black holes and gray matter. in one thousand tangos.

             
jtotheizzoe:

Last week’s reports that organic produce may not be more nutritious than conventional reminds us why oversimplified science may not be healthier for you.
The study (which was really a study of studies), didn’t find strong evidence that organic produce contained more of the good vitamins and stuff when compared to “conventionally grown”. The problem is that many news outlets didn’t look beyond that. Especially you, Gawker … “sham” is a strong word, eh?
The reasons people buy organic produce shouldn’t be limited to just getting an extra 5% of their folate. Unfortunately (as pointed out by thenoobyorker, thanks for the comment), that is precisely why many people buy organic, even though the numbers don’t hold up. It’s about reducing exposure to pesticides and other chemicals (whose long-term effects on our bodies we don’t fully undersand), it’s about supporting farming practices that are less harmful to the land and carry a smaller carbon footprint by not using chemical fertilizers, and it’s about reminding people to buy locally and in season, allowing produce to deliver its maximum goodness as evolution intended (not to mention supporting local farms).
So while you may not get a vitamin boost from the expensive carrots, there’s many other reasons that people may choose to buy them. If we aren’t careful with the science, we could miss them.
More at Boing Boing.

jtotheizzoe:

Last week’s reports that organic produce may not be more nutritious than conventional reminds us why oversimplified science may not be healthier for you.

The study (which was really a study of studies), didn’t find strong evidence that organic produce contained more of the good vitamins and stuff when compared to “conventionally grown”. The problem is that many news outlets didn’t look beyond that. Especially you, Gawker … “sham” is a strong word, eh?

The reasons people buy organic produce shouldn’t be limited to just getting an extra 5% of their folate. Unfortunately (as pointed out by thenoobyorker, thanks for the comment), that is precisely why many people buy organic, even though the numbers don’t hold up. It’s about reducing exposure to pesticides and other chemicals (whose long-term effects on our bodies we don’t fully undersand), it’s about supporting farming practices that are less harmful to the land and carry a smaller carbon footprint by not using chemical fertilizers, and it’s about reminding people to buy locally and in season, allowing produce to deliver its maximum goodness as evolution intended (not to mention supporting local farms).

So while you may not get a vitamin boost from the expensive carrots, there’s many other reasons that people may choose to buy them. If we aren’t careful with the science, we could miss them.

More at Boing Boing.

Roger Cohen: The Organic Fable | NYT
“Organic has long since become an ideology, the romantic back-to-nature obsession of an upper middle class able to afford it and oblivious, in their affluent narcissism, to the challenge of feeding a planet whose population will surge to 9 billion before the middle of the century and whose poor will get a lot more nutrients from the two regular carrots they can buy for the price of one organic carrot. […]

So I cheered this week when Stanford University concluded, after examining four decades of research, that fruits and vegetables labeled organic are, on average, no more nutritious than their cheaper conventional counterparts. The study also found that organic meats offered no obvious health advantages. And it found that organic food was not less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E.coli.
The takeaway from the study could be summed up in two words: Organic, schmorganic. That’s been my feeling for a while.
Now let me say three nice things about the organic phenomenon. The first is that it reflects a growing awareness about diet that has spurred quality, small-scale local farming that had been at risk of disappearance.
The second is that even if it’s not better for you, organic farming is probably better for the environment because less soil, flora and fauna are contaminated by chemicals (although of course, without fertilizers, you have to use more land to grow the same amount of produce or feed the same amount of livestock.) So this is food that is better ecologically even if it is not better nutritionally.
The third is that the word organic — unlike other feel-good descriptions of food like “natural” — actually means something. Certification procedures in both the United States and Britain are strict. In the United States, organic food must meet standards ensuring that genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, sewage and irradiation were not used in the food’s production. It must also be produced using methods that, according to the Department of Agriculture, “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.”
Still, the organic ideology is an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype. There is a niche for it, if you can afford to shop at Whole Foods, but the future is nonorganic.
To feed a planet of 9 billion people, we are going to need high yields not low yields; we are going to need genetically modified crops; we are going to need pesticides and fertilizers and other elements of the industrialized food processes that have led mankind to be better fed and live longer than at any time in history.”

Roger Cohen: The Organic Fable | NYT

Organic has long since become an ideology, the romantic back-to-nature obsession of an upper middle class able to afford it and oblivious, in their affluent narcissism, to the challenge of feeding a planet whose population will surge to 9 billion before the middle of the century and whose poor will get a lot more nutrients from the two regular carrots they can buy for the price of one organic carrot. […]

So I cheered this week when Stanford University concluded, after examining four decades of research, that fruits and vegetables labeled organic are, on average, no more nutritious than their cheaper conventional counterparts. The study also found that organic meats offered no obvious health advantages. And it found that organic food was not less likely to be contaminated by dangerous bacteria like E.coli.

The takeaway from the study could be summed up in two words: Organic, schmorganic. That’s been my feeling for a while.

Now let me say three nice things about the organic phenomenon. The first is that it reflects a growing awareness about diet that has spurred quality, small-scale local farming that had been at risk of disappearance.

The second is that even if it’s not better for you, organic farming is probably better for the environment because less soil, flora and fauna are contaminated by chemicals (although of course, without fertilizers, you have to use more land to grow the same amount of produce or feed the same amount of livestock.) So this is food that is better ecologically even if it is not better nutritionally.

The third is that the word organic — unlike other feel-good descriptions of food like “natural” — actually means something. Certification procedures in both the United States and Britain are strict. In the United States, organic food must meet standards ensuring that genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, sewage and irradiation were not used in the food’s production. It must also be produced using methods that, according to the Department of Agriculture, “foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance and conserve biodiversity.”

Still, the organic ideology is an elitist, pseudoscientific indulgence shot through with hype. There is a niche for it, if you can afford to shop at Whole Foods, but the future is nonorganic.

To feed a planet of 9 billion people, we are going to need high yields not low yields; we are going to need genetically modified crops; we are going to need pesticides and fertilizers and other elements of the industrialized food processes that have led mankind to be better fed and live longer than at any time in history.”

"In the late ’70s, when Manhattanites like Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger were turning Montauk and East Hampton into an epicurean Shangri-La for the Studio 54 crowd, my parents, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, were looking to become amateur dairy farmers. My first introduction to a cow was being taught how to milk it by hand. I’ll never forget the realization that fresh milk could be so much sweeter than what we bought in grocery stores. Although I was rarely able to persuade my schoolmates to leave Long Island for what seemed to them an unreasonably rural escapade, I was lucky enough to experience trout fishing instead of tennis lessons, swimming holes instead of swimming pools and campfires instead of cable television.

Though my father died when I was 5, I have always felt lucky to live on land he loved dearly; land in an area that is now on the verge of being destroyed. When the gas companies showed up in our backyard, I felt I needed to do some research. I looked into Pennsylvania, where hundreds of families have been left with ruined drinking water, toxic fumes in the air, industrialized landscapes, thousands of trucks and new roads crosshatching the wilderness, and a devastating and irreversible decline in property value.

Natural gas has been sold as clean energy. But when the gas comes from fracturing bedrock with about five million gallons of toxic water per well, the word “clean” takes on a disturbingly Orwellian tone. Don’t be fooled. Fracking for shale gas is in truth dirty energy. It inevitably leaks toxic chemicals into the air and water. Industry studies show that 5 percent of wells can leak immediately, and 60 percent over 30 years. There is no such thing as pipes and concrete that won’t eventually break down. It releases a cocktail of chemicals from a menu of more than 600 toxic substances, climate-changing methane, radium and, of course, uranium.

New York is lucky enough to have some of the best drinking water in the world. The well water on my family’s farm comes from the same watersheds that supply all the reservoirs in New York State. That means if our tap water gets dirty, so does New York City’s.

Gas produced this way is not climate- friendly. Within the first 20 years, methane escaping from within and around the wells, pipelines and compressor stations is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. With more than a tiny amount of methane leakage, this gas is as bad as coal is for the climate; and since over half the wells leak eventually, it is not a small amount. Even more important, shale gas contains one of the earth’s largest carbon reserves, many times more than our atmosphere can absorb. Burning more than a small fraction of it will render the climate unlivable, raise the price of food and make coastlines unstable for generations.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, when speaking for “the voices in the sensible center,” seems to think the New York State Association of County Health Officials, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the New York State Nurses Association and the Medical Society of the State of New York, not to mention Dr. Anthony R. Ingraffea’s studies at Cornell University, are “loud voices at the extremes.” The mayor’s plan to “make sure that the gas is extracted carefully and in the right places” is akin to a smoker telling you, “Smoking lighter cigarettes in the right place at the right time makes it safe to smoke.”

Few people are aware that America’s Natural Gas Alliance has spent $80 million in a publicity campaign that includes the services of Hill and Knowlton — the public relations firm that through most of the ’50s and ’60s told America that tobacco had no verifiable links to cancer. Natural gas is clean, and cigarettes are healthy — talk about disinformation. To try to counteract this, my mother and I have started a group called Artists Against Fracking.”

Sean Lennon: Destroying Precious Land for Gas | NYT

Today’s food activists think that “sustainable farming” and “eating local” are the way to solve a host of perceived problems with our modern food supply system. But after a thorough review of the evidence, Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu have concluded that these claims are mistaken.

In The Locavore’s Dilemma they explain the history, science, and economics of food supply to reveal what locavores miss or misunderstand: the real environmental impacts of agricultural production; the drudgery of subsistence farming; and the essential role large-scale, industrial producers play in making food more available, varied, affordable, and nutritionally rich than ever before in history.

They show how eliminating agriculture subsidies and opening up international trade, not reducing food miles, is the real route to sustainability; and why eating globally, not only locally, is the way to save the planet.

Water Into Wine: Interview with water steward Mike Benziger

When Mike Benziger and his family began growing grapes and making wine in 1970s-era Sonoma County, the prevailing agricultural style could be described as “scorched earth.” Agrichemical concoctions fed the vines, killed the pests, and flattened the weeds; plentiful well water provided easy irrigation. But such practices not only kill soil, they also deaden wine. Over time, the Benzigers began to rethink modern viticulture. One motivation was improving the product, making it stand out from the gusher of wine coming out of Sonoma. Another was the sinking water table on Sonoma Mountain, where the family keeps its vineyards. Faced with surging water costs, the family began searching for new farming methods that didn’t treat water as a cheap and easy resource. Thus started an odyssey that inspired the family to convert its Sonoma property to biodynamic growing practices in the mid-1990s — and that named Mike Benziger as a Water Steward in NRDC’s second annual “Growing Green” awards.

Animals are integral to biodynamic farming. What kind of animals are on your farm?

In biodynamic farming, you try to eliminate the use of inputs by enabling natural systems, through use of  plants and animals. We use plants as habitat areas to bring in good insects that eat the bad bugs, which eliminate the need for pesticides, and we bring in the caretakers of soil biology and that eliminates the need for fertilizer. So we have cows, which provide the manures for our compost, and sheep, which are out in the vineyards every day during the fall, winter, and the early part of spring. With every step, sheep do three things: they eat, they shit, and they till. They’re pretty cool animals and they really invigorate the soil biology by keeping the grasses down low, that way we don’t have to bring our machinery in early when compaction is a problem. They also provide the ability to turn their manures into grasses under, so that they break down and they keep the soil biology humming. They also put little dents, not too many, but little dents in the soil that act to hold water and help to recharge the soil aquifer faster. The other thing they do, which is really important, is they take care of disease protection by turning under with their paws all the litter that’s left over from last year that usually has mildew and other bacteria in it; they turn it under and the soil bacteria take care of it right away. Virtually all farms had animals for 10,000 years. They’ve been pushed off most farms over the last hundred years because we decided that monocrops are more efficient. But we really didn’t look hard enough to see the real reasons why our ancestors were using animals.

The Dinner Garden provides seeds, gardening supplies, and gardening advice free of charge to all people in the United States. They assist those in need of establishing food security for their families.
Their goal is similar to the Victory Gardens of WW l & ll. In 1918, the United States had 5,285,000 gardens. The 1919 harvest produced 528,500,000 pounds of food. During WWII, Americans planted 20,000,000 gardens. Those gardens grew 20 billion pounds of produce. To provide that food, backyards, school playgrounds, churches, empty lots, and even roof tops became gardens.
The Dinner Garden has already provided seeds to almost 14,000 families and reached into 42 states in 8 short months. You can donate, volunteer, host your own fund drive, get food assistance, or simply browse recipes. It’s all here.
(poster from the Victory Gardens of Tomorrow)

The Dinner Garden provides seeds, gardening supplies, and gardening advice free of charge to all people in the United States. They assist those in need of establishing food security for their families.

Their goal is similar to the Victory Gardens of WW l & ll. In 1918, the United States had 5,285,000 gardens. The 1919 harvest produced 528,500,000 pounds of food. During WWII, Americans planted 20,000,000 gardens. Those gardens grew 20 billion pounds of produce. To provide that food, backyards, school playgrounds, churches, empty lots, and even roof tops became gardens.

The Dinner Garden has already provided seeds to almost 14,000 families and reached into 42 states in 8 short months. You can donate, volunteer, host your own fund drive, get food assistance, or simply browse recipes. It’s all here.

(poster from the Victory Gardens of Tomorrow)

©2011 Kateoplis