[NAFEX] chemical vs organic

Stephen Sadler Docshiva at Docshiva.org
Fri Jun 12 17:26:00 EDT 2009

Well, I’m a scientist and garden organically.  I rely on published research from scientists.  I’ve met a lot of farmers, and hereabouts most don’t have much postgraduate science education.  However, there are some that do, and they farm organically.  

Given the published tests and studies that scientifically examine organic methods, it’s just silly to say that conventional is scientific and organic is not.  Anyone growing food can rely on proven or unproven methods, but neither proven nor unproven equates to conventional or organic.  Both have tested, reliable methods.


~ Stephen 


From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org [mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Kieran &/or Donna
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 9:14 AM
To: North American Fruit Explorers
Subject: Re: [NAFEX] chemical vs organic


Someone, I think it was Fluffy or maybe Alan who said organic people are "unscientific".   That's not entirely true.  Most of us are simply naive idealists who really believe that God or Nature is benign and nice.  We have read that if we just improve our soil enough, that the bugs and disease will go away.  That generally seems to hold true for truck crops.  I haven't seen a bean beetle in years.  Fruit trees seem much harder to deal with.  The borer for every species thing doesn't help.  The curculio seem to have developed the perfect system, simply ruin all the fruit for any other creature but let a few fruits hang on long enough to make a few seeds for the trees to reproduce. Codling moths aren't nearly as efficient.  Someone asked me at work about what was eating the leaves on various species of veggies in her first ever garden.  Two of us were interrogating her, as she was obviously describing rabbit or deer damage.  the same bug does not attack all those species, and each one does it's own very specific thing.  The older men in the family had simply gone out and dusted Sevin to deal with all those other pests.  Here our worlds divide.  I adore bugs, except for the ones I hate with a passion.  I could never spray my garden with an insecticide, it would kill too many of my miniature wildlife.  ( I don't have to go on safari to Africa or even use binoculars to observe amazing creatures and great drama.  Try watching one of those special spider wasps in action.  You know, the blackish ones with the orange curly antennae.  Know what they use those antennae for?  They feel the spider very carefully with them to find the right spot to sting.  It's rather obscene to watch, esp as I am so fond of wolf spiders. )  I know a great deal about all kinds of bugs, including those that have no economic impact on me.  Tennessee oldtimers don't know these things, they kill everything with Sevin.  That is scientific?   I get a big kick out of explaining to oldtimers about why the blister beetles they hate so much are only a mixed curse, because their young feed on grasshopper eggs.  Once we got banties running loose eating grasshoppers, the blister beetles became rare.  

    Sevin is one of the 4 food groups in Tennessee.  Never mind that it is a neurotoxin that mammals can break down in their livers because they have an enzyme that insects don't have.  Never mind that this enzyme can be used up by repeated exposure or that certain medications can use it up.  Never mind the reports in Organic Gardening, that magazine for superstitious organic gardeners about how Sevin can last 40 days in the garden in certain conditions.  Never mind the final conclusion in the book A PLAGUE OF FROGS that it was the breakdown product of a pesticide that interfered with the thyroid function in the developing frogs and caused the limb deformities.  The researchers working with the pesticide itself did not get these results, giving the impression that it would not affect frogs.  Yes, there is also some kind of amphibian infection running around that can do this, but the Canadian researcher said flatly that in his years of sampling, that only farm ponds with lots of pesticides produced deformities.  Is it truly scientific to assume that chemicals don't break down into intermediate products out in Nature?  Some of us organic nuts are now bitter and twisted, having realised that the world consists mostly of creatures saying gimme.  We watch longingly the simple lives of chemical users, but are still only too aware that the miracle of modern chemistry is biting America's backside in the rates of cancer and other health problems.  

    This is not intended as an attack on anyone on this group, I am merely addressing the great divide in Nafex.  Never mind politics, we don't go to Nafex meetings and then immediately try to figure out whether we are talking to a Dem or Rep, we want to know if we are talking with someone who grows resistant stuff or who grows the best of everything and sprays.  Both groups start out naive, but one trusts the chemical companies and sprays, the other puts their faith in Nature and doesn't spray.  Both get rewards, but often the organic bunch have to do a whole lot more learning first.  Personally, I would love to see the concept of IPM agriculture blossom.  I would love to be able to buy IPM produce in my local grocery.  But somehow the concept has never gotten major attention among consumers and publications to consumers.  IPM is definitely the most scientific form of agriculture in my opinion.  It is based on the intersection of 3 realities, economic reality, and the knowlege of biology and chemistry.  

    I suppose this is the foundation for an article I have long wanted to write for Pomona but never could quite figure out how to approach.  The divide in Nafex between the organic and the chemical people is quite deep.  People have their minds as made up already as they did in the last election.  I soon discovered last year that I could only discuss politics with like minded people, that there were no discussions between sides, only arguments.  I think the divide is addressed by the Meyers-Briggs, Kiersey-Bates personality tests.  The division is between the 25% of the population who see the forest, and the 75% who see the trees.  Between the big picture and the details.  The big picture people think the detail people are idiots because they can't grasp the implications of what they do.  The detail people think the big picture people are idiots because they are vague.  For the extremes of either type, there is sudden glazing over of the eyes when forced to converse with someone of the other brain type.  I have watched it happen, I have experienced it myself.  My husband once endured an excruciating conversation between a brother and BIL of mine, 15 full minutes regarding a scratch on a car and what to do about it.  Our attitude is, the car is transportation, a scratch means nothing to that purpose.  To detail people, a scratch is a very real thing.  

     For the purposes of this discussion, ask yourself which type you are, and would you please report in which type you are and whether you think organic gardening is stupid  and chemicals are fine.  Remember there are people in the middle, more versatile people than the ones at the ends of the spectrum.  If you are in the middle, what is your opinion re chemicals, in 25 words or less?   Thank you.  Any input regarding an article for Pomona on this subject would be very much appreciated.  A group effort will produce a better balanced article.  Some details, some theory, something for everyone.    Donna 

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