Thursday, September 11, 2008

Heavy metal compost lot?

At first I wanted to post about James E. McWilliams article because of the following paragraph that quite nicely sums up conventional vs organic agriculture:

Conventional agribusiness, after all, is a chemically dependent, resource-intensive venture that contributes to global warming, aquatic "dead zones," and massive land degradation. Organic systems, by contrast, restore soil health, foster biodiversity, and recycle organic matter rather than lading the land with synthetic chemicals. Whereas conventional agriculture follows the law of supply and demand, organic agriculture follows what its founder, Sir Albert Howard, called "the law of return." Potential waste, according to this dictum, ends up enriching the soil.

But as I read on I thought, "Geez... Is nothing safe?"

So we know that chemical fertilizers used in conventional agribusiness result in the presence of excess metals like lead, nickel, mercury, copper, arsenic, zinc, and cadmium in soil but it turns out that the same toxins are in organic soil. Great.

So what is going into the compost pile? Animal manure, rock phosphates, fish emulsions, guano, wood ashes, etc. Doesn't sound so bad to me. James E. McWilliams' conclusion, as he wrote about in Slate, is that we should read the organic labels with more skepticism. But here's the thing, scientists have not conducted enough research to say that organic soil has higher counts of these heavy metals than conventional. I get the sense that the news here is that there is still a presence of these metals in organic soil and products and people should be aware of that. Thankfully, the Organic Trade Organization and the Organic Materials Review Institute are keeping a close eye on the issue.

As far as I'm concerned, it is hard to know exactly what we are putting into our bodies but I do know that the environmental impact of conventional industrialized farming is reason enough to opt for local, organic foods. I also like to believe that my Chinese foot detox patches pull excess metals out of my body regardless of how much heat I take for using them.

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