Costello - December 18, 2015

Forgot to add. To be on the safe side, keep that lovely pregnant wife of yours away from Round Up. It has been known to cause miscarriages. God bless~

7. Candace - December 17, 2015

I grow organic coastal bermuda and agree with the criticisms of the article. The regulations for “organic” labeling were/are pretty strict and people always try to cheat – testing is crucial to maintain honesty and standards. Growing organic is expensive and more demanding thus the usual high price (no market for organic hay, though ; ) … If I drank milk it would be raw. When our children were young we had milk goats – delicious milk.

Candace - December 17, 2015

And “why” do we go organic? The food is better, fresher and of high quality, especially if you buy local and/or go to the farm to buy. The very best is biodynamic with the Demeter label. The one year I was able to go to the trouble of applying biodynamic solutions to my fields the results were amazing with huge leaves (on coastal!) and a wonderful fragrance – this during that big drought.

Candace - December 17, 2015

Sorry for all the posts. There is nothing wrong with composted manure. We don’t use even our own chemical free manure on the fields only because it has a lot of weed seeds in it even after composting. We use it for landscaping, creating berms and making soil in places we don’t mind or want wild plants. We are relatively new Catholics near Austin. We were shocked to find the Latin Mass no longer celebrated and wonder about all these glorified social workers who call themselves bishops, priests and nuns. There seems to be this obsession with getting the state to take over their obligations while history shows this eventually leads to disaster. Yearning for Constantine?

tg - December 17, 2015

The Latin Mass is celebrated at 3:30 pm at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin. Only place in the diocese which upsets me. I looked at their website and it’s still listed. I’ve attended twice. Too far for me to drive every Sunday. Was it recently you tried to attend?

Candace - December 20, 2015

Thank you, We went to the Latin Mass at St. Mary’s many years ago. It is very far away for us, too. We couldn’t hear anything. I don’t know why. I’ve been to St. Mary’s many times for the midnight Mass at Christmas. There was a Latin Mass at St William for a time and there is likely one still in Temple. Someone from the diocese office told us that if a good number of the parishioners wished for a Latin Mass then one would be offered. That certainly made my ears perk up!

8. LaGallina - December 17, 2015

Ok, I’m going to try again. I started off by saying that I would way rather eat the food from Joel Salatin’s farm than yours:)

(Joel Salatin is an interesting fella. You should look him up. He has done some great interviews with Off the Grid News.) Yes, organic can be extremely pricey. And a lot of the organic boxed foods are not even good for you. But I’ll take manure over Round Up etc any day. (I used to work at the Greenville Ave. Whole Foods back in the day!)

The growth hormones and antibiotics given to chickens, cows, pigs etc. is horrifying. I don’t feed my children hormones and antibiotics, so why do I want them to get it through their meat!! The feedstock conditions are definitely filthy, so the animals are fed a constant supply of antibiotics so they don’t get sick. But antibiotics do not create health, so the animals do get sick. Plus, the use of antibiotics can be extremely problematic on its own. Animals are often fed things that they were not meant to eat — such as their close kin. Cows were not meant to be cannibals. Even if they are fed grain only and never grass, they are not eating their optimal diet so they are more susceptible to disease. Grass-fed beef, or milk products from grass-fed animals are higher in vitamin D, for example.

You really are what you eat. Eat a lot of additives, growth hormones, antibiotics, and you will not enjoy great health.

As far as GMO, it has become nearly impossible to even grow organic corn in the U.S. because of the cross-pollination issue. There is very little truly organic corn left. (Blue corn, however, does not cross pollinate, fyi.) It is very sad to see ancient varieties become obsolete due to GMO. I am really not crazy about eating a food product that is classified as a “herbicide” because it is “Round Up Ready.” I also don’t like the fact that GMO seeds are sterile, so you can’t reuse it and cut in on Monsanto’s business. And I really don’t like things like FISH DNA in my tomatoes.

I am not in the least concerned about E. coli! Media scare mongering!

With that said, we only eat about 20-30% organic. I do try to buy organic ground beef and chicken because they are not given hormones or antibiotics. We also drink milk straight from the cow, thanks to some dear friends with cows. If I can’t get that, I buy organic — again because of the hormones and antibiotics. I am not a health nut. I just try to eat more or less the way my great-grandparents ate.

I have awesome, super-healthy kids (THANKS BE TO GOD!) We never use pharmaceutical meds and rely almost completely on homeopathic remedies which are amazing. We have no issues with things like ear infections or UTI’s or allergies or all of the other myriad health problems that kids today are facing.

9. just wondering - December 17, 2015

Are the people worried about E. Coli, toxic mold, and insects some of the same people who won’t vaccinate their kids for whatever reason ?


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