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Ch. 9 - Big organic 
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Post Ch. 9 - Big organic
Please use this thread to discuss Chapter 9, Big organic.




Sun Oct 01, 2006 9:53 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9 - Big organic
I shop at Whole Foods/Wild Oats and used to buy Horizon milk (until I found a local dairy) and I thought it was a good (albeit expensive) way of eating well and supporting small farmers without having to think about it.

This big organic concept though is a bit devastating. I mean, I'm glad that antibiotics and pesticides aren't being pumped into the soil, but the issue of cows being fed corn instead of grass seems to be such a bigger issue ...... messing with the food chain like that..... that the fact that what makes Horizon milk organic is that the cows are fed organic corn seems ridiculous.




Tue Nov 14, 2006 2:02 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9 - Big organic
I was pretty amused by the idea of grocery shopping as a literary experience, featuring the classical modernist "untrustworthy narrator".

Another interesting theme in this chapter -- and I think it's one that some people at BookTalk are likely to balk at -- is that of scientific reductionism. The reduction of soil fertility to NPK -- nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium -- makes for a pretty classical example of the tendency of scientific researchers to look for a way of atomizing all brands of knowledge. Sir Albert Howard (another author I'd like to look into) makes the case for a more holistic view of things, and I think there's a certain amount of wisdom in that view -- the practical utility of which Howard and his agricultural descendants seem to have demonstrated quite aptly. The question that occurs to me is, if reductionistic science led to problems in agriculture, couldn't it be the root of problems in other domains as well?

I was also appalled to read about the tendency of the Cornish Cross breed of chicken to leg failure. Technically, this is natural selection at work (or is it artificial selection?). They're selected, by their relationship to us, for meat yield, at cost of their general fitness. Outside the confines of domestication, it's doubtful that the Cornish Cross could ever survive, unless it could evolve a stronger, more reliable form of locomotion. And beyond their genetic fitness, leg failure sounds as though it must be at least moderately painful. I imagine bones breaking, or, at the least, muscles collapsing.




Wed Nov 15, 2006 1:29 am
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Post Re: Ch. 9 - Big organic
I no longer have the book with me (had to return it to the library, am waiting 2nd in line on the hold list again!), so I'm glad I can't go back and read about the hens with leg failure. (Ack.)

But I definitely appreciated this chapter. I'll just reiterate that as an event coordinator, I got the job of manager of my local farmers' market this spring (having just moved to town -- wonderful serendipity), and my eyes have been opened to the wonders of local food. At the same time, I'm learning about the bureaucracy of one farm being labeled 'organic' and the next one not. This chapter opened my eyes. Why the local Whole Foods market won't buy from my vendors. How it is possible for there to be a supply of 'organic' food. I guess I seriously thought...what? That there were acres and acres of contented grass-eating cows being milked to provide organic milk for the masses? Did I never stop to think about how many cows were actually needed??

And yes, the reductionism of science worries me.

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Sat Nov 18, 2006 3:37 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 9 - Big organic
Well the mistake of scientific researchers in reducing the components of the growth cycle is that 'they' just went with the chemistry of the soil, ignoring the biology of interaction. Biology is a science too! The mistake is taking one branch of science and running with it, since everything interacts.

Again, it is not the science itself that is wrong, it is the application, and moreover the application of one set of results or findings. Nature does not work that way...and since we are dealing with nature (food production) we need to see that larger view. And just because science can teach us why things work, it is not always the best idea to implement those findings, as we can see by the examples Pollan offers.

Atomization of knowledge is not necessarily a bad thing, but we do have to be utlra careful in how we apply those findings.

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Edited by: misterpessimistic  at: 11/21/06 6:57 pm



Tue Nov 21, 2006 4:54 pm
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