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Q: Definition of ‘Organic’

Jul 26, 2010 -

A PVFS Customer Question, with staff response:
Question:
I am dying to know the definition of “organic” is as it applies to?gardening.  All I know at this point is that people on TV wave their arms?and use the word “chemical” as a synonym for “bad”.  A pile of compost is a?pile of thousands of chemicals.
It seems to me that what we are trying to do is to get in touch with mother?nature and go WITH  her instead of against her. After all, she is the?personification of sustainable.  For a very short number of years (speaking?in geological terms) we have tried to manipulate her with what I will call?pharmaceuticals. DDT is a great example.  Seemed like a great idea, but then?certain birds started dying because they could not create egges with?sufficient strength to reproduce.  My dad has high blood pressure. He has?had every medication known to man, with every side effect known to man.
Is that what it is all about?
PS  So sorry that I can’t multiply 500 x 500  !!
Answer:
Hi,
Fun question!  There certainly are many perspectives and nuances as to what “organic” means in reference to farming and gardening.  I would say your viewpoint of trying to do what’s right by nature (ie-sustainable) instead of against nature is as valid as any.  Your particular viewpoint might even fall into the category of “Permaculture” (derived from “permanent” and “agriculture”) which encompasses more than just gardening.
I think the most basic definition of organic as it applies to gardening is using techniques that support the soil and larger environmental system, which might include using naturally derived materials when necessary for fertilizing and pest control.  Here are a couple of links that might be of interest:?http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/organic_or_natural http://www.attra.org/fundamental.html
As far as the use of the word “chemicals” in farming and gardening, what people are referring to are largely petrochemicals and inorganic compounds used for pesticides and fertilizers.  For example in fertilizing, a Nitrogen source used in organic gardening is blood meal (the fact that the blood doesn’t necessarily come from organically raised cows is another issue…), whereas in “conventional” gardening, one might use an inorganic fertilizer like anhydrous ammonium nitrate.  In pest control, an organic grower might use Neem oil derived from the neem seed, but a conventional grower might use Methyl Bromide.
Hope that helps and thank you for growing organically!


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