Is the Produce of Our Food System Healthful?

Discussion in 'Conversations Forum' started by Eric La Fountaine, May 19, 2005.

  1. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  2. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I realize the article is more or less a propaganda piece for the biotech industry, but I wondered, do people really avoid produce in Canada, USA and other industrialized countries for fear of chemical pesticide residues? How many people buy exclusively organic?

    Personally I don't worry too much about ingesting chemicals from fresh produce. I like the fact that many growers are using less chemicals and that Canada in particular seems to be fairly strict about the use of chemicals in agriculture and for home use as well. I generally am not willing to pay too much more for things with an organic label. I am probably more drawn to organic produce because growers often offer unique varieties that are tastier. Organic growers often sell closer to home, so they can offer produce where shipping and shelf life were not the primary goals of its breeding.

    Some people are very sensitive to chemicals. I imagine that organic produce is a great benefit to them.

    I think it is good to try to avoid unnecessary chemicals in our food, but the diet of the average N. American includes many more health hazards from processed foods than from fresh produce.
     
  3. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Well, it could be a matter of how much you want to pay for produce now vs. how much you want to pay for cancer treatments later! Esp. with continuing corporate syndication and merging in all areas of the supply system, I'd think there would be a dangerous trend toward less healthful non-organic produce, not more. The latest thing out of Pandora's Box is Genetically Modified Organisms, such as the RoundUP soybean, which is said to have already pretty much permeated the entire supply. If large commercial producers are moving toward reduced pesticide use, how come something like this was come up with, wherein the applicator is enabled to douse the crop with the herbicide to no ill effect (to the crop)?

    Two anecdotes from some years ago that have illustrated the situation vividly for me are these:

    An economics student studying an independent, organic strawberry farm and a corporate one found that the employee growing the berries for the syndicate never ate any of them 'because I know what's on them'. He was also using a vast expanse of black plastic to control weeds; this was gathered up and stuffed into the local landfill every year.

    A local writer talking to some commercial orchardists east of the Cascades learned that they got together each fall and made a group trip 'up the valley' to buy organic apples for their own use from small family operations ('hippie orchards').


    If the situation has changed or is changing, great! Meanwhile, I'd reconsider not buying organic.
     
  4. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I guess it is better to choose organic when possible. I do wonder how often forum readers choose organic and if many eat exclusively organic produce. Also how many readers never use pesticides on their food gardens. I never do. I rarely use any chemical pesticides in my garden at all. I never use herbicides.

    But when I see what is in the shopping carts of others at the grocery store, I feel that the average diet is unhealthful in many ways.

    I am very concerned by the trend to engineer crops for herbicide resistance. I am sure it does reduce soil erosion as claimed, but do we know what the effect of such heavy chronic use of herbicides will be on the soil system. Microbes and fungi that are part of the soil's web of life (its system). What are the effects of chronic herbicide use on them. A big concern here is that no one seems to be regulating this and it has come at us very quickly from the biotech industries.

    I guess I am probably more concerned with the effect of our chemical use and general land management on the Earth's ecosystems than on my personal health. (Cancer seems rare in my family and I plan on dying of a heart attack from my over consumption of fatty foods.)
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Fats can contain carcinogens. Heart disease and cancer are both epidemic in our culture.
     
  6. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Cute. To be followed, ultimately, by Revenge of the Silt?
     
  8. GreenGirl

    GreenGirl Member

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    I like to buy organic foods not so much for my health but because I find they are better quality. I also think it is important to support an industry that has more enviromentally consious practises. I am concered about how the chemicals affect the soil, water and ecosystems. I believe that it is time to stop poisoning our planet with unneccessary chemicals.

    I do the majority of my grocery shopping at the farmer's market (in edmonton) and I find that the prices there are really good. It is good to support local producers because then you know that you are getting fresh veggies and fruit. Of course in the winter there isnt really any fresh stuff to get and I have to get my produce at the grocery store. Normally I dont get the organic stuff because of the cost. (poor student) If I could afford it, I would buy the organic produce more. I find that I eat less produce in the winter because most of the grocery stores carry crappy quality. I think you probably get better and fresher stuff in Vancouver though??
     
  9. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    There's another, and perhaps more important, reason to buy local: transportation of food halfway across the globe, and then from the store to your home adds up to a very heavy cost in terms of air pollution and material consumption. Walking to buy locally-grown food is one of the best things you can do in terms of reducing your impact.

    As for better foods in Vancouver - I'd say sometimes. The best produce I've ever had was in the UK - apparently consumers there demand a higher-quality produce (and get it).
     
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I am very concerned by the trend to engineer crops for
    herbicide resistance.


    So am I. I've worked on genetic engineering of edible
    crops back in the late 70's, early 80's. I never dreamed
    then that some of our techniques we used for experimental
    and plant breeding purposes of field crops might be used
    to help develop herbicide resistance later. The problem
    that we have from an IPM standpoint is that with more
    resistance built into the crop plant to herbicides that
    we would invite more use of herbicides than before the
    host plant resistance was incorporated into the plants
    genome. It is a concern here with the burdening prospect
    of overuse and unnecessary herbicide applications.

    Luckily, we have some safeguards built in here that can
    monitor overuse but we are dealing with dollars and cents
    and the big boys want us to use their product at almost
    every whim in the Midwestern states for Corn and Soy
    Beans. I never have agreed with what the Midwestern
    land grant colleges have been teaching their Agronomy
    and Plant Science students anyway. A case in point is a
    Corn grower going to college to learn how to grow a
    better crop of Corn and still the grower cannot sell the
    crop at a profit and is completely dependent upon
    taxpayer relief for their government subsidies and set
    aside allotments just to break even in terms of crop
    production dollars. I've always felt that people in those
    areas should look into greenhouse growing fresh market
    vegetables as they already have a ready made local market,
    why not grow some Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Lettuce other
    specialty crops but then the retort back to me was that they
    had no permanent water. I suggested they dig a well and
    put in a pump but that was not well received by anybody
    for a number of years.

    I agree with Daniel that for quality control purposes we
    are much better off to buy local, no matter where we live.
    It is hard to buck the system when roughly 85% of our
    fruits and vegetables in the US are coming from here but
    it is the grain growing regions that I worry about much more.
    I will not go into in the organic versus production Agriculture
    debate at this time as there are problems on both sides of
    that equation.

    Jim
     
  11. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I don't think there's a very major risk to human health from pesticide contamination if the pesticides are applied according to the specifications. Also I think GM food is probably safe to eat.

    But I do go for organic food where I can, because while the pesticides and GM crops may not harm people, they most certainly do harm the environment. Herbicide-tolerant GM crops for example allow farmers to eliminate all natural wild plants living in the fields, so that no plant other than the crop species is growing. This means (1) no wild flowers, (2) no wild insects that need the wild flowers for their food, and (3) no birds that need insects for their food.

    Currently 20% of Britain's native plants are threatened with extinction, many of them species that were abundant just 20-30 years ago. That's what modern intensive agriculture does for you.
     
  12. fourd

    fourd Active Member 10 Years

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    There a host of points here. First, safe for us doesn't equate to safe for birds, our pets, fish .... However, most persistant pesicides are baned so there is a relitive high level of safety.

    Second, I believe DDT is still widely used in underdeveloped countries, so there should be concern on imports from areas that don't have restrictions.

    Ecologic, but there is economic. Growers wouldn't pay for treatments if they didn't get a return on the investment. And as population continues to increase, the decreasing green space will need to be more productive.

    Buying local is usually cheaper as you are avoiding transportation costs, but not always so. local is also not practical for big cities -- they do not have enough local to meet the needs and transportation is a neccessity. Ideal would be small cities where there was enough local to support the needs, but we are beyond obtaining that. The crop belts will produce and transfer to cities. All said, I wouldn't assume transported foods are either safer or not safer then local.
     
  13. Durgan

    Durgan Contributor 10 Years

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    A little story:
    One of my friends , friends, always bought organic foods at a speciality store in Toronto. She bought stone ground organic whole wheat flour. When she was using the flour it was discovered to be full of little white worms well fed. She took the flour back to the store in question. The proprietor stared im amazment at the numerous worms, scratching his head and said, "I don't understand this, that flour is treated with a non-toxic pesticide." End of story.
    Durgan.
     
  14. Durgan

    Durgan Contributor 10 Years

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    One time I knew a young man who talked incessently about naturally grown food. He had never grown anything in his life with the possible exception of marijuana in controlled conditions indoors. One day I saw some naturally grown apples in the woods. They were quite tasty, but naturally full of worm holes and probably stunted a bit. I picked a small bag full and delivered them to him at work the next day. My comment was this is naturally grown food. Draw your own conclusions.

    Nature makes sure that plants are propagated. Usually a single plant produces a zillion seeds. Many of the seeds that germinate and grow, produce not so healthy plants depending upon conditions, which is left to chance. A little human intervention can often improve the quality. Nature alone does not produce quality only quantity, striving to continue the species.

    Judicious use of herbicides, pesticides, is often necessary for economic production. To think the worlds food supply can be supplied without these chemicals is simply not realistic. In a perfect world possibly. A little home garden naturally grown food is often a hassle. A constant fight against the little beasts. Economics usually doesn't enter into the picture. Such is life. Naturally we should strive to use as little as possible of bug killing and plant killing chemicals.
    Durgan.
     
  15. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  16. douglas

    douglas Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi ALL

    I'll chip in

    In canada, is there a web site that lists any of the 3000 gm seeds / crops they have approved over the years ( since ww2) and the studies/ affects on humans or other critters of these?

    Food crops have been modified for a long time without public
    disclosure.( since ww2) in Canada. They claim that no records where kept.

    There is doco proof that GM type stuff (crops)will not reduce the level or mixurture of the Herbicide used. ( Or so I have heard)Just that the crop will endure the use of that Herbicide. Even though the prodution/ per acre dose not increase???

    And since the "seed is owned" How do you protect against cross pollination ??? Or the seeds that did thier thing before?

    Certain Cancers have been on the uprise .Not to mention the Hormonal / Medicinal additives that are in most things we eat.

    Beef/ lamb /pig/ ????
    Just what do we eat ?

    Regards Doug
     
  17. douglas

    douglas Active Member 10 Years

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    Hey All

    Sorry I did not mean to rant like that ;)

    However it is costing people liveley hood,when gm pollen arives in the field .

    what is Organic ? Ie /as above or what are your thoughts?

    Buy close to home / sounds good/ But what have the plants/soil infuused from the air??
     

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