I just got done (mostly. Okay, I skipped a few of the particulars about cattle…) reading the United States Federal Government’s regulations on organic food production. They are complicated, sometimes vague, and a bit open ended. I got a kick out of the oft repeated qualifications such as “unless no organic option is available” and “maintain a healthy environment” or “approved synthetic substances.” I come away from the experience wondering about a few things, including: Maybe my backyard homestead garden isn’t organic; and do I care?
It seems, however, that a product does not have to be %100 organic, according to the general layman’s understanding, in order to qualify as being labeled %100 certified organic. Also, much of the working out of the actual plans to qualify as organic is left up to the State certifier. Talk about opportunity for power grabbing and oppression. I have yet to be convinced that we should inherently trust someone because they work for a government agency and they claim to have the community’s best interests in mind. I think of the reports of the Department of Health and Welfare throwing out table loads of food because of lack of documentation or exact thermometer readings. Why do we want bureaucrats to have that kind of authority over what we eat? Will they be soon making laws about my gardening?
The list of “organically approved” substances reads like a chemist’s list. I took college biochemistry and it would take quite a bit of effort to review all of the items. I suspect many people really haven’t studied all of the substances used by farmers and ranchers enough to discuss them. Sure, we hear bits of this and that study in the news, but if you get a glimpse of the research process and biases, you begin to doubt the confidence with which conclusions are drawn. There are SO many variables in human research. There are SO many biases when the research data is being collected and evaluated. There is SO much we don’t know about the human body. How can we be codifying what people should eat?
On one hand, I think the act of gardening (or growing food) is unavoidably organic. If you don’t take care of your land, it won’t produce for you. You can fake it or abuse it for a while, but not indefinitely. But people should be free to do that, partly because we are always learning what works. As for concerns like “being at the mercy of farmers using poor methods,” if the population was really free to choose whom to buy from, these things would be worked out at least as fast as they are with governmental interference and red tape. Think about it. Suppliers WANT to give the consumers something that will be chosen out of the many options available to buy. Consumers would have the choice of how much they evaluated a given product. Government agencies breed a false sense of security, so that people forget to think. And the phrase “government corruption” is a repetition of terms.
On the other hand, it is quite possible that what you grow in your garden is quite good for you even without being technically “organic.” There is no other way to get produce that fresh, unless you raid your neighbor’s garden, of course. 😉 Fresh usually means more vitamins, known and unknown. Having a garden often leads to having more varieties of vegetables and fruits than are available from the grocery store. I won’t claim better prices, because that totally depends on individual gardeners. Some of us love our special equipment. 🙂 Having produce from just out the back door gives much more opportunity for eating less processed food, meaning meals get prepared and cooked more from scratch. That sounds organic to me!
So, while I’m all for investigating what will make my soil healthy, and steering clear of matter that might badly effect me, a little washing of the hands and plant food takes care of a lot of problems. Livers and kidneys take care of lot of other things. And thank God that the little organic (in the chemical sense of the word) seed grows without me having to know exactly how it does it.
Book review of two books evaluating organic methods in the home garden