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December 11, 2017  |  Login
Organic Farming: Eliminating Carcinogens and Getting Back to the Natural System
By Jeff Cox
 

There are thousands of agricultural chemicals that fall into the following categories: chemical fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, nematocides, and a few others.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides are carcinogenic. The organic grower avoids using any chemicals that can harm people, the environment, or the ecology of diverse creatures that are part of it. Organic food is also free from genetically modified organisms, hormones, and antibiotics. Farming can be done—and is being done all over the world—quite well without these substances.
 
Importantly for the cook, organic food is “thrifty.” That’s not a reference to the cost of production. Thrifty is a grower’s term that means the plant or animal is well-built, sturdy, and compact, without a lot of weak, watery, and excessive growth or spindliness. Thrifty plants and animals are healthy, because they get the care and nutrition that their natures require. Plants have proper color and well-developed roots from being grown in healthy soil fertilized with composted plant and animal residues. Animals are lively and lean, without being scrawny; their health derives from eating a nutritious diet of plants raised within this natural system. For people a healthy diet consists of organic grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish, cheeses, milk, and meat that also are raised within the system.
 
The organic grower works within the natural system to strengthen and intensify it for the betterment of the crops. This leads to ecological diversity, among other benefits. The more participants in the growing system, the healthier the system becomes. One reason that organic growers can do without chemical pesticides is that a naturally occurring mix of insects will include beneficial insects and other animals that feed on the pests. Surviving pests target weak and sick plants first, just as a pack of wolves will target a weak or sick animal. This has the effect of culling the crop so that the strong and healthy plants survive and reproduce. The surviving healthy, organically grown plants tend to resist pests and diseases, just as healthy human beings resist diseases. One definition of health, after all, is freedom from disease.
 
Without pests, what would the beneficial insects eat? Without beneficials, who would pollinate the crops? Without compost plowed into the soil, what would the earthworms eat? Without earthworms, what would nourish the plants? Without the plants, what would the pests eat? And so the interwoven web of life forms circles within circles, great and small, that add up to health and—in the case of organic food—good eating.

Similarly, the reason that organic growers can do without fungicides (which, in the process of killing fungus, sterilize the soil) is that organically amended soil is so thoroughly colonized by beneficial microorganisms that disease-causing organisms like fungi can’t gain much of a foothold. If a disease-causing organism of any kind lands in a healthy soil, it finds the competition can be too tough for it to gain a toehold. A myriad of other life forms destroy it or hold it in check, multiply and cause a problem.

Most herbicides target broad-leaved weeds, leaving grasses like corn and wheat a free field to grow in. This creates a monoculture of a single type of plant over broad acreage. So along comes a pest of that plant. “Oh boy,” it says, “gonna be a feast for me tonight.” Under organic culture, weeds are dealt with by tillage and by interplanting crops with many other crops. This confuses the pests.  ....read more

 
 

 

 
 
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