Concerning crops
April 26, 2005 8:13 PM   Subscribe

Concerning crops. Pesticides are good and/or bad. Organic is good and/or bad. And what about organic pesticides? Maybe organic might not even mean what you think it means. Let's strap on our pesticide gear and grow something--or die trying! (, what a nice resource!)
posted by gunthersghost (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Does Coca-cola count as an organic pesticide? remember - the Indian farmers using concentrated soda on their crops, attract larvae-eating fireants?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 8:27 PM on April 26, 2005

Good or bad, they don't seem to dissolve (reference is about 2/3 of the way down). The Monterey Canyon off the California coast has DDT all throughout the 62+ miles of undersea ocean beds.
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 8:32 PM on April 26, 2005

Jeff Charles CSU-San Marcos reviewed Julie Guthman's book Agrarian Dreams: The Parodox of Organic Farming in Californiaon the discussion list H-California (at, which is a free subscription network of book reviews provided by history professors around the world.

Charles writes (and Guthman's book touches on all of gunthersghost's links):

The book begins with a brief and cogent discussion of the various ideological forces–both radical and conventional–that came together to foment discontent with the industrial food production system and generate hopes in the transformative power of organic farming, especially in California. As concerns grew among consumers about the safety of their food, California led the way in supplying organic products. Ideological motivation came from urban radicals returning to the land, spearheading a strong reaction against the agricultural industrialization that dominated the state. Unfortunately, Guthman argues, the very nature of this ideology undermined its ability to transform the system. The California organic movement latched onto the small family farm agrarianism represented by thinkers such as Wendell Berry. Guthman thinks that what she calls the agrarian “imaginary”--nostalgic, anti-government, individualist--resonates with some California organic growers because of their counter-cultural roots. But Guthman skewers these agrarian advocates for their combined naivete, patriarchalism, privatist conservativism, and mistaken belief that merely supporting the form of the small family farm is enough to counter the industrial processes which spawn the current system’s abuses.

Having characterized the hope that organic farming will change current agricultural realities, the book proceeds to show how it has been disappointed. At the center of Guthman’s analysis is a well-designed empirical study, involving a variety of census and survey data, and interviews with over 150 growers. The result is a detailed picture, as drawn by social science methodology, of California organic farming as it stood in the late 1990s. What this picture portrays is dismaying if one believes the turn to organic farming represents a chance to revive a sustainable, small farm economy that pays its workers fairly. While a number of the early growers who began in the 1970s continue to support broader organic principles, by the 1980s demand from both direct customers and processors such as tomato sauce makers brought many large scale operations into the organic market. Meanwhile some organic growers who started out small, such as Earthbound Farms, grew so rapidly they became a buyer of other growers’ crops. It was not long before the size and type of organic growers came to mirror the conventional agricultural sector in California. Small farmers are statistically dominant, but the bulk of the market is supplied by a very few large scale grower/buyer firms, most organized as privately held corporations.

In fact the practices of these large firms, and many of the farmers they contract with, are only nominally organic, and do not come close to the organic movement’s ideal of a balanced, self-sustaining agriculture--characterized by practices such as improving the soil through the use of cover crops and mulching; adding compost and manure produced on-site, and managing pests through the encouragement of field biodiversity. Instead, these farms depend on “external inputs” such as sodium nitrate added to the soil; non-organic manure purchased from other farms, and the release of predator insects from airplanes. Many organic fruit growers use sulfur dust to control fruit rot and mildew, even though, as Guthman points out, sulfur is responsible for more worker injuries than any other farm chemical.
///and it goes on from there. This was eye opening for me, but I still buy local and organic, and my brother in law is an organic-farm inspector.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:40 PM on April 26, 2005

btw, I would have just put a link to Charles's review, but it's only posted internally so far on H-California, as far as I can tell. I apologize for the lengthy C&P.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:09 PM on April 26, 2005

Your "organics is bad... bad!!!" link is from (funded by Exxon) has on its board some people from "Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty" and "Council for Environmental Balance" and "American Council on Science and Health", (2) major business organizations with histories of obscuring and/or lying about the truth, at least when it serves their interests. (see link above) -- they also have great frank-luntz-esque names.

I would LOVE to see a real, peer-reviewed link that argued successfully for how organic farming is bad for the planet and its inhabitants... what a joke
posted by yonation at 9:56 PM on April 26, 2005

Biodynamic is a sure thing if you want sustainability and organic. Just make sure you trust your source is not a middle man and doing what they say they do. Theres a lot of creeps out there selling "organic" through co-ops that is just middle man markup of regular stuff.
posted by stbalbach at 10:20 PM on April 26, 2005

Um, organic farming != organic pesticides. Organic pesticides like the kind that injure about 75,000 farmers each year are some of the deadliest poisons on earth. Sarin gas is derived from the same basic method as the pesticides used by many farmers. As a matter of fact, pesticide poisoning is the most often-used form of suicide in some developing nations.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:22 PM on April 26, 2005

Organic = Good is a misconception.

Some organic things are nice and healthy. Other organic substances, such as crude oil and tobacco, are not necessarily good for your health.

"It's natural and organic!" Yeah, so's motor oil.
posted by Carbolic at 11:10 PM on April 30, 2005

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