The lone voice of horticultural reason

“Organic fruits and vegetables are not sprayed with chemicals.”

Nonsense. In one of the great PR hoodwinks of modern day history, the organic food industry has created the widespread belief across America that organic produce is safer and healthier than conventionally grown produce because it isn’t sprayed with chemicals (or, more often, “dangerous, toxic chemicals”).

Of course they are. Virtually every organic fruit and vegetable you buy from the organic section of your supermarket, or farmer’s market, or swanky Whole Foods, was sprayed with chemicals. Organic farming is not old Hippy John with a half-acre garden patch on the edge of town, who grows tomatoes and lettuces and beets and hauls them to the local stores in the back of his ’56 Rambler station wagon. Organic farming in America is a billion-dollar industry, with farms that stretch hundreds and thousands of acres, from Maine to Florida, and Virginia to California.

And we are to believe that somehow the Japanese Beetles, and aphids, locusts, and weevils that attack farm fields fly across an organic farm and think, uh-oh, that’s an organic field, keep moving, another three miles I know a nice little conventional farm where we can land and do our damage.

And airborne fungal diseases? The type that wipe out lettuce and spinach crops (not to mention wheat, soybeans, sunflowers, etc.)? They too skip the organic fields?

Sorry, no. Organic farmers in America are faced with the exact same pest and disease problems farmers have always faced, and deal with them the same way farmers have been dealing with the problem for the past 100 years: They conduct a season-long exercise in chemical warfare.

Of course, they use organic chemicals instead of synthetic chemicals. Have to, in order to maintain their organic grower certification. They spray organic chemicals such as the insecticide pyrethrum, petroleum-based oils, and a large array of copper-based fungicides, which happen to have an EIQ (Environmental Impact Quotient) that is so much higher – so much more detrimental to humans, fish, water, soil, and the overall environment – than any of the synthetic pesticides used in conventional farming, your heart would stop.

“Fungicides including the compound copper hydroxide (EIQ 33.3) and copper sulfate (EIQ 47.8) are commonly used by organic growers faced with a wide variety of fungal diseases. Copper compounds tend to be as effective as synthetic fungicides, though they’re often more dangerous depending on the synthetic that they’re compared to.” – Jeff Gillman, The Truth About Organic Gardening

Do traces of these toxic – after all, they are toxic; they kill things – chemicals show up in organic produce? Of course they do. But not to worry. As is the case with the less expensive, and, in some cases, milder synthetic chemicals used by conventional farmers, the traces of these toxic, organic chemicals in organic produce is so minute, our bodies shrug them off.

Much better than do the soils that have been exposed to repeated organic copper sulfate and copper hydroxide sprayings. Studies are showing that the toxic build-up of copper compounds in the soil of some organic farms is causing damage to plant roots and overall plant health.

Don Engebretson
The Renegade Gardener