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    What Is The Meaning Of "Organic" (And Inorganic) Food?
    By Lee Silver | March 11th 2007 12:46 PM | 50 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    Before the 18th century, scientists and non-scientists alike assumed that the material substance of living organisms was fundamentally different from that of non-living things -- organisms and their products were considered organic by definition, while non-living things were mineral or inorganic. 

    With the invention of chemistry in the late 18th century, scientists uncovered the incoherence of the traditional distinction: all material substances are constructed from the same set of chemical elements.  Today we understand that the special properties of living organic matter emerge from the interactions of a large variety of large molecules built mostly with atoms of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.

    Chemists now use the word organic to describe all complex, carbon-based molecules—whether or not they are actually products of an organism or products of laboratory synthesis.  But many educated people in Western countries think that only some crops and cows are organic, while all others are not.  How can one simple word -- organic -- have such different meanings?

    Through the 19th and 20th centuries, increased scientific understanding, technological innovations, and social mobility changed the face of American agriculture. Large-scale farming became more industrialized and more efficient. In 1800, farmers made up 90% of the American labor force; by 1900, their proportion had decreased to 38%, and in 1990, it was only 2.6%.  However, not everyone was happy with these societal changes, and there were calls in the United States and Europe for a return to the preindustrial farming methods of earlier times.

    This movement first acquired the moniker organic in 1942, when J. I. Rodale began publication in America of Organic Farming&Gardening, a magazine still in circulation today.

    According to Rodale and his acolytes, products created by—and processes carried out by—living things are fundamentally different from lab-based processes and lab-created products. The resurrection of this prescientific, vitalistic notion of organic essentialism did not make sense to scientists who understood that every biological process is fundamentally a chemical process. In fact, all food, by definition, is composed of organic chemicals.

    As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) refused to recognize organic food as distinguishable in any way from nonorganic food.

    The “organic food” movement was not taken seriously by U.S. government agencies until 1990, when lobbyists convinced Congress to mandate the establishment of a certification process for organic foods.  Twelve years later, organic farmers finally obtained rules they wanted to prevent impostors from siphoning off market share.  But as the USDA emphasizes, the "basis of these standards is on process, not product." 

    In other words, organic food is defined not by any material substance in the food itself, but instead by the "holistic" methods used on organic farms. Furthermore, the physical attributes of the product and any effects it might have on environment or health are explicitly excluded from U.S., European, and international definitions.

    The implicit, unproven assumption is that organic agriculture is -- by its very nature -- better for the environment than so-called conventional farming. The European Commission states as a matter of fact that "organic farmers use a range of techniques that help sustain ecosystems and reduce pollution." Yet, according to self-imposed organic rules, genetic modification in the laboratory is strictly forbidden, even if its purpose is to reduce an animal's negative impact on the environment. (Canadian scientists have already engineered pigs to secrete an enzyme in their saliva that reduces the polluting phosphorous content of their manure by up to 75%.)  On the other hand, spontaneous mutations caused by deep-space cosmic rays are always deemed acceptable -- without any testing -- since they occur "naturally."

    In reality, laboratory scientists can make subtle and precise changes to an organism's DNA sequence, while high-energy cosmic rays can break chromosomes into pieces that reattach randomly and sometimes create genes that didn't previously exist.

    Even more than a concern for the environment, organic producers and consumers are driven by faith in the presumed health benefits of their holistically produced food.  In The Future of Food, Canadian farmer Marc Loiselle explains, “the underpinning of my conversion to organic food is not so much the economic point, it’s the health point, to protect my health, to protect my family’s health and my neighbors’.”  

    Irrespective of whether they buy into the health rhetoric or not, western consumers have been led to believe that organic farmers are never allowed to use toxic chemical pesticides.  In fact, this carefully cultivated beliefs is simply false.  Pyrethrin (with the formula C21H28O3) is one of several common toxic chemicals sprayed onto fruit trees by organic farmers (even on the day of harvesting); another allowed chemical is rotenone (C23H22O6), a potent neurotoxin, long used to kill fish, and recently linked to Parkinson's disease {Betarbet, 2000 #1258}.  

    How can organic farmers justify the use of these chemical pesticides? The answer comes from the delusion that substances produced by living organisms are not really chemicals. Since pyrethrin is extracted from chrysanthemums and rotenone comes from a native Indian vine, they are deemed organic instead. 

    However, the most potent toxins known to humankind, including ricin and strychnine, are all natural and organic. In fact, all currently used pesticides -- both natural and synthetic -- dissipate quickly and pose a miniscule risk to consumers. As the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences explains,
    while pesticides may be found in many products, the levels at which they are present fall far below the levels known to not cause any health effects. The fact that they are found at all is only due to the significant advances in analytical chemistry. The tests are now so sensitive that the detection level that can be easily reached is equivalent to detecting one teaspoon of salt in one million gallons of water. Levels even lower than that can sometimes be detected.

    Nevertheless, faith in nature’s beneficence can still be fatal to some children. About 5% express severe allergic reactions to certain types of natural food, and every year, unintentional ingestion causes hundreds of thousands of cases of anaphylactic shock with hundreds of deaths. The triggering agents are actually a tiny number of well-defined proteins in certain foods—including peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts, eggs, milk, and shellfish— that are resistant to digestive fluids. These specific proteins linger in the intestines long enough to provoke an allergic immune response in susceptible people.

    No society has been willing to ban the use of any allergenic ingredients in processed foods, even though this approach could save lives and reduce much human suffering. GM technology could offer a more palatable alternative: the use of targeted RNA silencing technologies to turn off plant allergen genes.

    With this approach, scientists have already created low allergenicity soy, and promising results have been reported for both peanuts and shrimp.

    Some day perhaps, conventional soy and peanut farmers will all switch production to low-allergenicity GM crop varieties. If that day arrives, organic food produced with GM-free organic soy or peanuts will be certifiably more dangerous to human health than comparable non-organic products. Unfortunately, conventional farmers have no incentive to plant reduced-allergy seeds when sales of their current crops are unrestricted, especially when the public has been led to believe that all genetic modifications create health risks.

    In the current social and economic climate, much of the critical research required to turn promising results into viable products is simply not pursued. As a result, anti-GM, organic food advocates may be indirectly responsible for avoidable deaths of future children.

    Comments

    critser@earthlink.net

     

    Lee,

    This is something I have been fascinated in for some time, and I am enjoying your writing on it. I often wonder why advocates of organic (as defined by USDA) are not happy by simply saying that the main benefit of their practice--and their prices--is the environment? Isn't that enough? Instead they have to make claims that it is safer (not), more flavorful ( perhaps, but that is because of harvesting riper, not  because of the absence of chemicals), or more nutritious (only if riper, so ditto). Why do you think they do that?

    Thank you,

    Greg


    Greg Critser

    Lee Silver
    Hi Greg,
       
       Clever marketing and packaging by the organic industry leads people to believe that "organic" is equivalent to food grown locally on small farms tended to by farmers who put more time and effort into producing more tasty food.  But that's not the case.  Some small farms are organic, while others are not.  And while most large farms are non-organic, lots of big corporations (like WalMart) are getting into the organic business because the profit margin is larger (even thought they don't deserve it).   That's my cynical take on the organic food industry -- clever marketing induces consumers to pay more money for something that has little added value.  After reading the 500 page long organic food certification standards, the only significant difference that I see built into the rules is better animal welfare standards (which means something), but no guarentee of better health or better environmental protection.



    Lee,
    I like the way you decided to tackle the question of meaning along the dually opposition of "naturally occurring chemical" and "man made chemical". It is, and has long been an easy way to differentiate this other sensitive aspect of food production that is the opposition between manufactured and non-manufactured. This has now become processed/un-processed.

    It occurred to me a while back that meaning, for the consumers, has rarely anything to do with scientific facts. "The truth" often needs not to be known when one is about to engage in a consumption process.

    You might be interested to read a qualitative research into the meanings of organic food that I undertook in 2006. It is based on unstructured interviews and is full of "pearls" revealing the different associations made with the term organic: local, natural, fair trade, free range, traditional, etc.
    Greg is right to point out the relative lack of evidence with regards to health benefits associated with the consumption of organic food; it remains that most people who chose to consume organic food do so on the belief that it is better for their health.

    The UK, where this research was undertaken, is a peculiar place when it comes to food consumption (I was brought up in France) and the craze for everything labeled organic reflects just as much about particular food habits as it does about particular consumption habits.

    Having read around the topic a little, I think that you are absolutely right to conclude that the real difference might have to do with animal welfare while the rest is essentially a well orchestrated marketing exercise.
    My belief is that more education - rather than more information - is needed and I can only thank you for the part you are playing.

    Best Regards.

    Mmedo

    Hank
    Mmedo, that's a terrific paper! Is there a way to condense it into some manageable article form? If you write often ( once a week or so ) you can see about becoming a columnist here or if that isn't your thing you can make this into an article and we will publish it and link to the full version. We had around 100,000 readers last week so there is a good audience for quality science writing.

    too short. please redo it again and make it seriously. no picture

    If you talk with an anthropologist for a few minutes, you quickly learn that there are other -often considerably more reliable- means by which people judge what is safe to consume than merely the scientific method, applied unevenly and reported by an industry in cahoots with the FDA who have much to benefit financially from being disingenuous.

    I personally prefer to not eat substances (when I can help it) which have not been in the food supply for at least 10 generations. Further, I always try to avoid GMO crops because, although of course cosmic rays can alter a gene or two, high yield production of GMO crops is a very monoculture insilar system with NOTHING known about long term health affects either to the consumer or the ecosystem of the planet.

    There have been enough instances in which negative health and even negative production information about GMO crops has been measured and then suppressed that it seems reasonable for me to conclude that it is unlikely to find a single developer of GMO crops OF ANY KIND who does not engage in practices so deceptive that if they knew what they were doing would cause the extinction of human kind, they could be trusted not to do it.

    This is why it is such an emotional issue for me, and probably for many of the rest of us, too. If we see the makers of rBGH and agent orange and BT Corn, Cotton & now even Soy remain unpunished for suppressing research conclusively demonstrating harm while they prosecute farmers for letting the wind blow just because they don't want to have to spend a few extra dollars isolating their possibly-genocidal experiments from the rest of the planet's crops then of course we're going to have a very profound emotional reaction.

    Are you awake? Have you not noticed the dramatic increase in immune deficiency diseases within the past 40 years? Do you think that is just a coincidence? If they weren't actively trying to suppress farmers from advertising that their products DO NOT contain -for instance- rBGH then we might consider trusting them more. How can you possibly trust these people? They seem to me as though they are aware that they are behaving in ways designed to cull large populations and I, for one, do NOT agree with this reaction to the world's overpopulation. I think they should be prosecuted for it.

    i have a question??? i want to know what organic of pestcontrol means???? can anyone tell me???

    Buying organic is simply a good way to ease concerns over synthetic materials--drugs and hormones in meat, nitrates in foods, irradiated foods, additives, and artificial colors—in our food.

    Actually, the process of production of organic foods bring some benefits. The "organic" eggs usually have higher nutritional value and "organic" lettuce usually have lower nitrate... At least in Brazil, organic food is all about the way it is raised and processed.. Organic eggs come from birds that have access to a given area to move and a given kind food to eat. So, at least here, organic food is better than food processed in other ways.
    For more information: http://74.125.47.132/search?q=cache:AxqOso8yyX0J:redeagroecologia.cnptia... (in portuguese)

    As described above, almost all foods are organic (obvious exceptions: water and table salt). Additionally, almost all foods contain inorganic molecules (again water and salt among numerous other compounds). With these two facts as a basis, any claim that attempts to differentiate food by labelling it organic and by inference healthier than food that is not so labelled is a direct attempt to defraud consumers, even if such fraud is government sanctioned. If the initial statement from someone is a lie how can anyone trust anything they say after that lie?

    Hank
    Marketing people don't consider it lying, they consider it willingness to sell people something they want to believe is materially different.   It's not just food, it's homeopathy and ethanol too.

    If they claim the process is 'healthier' despite any number of studies showing zero nutritional difference and people want to believe it, it isn't illegal to charge them more for being stupid.
    You're right, Hank about the marketing people not considering it lying. And that's what is so disturbing. How easily they can rationalize all of this away seems to suggest that they are without a conscience. Anything for a buck these days, and who cares how many people you harm in the process!
    I think you are throwing out the baby with the bath-water here.

    The term "organic" has a strictly defined meaning in chemistry, i.e., containing the element carbon.

    The same word "organic" is used colloquially in North America to describe foods that have been grown under a certain set of standards for pesticide use, antibiotic use, and animal welfare.

    This is confusing and perhaps a poor choice since that word was already in use in a scientific field, but I don't believe for a second that marketing companies were ever using the word "organic" in the scientific sense and trying to convince you that all those other foods out there "do not contain the element of carbon". That's just ridiculous. Many other countries in the EU have avoided this silly argument by using the term "Bio" to refer to their set of food standards.

    It's just a word being used in two completely different ways that are essentially unrelated.

    Looks like you people don't believe in global warming too. I hope you have a cancer free live as long as the industrialized food that you defend - and actually eat? - permits.

    Human, I don't know about you but I've never eaten any food raised on a farm that hasn't been genetically engineered. Many foods that grow wild are actually domesticated (genetically engineered) species. For example: All apples grown in North America. I've seen pictures of natural (wild) corn (it has only 4 rows of kernels) but I've never seen it and I understand that it will cause some major gastric distress. I've seen turkeys in stores labelled as organic but none of them looked like a real turkey (real turkeys can actually fly engineered turkeys have been bred with breasts to heavy to be able to fly).

    The process to try to accentuate favorable traits while reducing unfavorable ones has always had unexpected consequences. If you want to eat foods without those risks, your about 5,000 years too late.

    Science?
    I don't know about you but I've never eaten any food raised on a farm that hasn't been genetically engineered
    Seriously, you equate selection with deliberate gene modification?
    By selecting plants for certain desirable traits we can eventually breed 'superior' plants. That's a far cry from inserting a gene sequence from an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SPECIES.
    Example: Bt, one of those inserted genes in popular use, is a bacteria that incapacitates caterpillars. This has been used for many years by organic gardeners as a non-toxic method for dealing with these pests. But by inserting genes directly into plants that internally create bt, resistance to bt is now being noted in insect pest populations,.
    Other problems are:
    spread of the modified plants by interbreeding with unaltered plants.
    bt from GMO plants can survive ingestion and continue to generate bt in the guts of humans. We really have no idea what the long (or short) term effects of having bt factories living in our guts. This is also true for the roundup ready plants.

    You wrote: "The process to try to accentuate favorable traits while reducing unfavorable ones has always had unexpected consequences. If you want to eat foods without those risks, your about 5,000 years too late."
    There is a big difference between a plant selected for certain favorable traits being interbred with another of the same species, and one that has genetic material from another species inserted into its' genetic material. To equate selection with the insertion of jellyfish genes into strawberry plants is ludicrous.

    Seriously, you equate selection with deliberate gene modification? Absolutely!

    A prime example is the fruit industry. Most tree based fruits utilize grafting to join a root structure of one species of tree to provide hearty support with a graft of another tree species to produce desirable fruit. The prime example is the Hass Avocado. Every Hass Avocado tree is a clone of the "Mother Tree" grafted to a trunk of a more naturally grown tree.

    Current gene splicing is just a more technically advanced method of trait selection and hybridization. Splicing genes of similar or different species has been developing over millennium. Which technology breakthrough is the one that crosses the line?

    Two additional examples: Have you ever heard of a mule? How about a Beefalo? Both of these animals are commercial products of combining genes of different animal species.

    Gerhard Adam
    I think you're stretching the definition a bit.   There is a significant difference between breeding (although side-effects such as sterility may occur), with inserting genes that have no naturally occurring corollaries.

    What is the danger?  In truth, I don't believe anyone knows.  However, what makes it suspect is that most people recognize that no organism is static.  Once a gene is inserted or modified, it is in place for all future generations, which represents a different "starting point" for evolution and natural selection.  What are the ramifications of selection or genetic drift for organisms that have been modified? 

    We've seen how radically different results can be produced simply by the artificial selection of breeding dogs.  However, even here, there were no traits introduced that didn't already exist within the species.   This use of artificial selection is not without consequences (for the dogs) by increasing problems such as hip dysplasia, blindness, and other detrimental results.  Even the example of the mule incurs the consequence of sterility in the animal.

    So, it is simply wrong to argue that genetic engineering (including breeding if you want to be that liberal) is necessarily predictable in its long-term consequences.



    Mundus vult decipi
    I agree that I am stretching but the point I've been attempting to underscore is that bio-engineering is an old practice. While the technology changes and the underlining science becomes more refined, the goals have been the same for ages. Apply science and engineering to produce "better" returns. The current label of "natural" or "organic" is accepting products that are the result of millennia of bio-engineering that was "state-of the art" when developed. Many developments have fallen short of expectations and/or produced undesirable side affects and traits.

    Blindly rejecting (or accepting) new technology and arbitrarily picking a point in technology evolution without justification brings biology into the realm of religion not science. The current trend against chemical fertilizer is a prime example of forgetting history. Chemical fertilizers were developed to eliminate the nasty problems of natural fertilizers. Composting of biological waste increased heavy metal contamination (lead, arsenic, mercury, etc.) and fostered the spread of viruses such as cholera. Farmers were enticed into paying more to fertilize their fields with chemicals because the new fertilizers increased yield to more than offset their costs. Technology improvements have allowed the development of "organic" fertilizers without most of the nasty problems of the old "natural" fertilizer. Believing that food was healthier without the application of current technology is not only wrong, it's dangerously wrong.

    Gerhard Adam
    All true, but what's more disturbing is the marked lack of appreciation for the real underlying problem; unconstrained human population growth.

    People have an uncomfortable feeling that all manner of compromises are being made (regarding everything from their economic futures to health) simply because there are those that simply want to continue expanding the human race beyond all reason.  Similarly, it is clear that the average person is considered a target of exploitation by economic interests.  Therefore it is a legitimate concern that health and risks would always be of secondary consideration to profitability.  It is also legitimate that with the mad rush to patent biological organisms and processes, there is a dangerous precedent by which readily available resources will be controlled by a few economic interests.

    Recent history has demonstrated that lack of social conscience with respect to the handling of toxic wastes and people's exposure.   Certainly people may react out of ignorance regarding the science in many cases whether its electric power lines or genetically engineered foods.  However, at the core, this is about the fundamental distrust of business and governments to keep its citizen's interests at heart. 

    There are few people that would argue about improving food quality, but that isn't what we see.  Instead we see continuous efforts to improve the economic results of food production regardless of whether the result is even palatable to be marketed.  Until there is a recognition that something other than profitability is the motive behind GM foods, the public will not buy into its acceptance.

    At the end of the day, people recognize that if (or when) something were to go wrong, they will be abandoned behind a legal wall they can't begin to penetrate.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Global warming is also a farce, mainly perpetuated by the likes of Al Gore and others who spread unjustified "eco-guilt" to profit from nonsense like recycling programs. Back in the 70's, everybody had their shorts in a wad over concern that industrialization had catapulted us towards another ice age. First the earth was getting colder, now its getting hotter, oh no! Global climate warming is a natural process, one that has continued unaffected since the last ice age, irrefutably unaffected by the introduction of humankind to the ecosystem. 20 years from now, masses of ignorant folks will be awash in despair over some new global catastrophe, and just as surely there will be another Al Gore standing by ready to sell us a solution.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...just as surely there will be another Al Gore standing by ready to sell us a solution.
    We sure don't need another "solution" like the Bush-Cheney war on terror.  You're absolutely right.
    Mundus vult decipi
    How exactly does an article about organic vs. inorganically grown food, which I think is very good btw, turn into another debate on global warming? It seems every time I turn around someone is interjecting a comment about "global warming" and "Al Gore" regardless of the subject matter of the article in question.

    Thank you, Lee for an informative and enlightening article.
    I believe in global warming, naturally occured green house gases are no threads to the environment but human accelerated the productions of these green house gases with power plants and automobile is. Too much of something too fast is never a good thing therefore i believe global warming is a fact.

    As for "Organic" food versus "Inorganic" food, I choose "Inorganic" because as an engineer i believe that engineered food are under control and tested to benefit human. (Human you can thanks science for vaccine)

    The comments on here about global warming seemingly off-topic, but they are enlightening with regards to people's ability to embrace scientific reasoning on one subject while rejecting it on another. It says a lot about human nature, I think.

    Long story short:

    Organic food is pretty much a rip-off (ie: no significant difference in taste and nutrients between organic food and standard-farmed food) and may not actually be all that great for the environment either (ie: 4 times more land used to cultivate organic crops than standard farming).

    I'll keep this short.
    4 times more land used to cultivate organic crops than standard farming).
    Prove it.

    Anyone know how organic crops are grown; how weeds are controlled? It is generally through intensive cultivation. Anyone know what cultivation is? It is the turning of the soil through mechanical means. Instead of turning the soil over once or twice a year, organic farmers might do it 8 or 10 times. Anyone know why this matters? Because culitvation breaks down the soil structure. The soil particles are much more easily washed away by wind or water erosion. The tillage, sometimes done weekly, destroys the roots from previous crops allowing even more erosion. Anyone remember the old film clips of the dust bowl? Tell me again how orgainic farming is better for the environment. Oh yeah, while you are at it, tell me how the extra exhaust from all those extra passes is better for the air and how the power used to make the tillage equipment and wear items for the tillage is better, too.

    Yes, I know how organic crops are grown, and you, apparently, do not.
    There are, first of all, many different modes of organic growing including the Ruth Stout no till no work method.
    It is not a good idea to expound upon a subject that you obviously know little about, except for what you have read.
    Mulching, as practiced by all good organic growers, removes the necessity for constant weeding and ''breaking down the soil structure'. You have not studied soil science either, apparently.
    So, tillage is not done weekly. The few weeds that break through the mulch are easily removed.
    So, no destruction of crop roots (what nonsense) no soil breakdown nor erosion in organic farming. The opposite is true.
    Those dust bowl farmers were not organic growers. There is not extra exhaust from your fictional weekly tilling, nor negative environmental impact from " power used to make the tillage equipment "
    Are you sure this is a science blog?

    Notoz -

    You are 100% wrong. Where do you get your information? Organic methods are certainly less cultivation-intensive than non-organic. It's not organic methods that destroy the soil - it's conventional chemical-based methods.

    I for one do not even turn my soil more than every 3 or 4 years. And when I do, it is done by hand, only where needed, and does not result in any erosion of the soil. Organic soil does not even require turning, because it retains its' moisture, vitality and tilth - unlike dried-out, caked, and vitamin-dead soil on non-organic farms.

    I use composted materials to build the soil's vitality (not nitrogen-based chemicals), use natural mulch to stop weeds, beneficial insects to control pests, and my fruits and vegetables are so much better than non-organically grown food that it is laughable that anyone besides a Big Agra CEO could even argue the point. My family laughs at the pale imitations of fruit and vegetables for sale in local supermarkets

    All you who are non-organic proponents are all just whistling in the dark, hoping that your genetically modified "stuff" (because it's not real food) does not cause a major calamity and millions of deaths. If and when that inevitably happens, you will all be scurrying to growers like ME who can supply healthy food. Thank your stars that there are still some of us around. Meanwhile, I and my family will be healthy, robust and disease-resistant. Will you? I doubt it.

    I find your article to be incorrect on many aspect about organic versus inorganic products. I also, feel that maybe you should include a disclaimer that this is more of an opinon than an educational article.

    I found it hard to keep from laughing at all the misinformation in your article. Have you ever seen an organic farm or tasted its' food? I seriously doubt it, but I highly recommend it. Organic is the only healthy way to grow.

    Hank
    You're contending this world-famous biologist knows less about the actual meaning of 'organic' than you do, because you have been educated by advertising about how superior 'organic' is?  Pesticides and fertilizer aside, do you know how many inorganic ingredients are in organic food?   The starches, pectins, gelatins, shellac and everything else?  Science does.   If you search this site, you will find the entire list, approaching 100 non-organic ingredients that can be added to your organic food, in addition to the bacteria and toxic pesticides.

    And keep in mind the E. coli panic in Europe is due to organic supermarkets.
    The "actual meaning" of organic has nothing to do with it. He may have a Nobel prize in biology for all I care, but he's wrong on this issue. Albert Einstein was considered to be the smartest man in the world, but many of his assumptions have been proven wrong.

    Of course there are inorganic components in organic food, but that is not the issue. He's tearing down a proven method of growing (over thousands of years) to promote a method that has depleted our soil in less than 100 years. Illnesses and allergies that were unknown 100 years ago are prevalent today mainly due to chemical-based farming methods used by Big Agra.

    Advertising has nothing to do with it - I happen to grow my own organic food and I have experienced the difference first-hand. There is no comparison. Foods grown according to "organic" methods are healthier and more nutritious than those grown with man-made inorganic chemicals. I see it every day in my family's health. We actually laugh when we see what is offered in local supermarkets.

    I'm guessing that there is some connection between Dr. Silver's rant and the possibility that he is somehow involved in the business of genetically altered crops or animals. Could it be that he's lashing out at those who are resistant to his field of "expertise"? Maybe hitting him in the wallet? No proof - just conjecture..

    Gerhard Adam
    Foods grown according to "organic" methods are healthier and more nutritious than those grown with man-made inorganic chemicals. I see it every day in my family's health. We actually laugh when we see what is offered in local supermarkets.
    Well, perhaps you can take a break from laughing, and show some data that illustrates the differences (nutritionally) between organic and inorganic foods.  Preferably something that is not published by an group with a vested interest in the outcome.

    In other words, quantify the values for me ranging from minerals, vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, etc. 

    You also need to be more specific in indicating whether you are referring to "organic" in the sense of the food (which should show nutritionally quantifiable differences), versus "organic" methods of growing food (which should show differences in the soil and ambient effects).

    While I can appreciate them, anecdotes aren't really sufficient here, so I'd like to see some of the data on which you base your claims.

    BTW, the meaning of "organic" very much matters, because regardless of your own beliefs, this will be the criteria used to certify something as "organic" and as pointed out in the article, this may be vastly different than the perception held by consumers.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Does any publication exist that is not published by a group with a vested interest in its' outcome? I Doubt it. I can show you data that you will call slanted, and you can show me data that I will call slanted. There are apparently no truly objective sources in this argument.

    Sadly, all I can depend on are my own observations. I witness the vibrant health of my family, while I observe friends and neighbors who eat conventionally-farmed foods dropping like flies from cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases... and then the chemical/pharmaceutical companies produce another expensive, dangerous "medicine" to treat their symptoms... which causes more side effects than the illness that it treats. A vicious cycle. But it's all Big Business. Plenty of profit. Keep the people needing them.

    I am 59 years old and had a recent annual physical. When the doctor asked which medications I was on, and I answered, "absolutely none", he looked at me in disbelief. Then my test results came back and he couldn't believe the data. He said I was in better shape than most 30 year old males. The doctor, who is about 35 and looks about 55, asked me what is my secret. I told him "lots of exercise and organic foods whenever possible.". He said he was going to have to start eating organic.

    Sorry, but these are the only "hard facts" that I can provide to you.

    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not asking for testimonials, I was asking for documentation about what the real numbers were regarding nutritional differences in the food (which is what you're claiming).  If you can find two sites that are on opposing sides of this debates with vastly different numbers, then I would suspect that there really is some kind of "conspiracy" to keep information quiet.  However, I doubt that this is the case.

    More importantly, many of the "organic" food producers are big business that are looking at the certification process as a way of charging more money for the same quality food.

    I'm glad that you're in good health, but it is little more than anecdotal, and what you're describing doesn't say much about diet, if there is exercise involved (which usually does the most good) and there are no weight issues.  Also, your statement about people "dropping like flies" is most definitely an overstatement, which even if you could directly attribute it to organic foods (which you can't), is still quite an exaggeration. 
    ...cancer, diabetes, atherosclerosis, arthritis, and other degenerative diseases
    You know better than to make such claims.  To suggest that all these conditions are purely dietary is disingenuous and seriously compromises any claim you have on credibility.

    Just to reiterate one of the points in the article.  Your statement about big business is misplaced, since it is precisely the objective of big business to gain the "organic" certification so that they can profit from it. 
    When the doctor asked which medications I was on, and I answered, "absolutely none", he looked at me in disbelief.
    Cute story, but I frankly don't believe it.  In the first place, your doctor is an idiot if he didn't review your charts and was well aware of any medications that he would've prescribed.  I can also tell you similar stories of my mother (83 years old) and her neighbor (still lives alone at 100 years old).  None of them live in rural communities, and most assuredly do not eat organic.  So, we have plenty of stories and anecdotes to bolster whatever angle we want to pursue.

    However, my question remains.  Show me some data (I don't even care how biased it may appear) that shows the nutritional numbers between organic and inorganically grown foods.  As I said, it would be hard to screw up actual nutritional numbers without intentional deception.
    Mundus vult decipi
    in stead of pretending your the smartest person in the world, you should appreciate his "anecdote " and not be so rude, because obviously his story has meaning behind it.

    Gerhard Adam
    ...and what meaning is that?
    Mundus vult decipi
    This gentleman cites the corrupt, bought-and-paid-for FDA as the ultimate authority on our health and well-being. I wouldn't expect him to understand or believe anything beside their rigged statistics. None are so blind as those that will not see.

    Gerhard Adam
    Ah yes ... as opposed to the honest, but anonymous poster whose anecdotal evidence requires no proof, but will set you free. 
    None are so blind as those that will not see.
    ... or another corollary;  none are so goofy as those that believe anonymous internet posters.
    Mundus vult decipi
    @ Gerhard: It must be tough to realize that the entire belief system that you support is corrupt and just a house of cards, driven by big money and chemical companies for profit. I'd be pretty bitter myself. Let's see, an alternative method of farming that uses natural organic substances that have existed for and have been tested for thousands of years... vs. an energy-intensive, expensive, soil-poisoning, disease-producing, non-renewable method pushed by criminal chemical companies... guess which choice I'll take?. As for Gary in NY - I agree with most of what you posted. Stay healthy and stay organic.

    Gerhard Adam
    LOL ... if only you could see how truly ridiculous you sound. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Hank
    The USDA disagrees with your assertion that 'organic' food is any different.  As does thousands of years of science.   Your further assertion that Prof. Silver, or anyone here, has been bought off is especially offensive - you are the only one profiting from promoting a particular type of food.
    Well, there you go again... thousands of years of science, eh?

    Why is it that organic methods were used for thousands of years with no ill effects, and in the last 100 years (since the chemical companies came into existence and started pushing their poisons), the soil has been poisoned from chemicals, and the runoff has poisoned the rivers, lakes and oceans? Now they want to "improve" on millions of years of natural selection with genetic modifications? Sorry, count me out.

    And the USDA is just as corrupt as the AMA, the FDA, and all the rest of the Alphabet Departments set up by the government to police and control us.

    I'm certainly not profiting financially, because I don't sell my organically grown food. I and my family eat it ourselves. But is sure sounds like some here have an agenda to push.

    Hank
    Yes, we do have an agenda.  It is called science and fact.   It is in opposition to your agenda - smug posturing and conspiracy theory.  I am happy you grow and clean and kill and cook 100% of the food your family eats - I wish my wife would allow that - but she also will not move into that bunker with me while I await the great USDA-caused Apocalypse you are convinced is right around the corner.
    Nobody is immune to the damage that has already been done to the environment by the chemical companies' poisons. Not even those like myself who eat organically. But what I hope to attain in the small time I have here is to remain relatively free of diseases from outside causes. The best way of striving toward that goal is to avoid unnecessary intake of said poisons. Eating organically is just one way of avoiding them.

    Anyone who trusts Big Pharma or Big Agra to make wise or altruistic decisions for them is truly playing roulette with their lives. Objective science is one thing - but science in bed with these organizations is a very bad fact of life. And government in bed with them is even worse. (yes, FDA, AMA, USDA, etc.)

    How many drugs are pushed nonstop via TV ads, telling potential users to "ask your doctor". My doctor said that patients come to him demanding that he write a prescription for a drug that they saw advertised on TV, and won't take no for an answer. The tail wagging the dog, right? Well, now there's a large litigation industry that has sprung up to sue those companies when people get sick or die from taking their damaging drugs. Most of their side effects are much worse than the symptoms they are taken to mask. I don't hear about Jacoby & Meyers suing organic farmers, do you?

    So you are very welcome to ingest the pesticides, altered genes, vitamin-deficient foods, dangerous ineffective medicines, etc. that are a product of this era - what you probably consider an "enlightened age". I, however, believe that a hundred years in the future, this will be considered another dark period of history... if civilization is still able to exist on this planet a century hence.

    Greg is right to point out the relative lack of evidence with regards to health benefits associated with the consumption of organic food; it remains that most people who chose to consume organic food do so on the belief that it is better for their health. I would have to agree with you in this part.  
    I have a disease called porphyria and as a result have multiple chemical sensitivites. I cant eat genetically modified food, or anything with pesticides or herbicides. I know the difference and get very ill within such a short time after having eaten any. Its made life hard. I know people like me too, im not unique. True organic food is scarce now but its all i can eat. Your wrong. It will eventually be monsanto and associated industustries that will be indirectly responsible for the death of people like me.