Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

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bertilak
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by bertilak » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:07 pm

KyleAAA wrote:I'm not sure if it's financially worth it in that it will lead to lower medical expenses over time, but then, that's not why I eat it to begin with. If it's healthier, isn't that worth paying extra for?
I'm not sure if it's financially worth buying actively managed funds. But if they're better, isn't that worth paying extra for?
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:13 pm

randomguy wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
randomguy wrote:Personally I think it is much more important to eat a ton of veggies/fruit versus processed foods than the difference between organic and conventional.
It's a false dilemma. I do both, eat organic produce and avoid junk food.

Victoria
Sure. But there is also a couple aisles full of processed organic food at my local supermarket. I am guessing that those wouldn't be selling if people aren't buying. Organic/non organic is at the end of the optimizing what you eat decision matrix.
Eating produce vs. processed food and eating organic vs. conventional food are two separate choices. OP asked about the financial prudence of buying organic. In my opinion, buying organic produce makes perfect financial sense. I am not advocating buying organic processed food.

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Frugal Disciple » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:13 pm

bertilak wrote: I'm not sure if it's financially worth buying actively managed funds. But if they're better, isn't that worth paying extra for?
Ha, I was thinking that this argument was a lot like the active managed funds vs index funds vs self managed portfolio. There are a lot of parallels.
It seems that a lot of people buy more expensive organic food because they are told it is better with little real evidence (much like active funds). Meanwhile there are people that buy nonorganic because they do not have evidence that it is any different and is much less expensive (index funds). Then I guess there would be those that just choose to grow their own. If they put time and energy into it, they can get a better product, but not guaranteed (self managed). Not a perfect analogy, but many similarities.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:20 pm

Frugal Disciple wrote:
bertilak wrote: I'm not sure if it's financially worth buying actively managed funds. But if they're better, isn't that worth paying extra for?
Ha, I was thinking that this argument was a lot like the active managed funds vs index funds vs self managed portfolio. There are a lot of parallels.
There are parallels, but the conclusions are opposite of what you imply. With index funds and organic produce you get as close to the nature as possible. With managed funds and conventional produce, including genetically modified food, you deal with harmful effects of someone's meddling.

Victoria
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by epilnk » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:30 pm

frugalguy wrote:I realize that there may be natural pesticides, but feel that manufactured additives are on balance worse than the natural equivalents. This is just an article of faith, partly based on a distrust of corporations and the information they disseminate about their products and practices, and I could be wrong, but it's what I believe and I act on.
As someone familiar with the organic crop protection industry, I feel you are wrong. :) Mother Nature is a bitch, and also a kick-ass chemist. Most things want to kill the thing that is trying to eat them.

One example in particular stands out in my mind. There was a promising new microbial based crop protection strategy under development at company X. Because it is a reasonably common microbe in nature it would have had zero difficulty with EPA approval and it was expected to fly through regulatory. The scientists types had the job of turning this thing into a commercial product by making it reliable, marketable, mass producible, stable, etc, and as always that takes a bit of tinkering. And in the course of studying it further they figured out why it was so effective at keeping insects off crops. All microbes make lots of chemicals, of course - thousands upon thousands - but something caught the eyes of the chemists. You don't generally know which compounds are doing the job, but once they tracked this one down it was a pretty easy guess. The project was dropped, immediately.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by epilnk » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:31 pm

livesoft wrote:
epilnk wrote:… but I don't think radiation is routinely screened for, for obvious reasons.
Perhaps you meant radioactivity?
Yeah, mistype.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by ogd » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:35 pm

Almost certainly not, "financially".

However as with all questions related to health and enjoyment, it might well be worth it. Consider these health questions, for example:

* Would you accept a week of sickness / food poisoning for $X?
* If you had a limp, would you forego surgery that fixes your limp for $X?
* Would you risk 5% death for $X?

or enjoyment:

* Would you confine your eating entirely to space station style mush (100% healthy, 110% bland) for a year in exchange for $X?

In every case, there is a $X high enough that you would accept the distasteful deal; might range from thousands to millions. However, the minimum $X that would change your mind has nothing to do with the actual cost of e.g. the cheap product that gave you food poisoning, or the cost of the surgery, and everything to do with your financial situation and what you value in life.

So for organic food, it's probably the case that financially the health care savings are not worth it, BUT you might easily put a higher price on the enjoyment of better food or on the discomfort involved with said health care or with being in worse shape. OR it might be the case that your food consumption is such that organic doesn't even matter. It's hard for anyone else to make even a recommendation for you.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:38 pm

I love the paper chase...

I'll see your Scientific American with a Huffington Post, and I'm going to raise you a PMC (cited in the HP article).

For the record, I'm not sold one way or the other on organics. I only recently checked to see what the "Dirty Dozen" are (there's even a Clean Fifteen). I'm just trying to make the best decisions and suspect there is much more potential in prevention than is currently realized.

It's kind of a shame that the toxicity of all of these compounds isn't completely understood, or that the perfect diet hasn't been identified. Both will be accomplished in time.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:49 pm

My dog seems to have the perfect diet: Same kibble for 3 years now. He has not gained weight and seems as active as ever.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:53 pm

epilnk wrote:
frugalguy wrote:I realize that there may be natural pesticides, but feel that manufactured additives are on balance worse than the natural equivalents. This is just an article of faith, partly based on a distrust of corporations and the information they disseminate about their products and practices, and I could be wrong, but it's what I believe and I act on.
As someone familiar with the organic crop protection industry, I feel you are wrong. :) Mother Nature is a bitch, and also a kick-ass chemist. Most things want to kill the thing that is trying to eat them.

One example in particular stands out in my mind. There was a promising new microbial based crop protection strategy under development at company X. Because it is a reasonably common microbe in nature it would have had zero difficulty with EPA approval and it was expected to fly through regulatory. The scientists types had the job of turning this thing into a commercial product by making it reliable, marketable, mass producible, stable, etc, and as always that takes a bit of tinkering. And in the course of studying it further they figured out why it was so effective at keeping insects off crops. All microbes make lots of chemicals, of course - thousands upon thousands - but something caught the eyes of the chemists. You don't generally know which compounds are doing the job, but once they tracked this one down it was a pretty easy guess. The project was dropped, immediately.
As I understand your story:
There is a microbe that keeps insects off the crops. This microbe produces many chemicals, one of which is particularly deadly to insects. When scientists tried to isolate the toxic chemical, it was so toxic that they dropped the project.

My take:
- In its natural habitat, the microbe does the job.
- Extracting a chemical from the microbe did not work, because components have different effects than the total. This is similar to the prudence of eating food, rather than vitamins and minerals extracted from food.
- The story supports leaving the nature alone rather than creating products to enhance it.

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Pizzasteve510 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:55 pm

4ransom wrote:Very good question. I am a farmer and grow both. My eyes, taste buds, and pocketbook tell me conventional is best. My gut tells me organic may be a little better, but I don't buy it. Like you all the research I have found does not convince me either way. I do know if everything was organic the world would have a lot more hungry people.
Agree. It is actually better to know your farmer/source, if you can. Organic as a label is being "spun" by the same guys that tailor political messages (note I will not pick any side, this is not a political statement).

I like:
Good farming = good food (usually). Know your farm source.
Local food = generally fresher food (usually) + less energy costs (to eat up profits and drive up prices)
Low carb = Minimize high-sugar calorie stuffing additives (no need for sugar in that cereal or spaghetti sauce). Carb addiction is one of the biggest health problems. When in doubt go low glycemic index.

An example is the use of organic in wine making. Adding sulfites to wine is absolutely essential to quality, but some market "sulfite free" as a sort of organic equivalent. These wines might have a lot of pesticide, but no flavor preserving sulfites (it is at very low trace levels anyway). Good farming is essential to quality, which include mildew control, pest control, canopy management. Believe me, you do not want wine made from rotten or mildewed grapes (99% of the time). Depending on your climate/humidity, you might need to use certain oils or sulfur sprays to keep the rot at bay, and some farmers do a great job of optimizing chemicals, cover crop, natural predators and other strategies to produce beautiful wine, but it may not satisfy what some multimillion dollar mass producer lobbied congress as the criteria for "O" on the label. To qualify as organic you are starting to need to keep documentation that turns a "normal farmer" into an accountant. Good farmers say to hell with that and grow good food labeled as non-organic, with the large corporate brands filling in the meaningless paperwork.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Epsilon Delta » Thu Nov 13, 2014 7:58 pm

hiddensee wrote:People were not "made" to eat agricultural produce at all; agriculture is not "natural" and nor are the selectively bred plant species we use for it. The paelo movement is the more consistent application of these principles - for which, again, there is no evidence of health benefits.
Humans have been living with agriculture for several hundred generations. Plenty of time for genetic adaptation, food shortages can apply severe selective pressure. Tolerance for alcohol and milk (in adults) are two examples.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by KyleAAA » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:10 pm

bertilak wrote:
KyleAAA wrote:I'm not sure if it's financially worth it in that it will lead to lower medical expenses over time, but then, that's not why I eat it to begin with. If it's healthier, isn't that worth paying extra for?
I'm not sure if it's financially worth buying actively managed funds. But if they're better, isn't that worth paying extra for?
Well yes, if they're better, certainly.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Ged » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:12 pm

just frank wrote:I find the lack of evidence compelling that there is no benefit to eating organic. Several studies have shown that yields per acre are lower for organic crops, implying that more land would have to be cultivated, and that is a net negative for the natural environment, and also possibly for the climate. Agriculture-related habitat loss is the #1 hit to natural ecosystems, period, and organic agriculture only makes that worse.
This is related to GMOs too.

"In Europe, countries that do not embrace GMOs “will face particular problems with the use of fertilisers, the availability of water and the degradation of soils,” the report warns, noting that improvements in farm yields for major crops have remained “limited or non-existent” in the past decade."

http://www.easac.eu/fileadmin/Reports/P ... REPORT.pdf

EASAC is the European Academies Scientific Advisory Council. It is intended to be the scientific advisory body for EU policy. Of course I say 'intended' as EU ministers all too often listen to the madding crowd instead.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by epilnk » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:15 pm

VictoriaF wrote: As I understand your story:
There is a microbe that keeps insects off the crops. This microbe produces many chemicals, one of which is particularly deadly to insects. When scientists tried to isolate the toxic chemical, it was so toxic that they dropped the project.

My take:
- In its natural habitat, the microbe does the job.
- Extracting a chemical from the microbe did not work, because components have different effects than the total. This is similar to the prudence of eating food, rather than vitamins and minerals extracted from food.
- The story supports leaving the nature alone rather than creating products to enhance it.

Victoria
Not quite. The living microbe itself was being exploited as the pest control product, and had it come on the market would presumably have been used in organic farming. The microbe was not modified and no chemicals were extracted. This is the way organic crop protection works.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by backpacker » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:22 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Frugal Disciple wrote:
bertilak wrote: I'm not sure if it's financially worth buying actively managed funds. But if they're better, isn't that worth paying extra for?
Ha, I was thinking that this argument was a lot like the active managed funds vs index funds vs self managed portfolio. There are a lot of parallels.
There are parallels, but the conclusions are opposite of what you imply. With index funds and organic produce you get as close to the nature as possible. With managed funds and conventional produce, including genetically modified food, you deal with harmful effects of someone's meddling.

Victoria
Only we Bogleheads would relate a discussion about organic food to passive vs active mutual funds. :D

FWIW the problem with actively managed funds isn't that a manager is "meddling" with the market. Active managers on the whole beat the market before fees. But as an investor, I only get my returns after fees. And actively managed funds underperform after fees.

If I could buy actively managed mutual funds that (a) had lower fees than index funds and (b) were similarly diversified, I would. The fact that index funds are "more natural" isn't important.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:32 pm

backpacker wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
Frugal Disciple wrote:
bertilak wrote: I'm not sure if it's financially worth buying actively managed funds. But if they're better, isn't that worth paying extra for?
Ha, I was thinking that this argument was a lot like the active managed funds vs index funds vs self managed portfolio. There are a lot of parallels.
There are parallels, but the conclusions are opposite of what you imply. With index funds and organic produce you get as close to the nature as possible. With managed funds and conventional produce, including genetically modified food, you deal with harmful effects of someone's meddling.

Victoria
Only we Bogleheads would relate a discussion about organic food to passive vs active mutual funds. :D

FWIW the problem with actively managed funds isn't that a manager is "meddling" with the market. Active managers on the whole beat the market before fees. But as an investor, I only get my returns after fees. And actively managed funds underperform after fees.

If I could buy actively managed mutual funds that (a) had lower fees than index funds and (b) were similarly diversified, I would. The fact that index funds are "more natural" isn't important.
Examples of meddling:
- In their attempts to beat the market active fund managers take excessive risks.
- Active funds have high turnover that generates short-term taxable gains.

Victoria
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:47 pm

livesoft wrote:My dog seems to have the perfect diet: Same kibble for 3 years now. He has not gained weight and seems as active as ever.
Maybe he's on to something.

Have you tried it?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Thu Nov 13, 2014 8:53 pm

epilnk wrote:One example in particular stands out in my mind.
Another example is nicotine.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Ged » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:04 pm

Chip Spoons wrote:
I love the paper chase...

I'll see your Scientific American with a Huffington Post, and I'm going to raise you a PMC (cited in the HP article).

For the record, I'm not sold one way or the other on organics. I only recently checked to see what the "Dirty Dozen" are (there's even a Clean Fifteen). I'm just trying to make the best decisions and suspect there is much more potential in prevention than is currently realized.

It's kind of a shame that the toxicity of all of these compounds isn't completely understood, or that the perfect diet hasn't been identified. Both will be accomplished in time.
Incompletely understood isn't the half of it. The first article cites increased antioxidant content as beneficial is preying on the general impression that antioxidants are good for you when in fact the science behind that assertion is murky and unproven at best.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionso ... ioxidants/

The second article :D :D. Did you take a look at the graphs presented? Or the statistics? Don't you find it rather preposterous to claim that data justified any conclusions??

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:31 pm

Ged wrote:Incompletely understood isn't the half of it. The first article cites increased antioxidant content as beneficial is preying on the general impression that antioxidants are good for you when in fact the science behind that assertion is murky and unproven at best.

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionso ... ioxidants/
Those are supplements, not whole foods.

Are you contending that vitamin C is an unnecessary nutrient?
Ged wrote:Did you take a look at the graphs presented? Or the statistics?
Nope.

I just wanted to get the ball rolling.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Raybo » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:42 pm

Raybo wrote:There have been other threads on this very topic and it usually devolves into there is no evidence that organic is any better than cheap, "safe" food. I expect this one will too.
I believe this has now been achieved.
No matter how long the hill, if you keep pedaling you'll eventually get up to the top.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by frugalguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:46 pm

I notice no one has mentioned acrylamides. That was a big scare a little while ago, then it disappered out of the headlines. Acrylamides are produced when starchy foods are baked, fried or otherwise subject to high, dry heat. (I believe wet heat is okay and so oatmeal, for example, is fine.). Acrylamides are associated with cancer, though I believe the studies to date were on acrylamide exposure coming from industrial enviromnents, not diet.

The whole issue of arylamides was bad news for carb-consumers who eat otherwise healthy products like whole grain bread, shredded wheat and baked potatoes. It was the Swedes, I believe, who spearheaded the research because their staple crispbreads turned out to be a huge source of acrylamides.

I've always wondered what happened. Banning acryliamides would cause the whole baking industry to go under. I'm not sure there were any easy modifications to cooking techniques to reduce the acrylamide content.

I suppose the only advice is to eat a balanced diet. That way, one gets a diversified "allocation" of natural pesticides, artificial pesticdies, acrylamides from grains, mercury from fish, hormones from beef, benzene and uranium from bottled water, chemical additives in juice conentrates from China, and so on. YUM.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by engineer4286 » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:51 pm

some prime examples of my earlier statement regarding the fact that no amount of data convinces people's beyond their preconceived beliefs

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by LongerPrimer » Thu Nov 13, 2014 9:54 pm

We literally can not afford an "organic " diet. We were commercial orchardists in a early career. You cannot grow certain fruits, economically, using organic practices. For our home use, we will tolerate a lot of blemishes and a few insects but if there is too much fruit damage I'll get mad because I already put a lot of effort into pruning , fruit thinning, and protective sprays. Some foods take very little maintenance and virtually no insecticides for which the consumer will pay a premium for the organic label certification. :annoyed

I am healthy. Wifey is healthy. Our high IQ is healthy because of the organophosphates and carbamates :annoyed there are some detail chemical I will not use because the are too broad spectrum with pretty good toxicity. :annoyed

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by frugalguy » Thu Nov 13, 2014 10:13 pm

LongerPrimer wrote: Our high IQ is healthy because of the organophosphates and carbamates
Are you referring to the fact that organophosphates are used in nerve agents? :D

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Ged » Fri Nov 14, 2014 12:08 am

frugalguy wrote:I notice no one has mentioned acrylamides. That was a big scare a little while ago, then it disappered out of the headlines. Acrylamides are produced when starchy foods are baked, fried or otherwise subject to high, dry heat. (I believe wet heat is okay and so oatmeal, for example, is fine.). Acrylamides are associated with cancer, though I believe the studies to date were on acrylamide exposure coming from industrial enviromnents, not diet.
I am quite familiar with acrylamides. I used to work with them in an industrial application. They are considered a probable human carcinogen because they are acylating agents. They are also a neurotoxin. When I was doing it there was some question about teratogenicity. I don't recall how that was resolved.

The difficulty is that they are formed in cooking of anything that contains the amino acid asparagine and sugars. This is most vegetables including potatoes.

The only way to reduce acrylamides in the food supply would be to stop cooking vegetables. The possibility of that happening is slim and none.

The other problem with this concept is there is no evidence that they are actually a real issue. If you want a perspective on that it would be good to read this article by Bruce Ames (inventor of the Ames test for carcinogenicity) where he points out that 99.99% of all dietary pesticides and carcinogens are naturally occurring compounds present in your food.

http://www.pnas.org/content/87/19/7777.full.pdf
Last edited by Ged on Fri Nov 14, 2014 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by LongerPrimer » Fri Nov 14, 2014 12:10 am

This tablet must have exposed too much Sevin. Some of the synapses are out of commission hence the errors in my above post. My power is out. Me thinks we have a weak transformer .

Botox does the same as the OPs. :annoyed

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by hiddensee » Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:14 am

The reason there is so much disinformation surrounding the ideal diet is that, beyond what we already know for sure, the scientific method is hardly applicable. We are no longer talking about malnutrition that could kill you in the short term, but about malnutrition that may mildly increase your susceptibility to acute and more particularly chronic diseases after many decades, resulting in small shifts in the mean of a wide distribution of life expectancies. It is practically impossible to control or even monitor peoples' diets for such periods in order to measure these outcomes, and then to try to establish causation. Even if such a study could have been constructed, a serious lifestyle study whose results are available today and discriminatory between diets on the level of months or years of extended or diminished lifespan would have had to have begun around the time of the Second World War. There is a huge and willing market for healthier food but little actionable knowledge, resulting in a huge industry selling solutions that range from useless to predatory - sound familiar?

That doesn't mean there's nothing to say or do on this subject. Most people fail even at the basics: don't undereat, don't overeat, eat a wide range of different things. The English speaking world's crippling obesity rate is evidence enough of that. But beyond that it's half a dozen and pick 'em as far as I'm concerned. Weakly or unsupported health claims have been overturned so often that I am not prepared to jump from a folk medicine type understanding or vague and unquantified risk factors to lifestyle alterations. I might turn out to have been mistaken in one or two cases, but I'm equally likely to have avoiding shifting away from something that was more healthy than the replacement.

My recommendation is that if you're a healthy weight, don't worry and enjoy life, choosing food for pleasure and convenience. If you're not a healthy weight, cut down by making the minimal necessary changes, that you are most likely to be able to actually stick to over a period of decades. Ignore food marketting claims and the health food industry; it is noise.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 14, 2014 5:37 am

Frugal Disciple wrote: I mainly ask this because in evaluating my monthly food budget, I see a lot of areas I can save, but many of those would involve cutting out certain organic foods, which I am willing to do if that would mean a greater long term financial benefit or quality of life.
You are not going to find incontravertible (sp?) evidence that organic food leads to a longer life.

It does, however, lead to a better ecosystem out there: fewer pesticides and herbicides, less of the super monoculture by which we have devastated the countryside (in the pursuit of cheaper food, which in and of itself was no bad thing but may not be sustainable).

So I wouldn't do it on a cost-benefit basis (to you). What you will get here is a wall of skepticism, some of which will be grounded in data. But also that anything 'Green' attracts a significant opprobrium and distaste.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by just frank » Fri Nov 14, 2014 6:29 am

Ged wrote:
frugalguy wrote:I notice no one has mentioned acrylamides. That was a big scare a little while ago, then it disappered out of the headlines. Acrylamides are produced when starchy foods are baked, fried or otherwise subject to high, dry heat. (I believe wet heat is okay and so oatmeal, for example, is fine.). Acrylamides are associated with cancer, though I believe the studies to date were on acrylamide exposure coming from industrial enviromnents, not diet.
[...]
The difficulty is that they are formed in cooking of anything that contains the amino acid asparagine and sugars. This is most vegetables including potatoes.

The only way to reduce acrylamides in the food supply would be to stop cooking vegetables. The possibility of that happening is slim and none.
[...]
Actually, they are engineering a low acylamide-producing GMO potato. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2607532/

It will not be possible to label them 'organic'. :oops:

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by backpacker » Fri Nov 14, 2014 7:49 am

Valuethinker wrote: You are not going to find incontravertible (sp?) evidence that organic food leads to a longer life. It does, however, lead to a better ecosystem out there: [...] less of the super monoculture by which we have devastated the countryside [...]
Lots of people like the idea of organic farming because (like me) they oppose factory farming, where factory farming is farming that focuses on efficiency at the expense of animal welfare and ecological sustainability.

The advantages/disadvantages of organic production will of course depend on the crop. I'm from Iowa originally and know the most about corn and soybean production. Organic corn and organic soybeans are usually just as much a monoculture as conventional corn and soybeans. Some organic farmers (like my best friend growing up who now farms) experiment with using cover crops and such. But this isn't required to be organic and most farmers raise organic corn and soybeans using the same monoculture techniques conventional farmers have used for the last 100 years.

There are also ecological tradeoffs. With herbicide-resistant GMO corn and soybeans, conventional farmers need to only cultivate their fields maybe once a year. Organic farmers can't use such methods, so may end up cultivating five or six times. The result is erosion, a process that sends our best top soil into lakes, rivers, and the outer atmosphere. These are the sorts of cultivation techniques that led to the dust bowl of 1930s. It is completely unclear to me whether reducing synthetic chemical usage is worth the loss of large amounts of top soil that took hundreds of years to accumulate.

Another issues is migrant rights. Raising organic soybeans is labor intensive. It requires "walking" the bean fields once or twice each summer. Large organic farmers in the area typically higher migrant workers. Such workers may or may not be fairly compensated. Whether they are has no effect on whether the resulting produce counts as organic. Conventional farmers generally have no need for such labor (at least in Iowa).

Grass-fed animals make a world of sense. Pastures aren't monocultures, they reduce chemical usage, and give animals better lives. But your milk doesn't have to come from grass-fed cows to be certified organic. The cows could just be cooped up in a barn somewhere chomping away on organic corn (raised as a monoculture at the expense of top soil).

Organic standards also prevent farmers from giving antibiotics to sick animals that genuinely need medical care. This is borderline animal cruelty. I oppose indiscriminately dumping antibiotics in animal feed as much as the next person, but avoiding that shouldn't require withholding obvious medical treatments from seriously sick animals. If I would take an antibiotic for a life-threating fever, why can't I give my cows an antibiotic for a life-threating fever?

Ethical eating is far more complicated than buying food with that shimmering "USDA Organic" label on it. Buying organic food is often just a lazy way for affluent customers to feel better about themselves. Doing real environmental good is a lot harder than that.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by livesoft » Fri Nov 14, 2014 8:17 am

backpacker wrote:Lots of people like the idea of organic farming because (like me) they oppose factory farming, where factory farming is farming that focuses on efficiency at the expense of animal welfare and ecological sustainability.
I am surprised you wrote that. I learned in grade school about slash-and-burn of vegetation to make room for crops by indigenous peoples. When the land would no longer sustain crops, they moved on to another location for slash-and-burn. I don't understand how a factory would want to jeopardize its investment in farm land the way previous farmers have done. If factory farming does not promote saving its land and sustainability, it will slowly cease to exist.

I would have guessed that folks who wanted to sustain agriculture and organic methods would actually give up eating meat altogether. I don't understand this grass-fed business and a mild allusion to animal welfare. That doesn't make sense to me.

Perhaps factory farms are doing the right things and doing them better than so-called organic farmers. At least factory farms have to look out for more than just themselves when it comes to delivering a sustainable food supply.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by tadamsmar » Fri Nov 14, 2014 8:26 am

Organic farmers use pesticides. They just use different pesticides. For instance, Rotenone is an organic pesticide that has been used widely and heavily in organic farming, not so much in farming that can use a wider variety of pesticides.

It has been discovered that Rotenone causes Parkinson's disease in animals and farm workers:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3114824/

Rotenone is still an approved pesticide for organic farming.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 14, 2014 8:26 am

backpacker wrote:
Valuethinker wrote: You are not going to find incontravertible (sp?) evidence that organic food leads to a longer life. It does, however, lead to a better ecosystem out there: [...] less of the super monoculture by which we have devastated the countryside [...]
Lots of people like the idea of organic farming because (like me) they oppose factory farming, where factory farming is farming that focuses on efficiency at the expense of animal welfare and ecological sustainability.

The advantages/disadvantages of organic production will of course depend on the crop. I'm from Iowa originally and know the most about corn and soybean production. Organic corn and organic soybeans are usually just as much a monoculture as conventional corn and soybeans. Some organic farmers (like my best friend growing up who now farms) experiment with using cover crops and such. But this isn't required to be organic and most farmers raise organic corn and soybeans using the same monoculture techniques conventional farmers have used for the last 100 years.

There are also ecological tradeoffs. With herbicide-resistant GMO corn and soybeans, conventional farmers need to only cultivate their fields maybe once a year. Organic farmers can't use such methods, so may end up cultivating five or six times. The result is erosion, a process that sends our best top soil into lakes, rivers, and the outer atmosphere. These are the sorts of cultivation techniques that led to the dust bowl of 1930s. It is completely unclear to me whether reducing synthetic chemical usage is worth the loss of large amounts of top soil that took hundreds of years to accumulate.

Another issues is migrant rights. Raising organic soybeans is labor intensive. It requires "walking" the bean fields once or twice each summer. Large organic farmers in the area typically higher migrant workers. Such workers may or may not be fairly compensated. Whether they are has no effect on whether the resulting produce counts as organic. Conventional farmers generally have no need for such labor (at least in Iowa).

Grass-fed animals make a world of sense. Pastures aren't monocultures, they reduce chemical usage, and give animals better lives. But your milk doesn't have to come from grass-fed cows to be certified organic. The cows could just be cooped up in a barn somewhere chomping away on organic corn (raised as a monoculture at the expense of top soil).

Organic standards also prevent farmers from giving antibiotics to sick animals that genuinely need medical care. This is borderline animal cruelty. I oppose indiscriminately dumping antibiotics in animal feed as much as the next person, but avoiding that shouldn't require withholding obvious medical treatments from seriously sick animals. If I would take an antibiotic for a life-threating fever, why can't I give my cows an antibiotic for a life-threating fever?

Ethical eating is far more complicated than buying food with that shimmering "USDA Organic" label on it. Buying organic food is often just a lazy way for affluent customers to feel better about themselves. Doing real environmental good is a lot harder than that.
Thank you for the data and analysis all of which was interesting.

I agree it is a complicated issue full of tradeoffs.

Generally, in the UK, organic producers are relatively small and are not monoculture-- one is supporting the small farmer, a vanishing breed. Commercial producers that produce for supermarkets are either in essence factory farm operations totally geared to the demands of supermarkets (I once saw a *good* turkey farm and it put me off turkey for life-- it looked too much like an animal Auschwitz) and/ or heavy importers (we fly produce from Zimbabwe to the UK, to little benefit to the farmers there, and about 3500 carbon-miles; we do similar things with fresh flowers, so out of season I am greatly opposed to those, as well). It's quite hard to domestically source stuff (and of course greenhouse grown in the middle of winter has its own challenges) although if you eat fruit and vegetables 'in season' you can go a long way.

Because of the supermarkets quality demands (which are about appearance and condition, not taste) the UK wastes 30%+ of food consumed-- most is thrown away before it gets to our fridges. In a planet full of starving people and challenged ecosystems, this is a disaster, and a crime.

We would buy from local farmers markets *but* we still have a greengrocer, and they need our support-- there are very few left in Britain.

I *cannot* get British people to understand that those lovely tomatoes that they eat on holiday in Italy, which are green, are green because they were grown for taste, not appearance. You always get the line 'but of course it's fresh there, that's why it tastes nice'-- the tomatoes in a British grocery store are just as fresh. Just bred to look round and firm, not to taste good. Mr and Mrs British housewife will eat a greenish tomato in a pizzeria in Rome but not from Tescos in London.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 14, 2014 8:32 am

livesoft wrote:
backpacker wrote:Lots of people like the idea of organic farming because (like me) they oppose factory farming, where factory farming is farming that focuses on efficiency at the expense of animal welfare and ecological sustainability.
I am surprised you wrote that. I learned in grade school about slash-and-burn of vegetation to make room for crops by indigenous peoples. When the land would no longer sustain crops, they moved on to another location for slash-and-burn.
Which was, in fact, a sustainable way of life. And efforts to then turn that into conventional western farming have largely been unsuccessful. Tropical soils are leached and don't have enough minerals for continuous cultivation. Also the widespread destruction of rainforest prevents regeneration.
I don't understand how a factory would want to jeopardize its investment in farm land the way previous farmers have done. If factory farming does not promote saving its land and sustainability, it will slowly cease to exist.
Which is precisely what can happen. Businesses operate on an annual Profit and Loss schedule.
I would have guessed that folks who wanted to sustain agriculture and organic methods would actually give up eating meat altogether. I don't understand this grass-fed business and a mild allusion to animal welfare. That doesn't make sense to me.
The animals are better off and less stressed, even if eaten in the end. You can see that in the chicken bones (not bent and distorted) and the meat (it's got more flavour). Also you can avoid mass dosing with antibiotics-- a practice which will come back to haunt us in some zoonotic way at some point.
Perhaps factory farms are doing the right things and doing them better than so-called organic farmers. At least factory farms have to look out for more than just themselves when it comes to delivering a sustainable food supply.
Businesses have a finite time horizon. They have to make a profit, or they go out of business.

That doesn't encourage a long run view of the soil. So, indeed, in the long run factory farming may prove to be unsustainable. Although we can artificially boost fertility with fertilizer, eventually the soil is just exhausted and/ or eroded.

There's a site north of London where herbicides and pesticides have never been sprayed. It is extraordinary how much richer the plant and insect (and hence bird) life is on that field, compared to surrounding fields (there will be a degree of cross contamination).

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by bertilak » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:21 am

Valuethinker wrote:Which was, in fact, a sustainable way of life.
But for what size population?
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:34 am

bertilak wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Which was, in fact, a sustainable way of life.
But for what size population?
Therein lies the rub. They proved they could sustain that life for thousands of years. Which meant, yes, Malthusian cycles when something went wrong.

However our way of life hasn't been tested for long periods of time on a planet with 10 billion people and we are about to run that experiment *without* a control group. We'll all get to be participants, voluntary or no. And our current process of industrialized agriculture is seriously harming biodiversity and the natural environment (see that algae bloom you can see in the satellite photos, at Gulf of Mexico at the bottom of the Mississippi). We might find out we haven't escaped Mr. Malthus after all.

The point I was making was that Livesoft derided slash and burn as wrong compared to 'modern' agriculture which is heavily dependent upon chemical inputs (which in turn are heavily dependent on fossil fuel).

And I was pointing out that it worked for those peoples for very long periods of time.

It's not that we can sustain 10 billion people on slash and burn. But, for example, slashing the Amazon to grow soybeans, graze cattle or to create palm oil plantations, which might only work for 100 years (or less) might just not be such a clever idea.

We are practicing slash and burn, we are just doing so on a much vaster scale.

EDIT

I should add the biotechnology of plant breeding in the New World was way ahead of the old world. And we've now found evidence of cities, urban agglomerations, in the Amazon that had thousands or tens of thousands of people (grouped in hundreds of little villages-- rather like modern Tokyo). The arrival of the white man and smallpox in particular was devastating but these people weren't 'primitive' in the way we understand it. And they had lived this way for centuries at least.

In other words, for people without iron, without horses, without the wheel, they did rather well. Thus confirming the saw that we ain't smarter than our ancestors, we just have their knowledge to work from.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Valuethinker » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:38 am

bertilak wrote:
Valuethinker wrote:Which was, in fact, a sustainable way of life.
But for what size population?
PS the most commonly used definition of 'sustainable' is 'able to meet the needs of today, without making future generations worse off'.

On questions like soil exhaustion and biodiversity, we are failing that criterion. Whatever our agriculture becomes, it is not sustainable in its current form.

We can observe the same factors (re soil loss and exhaustion) that contributed to the fall of previous civilizations: particularly in the Fertile Crescent and the Greco Roman civilization in the Mediterranean. It's usually a mistake to assume we are smarter than previous generations, as opposed to simply having more knowledge to work from.

http://www.amazon.com/Dirt-Civilization ... 0520258061

I learned a lot about soil (that I did not previously know) from reading this book.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by mrnutty » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:46 am

Regarding the sustainability of farming practices, Jeremy Grantham wrote an interesting and rather chilling piece about the forces arrayed against sustainability. The devil and the farmer.

If the link doesn't work, its the July 2011 Quarterly letter at gmo.com

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by pellep » Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:08 am

hiddensee wrote:The reason there is so much disinformation surrounding the ideal diet is that, beyond what we already know for sure, the scientific method is hardly applicable. We are no longer talking about malnutrition that could kill you in the short term, but about malnutrition that may mildly increase your susceptibility to acute and more particularly chronic diseases after many decades, resulting in small shifts in the mean of a wide distribution of life expectancies. It is practically impossible to control or even monitor peoples' diets for such periods in order to measure these outcomes, and then to try to establish causation. Even if such a study could have been constructed, a serious lifestyle study whose results are available today and discriminatory between diets on the level of months or years of extended or diminished lifespan would have had to have begun around the time of the Second World War. There is a huge and willing market for healthier food but little actionable knowledge, resulting in a huge industry selling solutions that range from useless to predatory - sound familiar?

That doesn't mean there's nothing to say or do on this subject. Most people fail even at the basics: don't undereat, don't overeat, eat a wide range of different things. The English speaking world's crippling obesity rate is evidence enough of that. But beyond that it's half a dozen and pick 'em as far as I'm concerned. Weakly or unsupported health claims have been overturned so often that I am not prepared to jump from a folk medicine type understanding or vague and unquantified risk factors to lifestyle alterations. I might turn out to have been mistaken in one or two cases, but I'm equally likely to have avoiding shifting away from something that was more healthy than the replacement.

My recommendation is that if you're a healthy weight, don't worry and enjoy life, choosing food for pleasure and convenience. If you're not a healthy weight, cut down by making the minimal necessary changes, that you are most likely to be able to actually stick to over a period of decades. Ignore food marketting claims and the health food industry; it is noise.
^^This, IMHO, is said perfectly...

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by jstrazzere » Fri Nov 14, 2014 10:29 am

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that "organic" is a term with no meaning these days. In my part of the world, there's very little difference health-wise between consuming food labeled "organic" and food without this expensive label.

I purchase some food from local farms, when it is in season, and when it isn't too expensive. But for the most part I avoid the label "organic".

I have a second home in a tourist-rich area. When I'm there on vacation or each weekend, I might visit some of the local farms or farmer's markets. But most of the produce and food products there are extremely overpriced. The local supermarket has most of the same produce (and some sourced from exactly the same local farms) at far lower prices. As with all financial decisions, you need to shop around, and know your prices.

For health decisions, I generally believe "everything in moderation" is a better operating principal than following fads like "organic", "high-fiber", "low-fat", etc.

Trying to weigh personal health and lifestyle decisions on a financial scale is a waste of time, IMHO. Do what makes you feel good, with moderation.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:33 am

Ged wrote: :D :D
Alright, Ged, I'm still sporting a black eye from the first round of Paper Chase (damn you Huffington Post), but we didn't give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor…

First, I'd like to reiterate my perspective. I'm not for or against organic produce, I'm for best practices and more knowledge. Where this has led me is to try and limit unnecessary exposure to chemicals when possible (sunscreen = no oxybenzone, personal care products = no parabens). As it relates to this conversation, I see no distinction between organic pesticides/herbicides and conventional ones. To me, they are both chemicals that in an ideal world I would prefer to avoid.

Since these chemicals can't be entirely avoided, I support thorough safety studies. The effectiveness of risk assessment for pesticides/herbicides seems similar to the vetting of industrial chemicals in general, and even new drugs. We are well protected as a population from acutely toxic compounds, but occasionally chemicals that have been approved are eventually deemed hazardous and ultimately pulled from the market (anybody on here could rattle off a list of things that have been banned).

OK

Now, my spidey-sense is saying you'll be hell-bent on refuting anything I write, so I'll enumerate for convenience;

1) 1 + 1 = 2

2) Headlines like this are a dime-a-dozen, which for me causes some level of concern. Again, anybody on here can find plenty of similarly alarming studies (I didn't read it, just grabbed it as an example, if you want to debunk one, please do the PNAS and just PM me the retraction).

3) There's the environment to consider as well. Here's an abstract from a bee guy. Maybe he's making it up? It's happened before. (debunk to Science) It also underscores how the safety profile of a compound can change over time.

It has taken more than a decade to unravel some of the mechanisms through which neonicotinoids affect the integrity of ecosystems.

4) Here's a $25 million look at GMOs. I only posted this because I'm curious as to whether just the active ingredients in pesticides/herbicides are tested, or the final formulation? They identify it as a specific goal.

Is the mixture of chemicals in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than active ingredient glyphosate?

5) Finally, here's a link to something barely on the radar. (no need to debunk) It's a pretty hot area of research, who knows if there's any merit to the idea.

So I'm off topic a bit, but just as many are asking for proof that organic produce is healthier, I'm asking for proof that pesticides/herbicides are safe. If not, I'd like to know what the safest choices are, whether it's conventional produce and their residues, or organic produce and those residues, or some combination.

Fortunately, improvements in technology will eventually answer these questions. Just as technological innovation has dramatically decreased the cost of DNA sequencing, I think technological improvements will make broader screening of the accumulated compounds in people much more feasible. Couple that with the inexorable march towards better biomarkers, and all of this will be sussed out in the not too distant future.

Hopefully everything turns out to be safe. I like Wegmans produce much more than Whole Foods.
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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by VictoriaF » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:36 am

Chip Spoons wrote:Alright, Ged, I'm still sporting a black eye from the first round of Paper Chase (damn you Huffington Post), but we didn't give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor….
A joke, or another call for a black eye?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by Chip Spoons » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:37 am

from Animal House

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by frugalguy » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:43 am

hiddensee wrote:

My recommendation is that if you're a healthy weight, don't worry and enjoy life, choosing food for pleasure and convenience. If you're not a healthy weight, cut down by making the minimal necessary changes, that you are most likely to be able to actually stick to over a period of decades. Ignore food marketting claims and the health food industry; it is noise.
I think that while some ideas on nutrition are a matter of faith -- organic foods being one of them -- there are certain feedback mechanisms that tell us if we're on the right path. For example, one may change the composition of their dietary fats and their blood triglycerides/cholesteral changes for the better. Or one may add fresh fruits and vegetables to their diet and their blood pressure becomes lower. Or one may start eating more fresh foods in general and they FEEL better and actually WANT to exercise more. So there are some common-sense things that can be done. Common sense isn't always a guide, but it's a start.

I think rather than organic food, the more interesting question is whether red wine is healthful. :) There seems to be a battle on that and from what I gather for NOW, the moderate drinking of red wine may be a plus for men but a minus for women.

I once read an article about some elderly, diseased people who had pretty much given up on modern medicine and they went to an island in Greece where their ailments were either cured or rolled back. I think part of it was fresh, heallthy food (somehow I'd think it would be organic, but am not sure), part was working in the fields themselves and getting exercise and fresh air, and part was probably just bieng in a beautiful, relaxing place having fun. Of course, even though such a regimen may have increased their lifespan and quality of life, one can argue that even THAT has elements of unhealthy living. IOW, if they're out in the sun all day planting vegetables, they may get skin cancer. :oops:

So yes, there are no easy answers and we all have to find our own path and hope that if we're wrong, at least the placebo effect will kick in. :)

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by surfstar » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:47 am

SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE!!!






For some reason that jumped in my head when reading the second page just now. That and beating my head against my keyboard.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by tadamsmar » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:49 am

I had a small garden where I grew zucchini. I took my first raw zucchini of the season to work as part of my lunch.

When I tasted it, it seemed bitter. But I figured it was just because I was not use to eating raw zucchini. I put some salt on it (knowing that salt covers bitterness) a took another bite. It was very bitter and I spit it out.

I got very sick with vomiting and diarhhea. I eventually figured out that it was due to a dominant mutation in the plant that caused it to have high levels of cucurbitacin:

http://www.foodsafetywatch.com/public/504print.cfm

Curcubitacin is a natural pesticide.
Last edited by tadamsmar on Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by jstrazzere » Fri Nov 14, 2014 11:59 am

tadamsmar wrote:I had a small garden where I grew zucchini. I took my first raw zucchini of the season to work as part of my lunch.

When I tasted it, it seemed bitter. But I figured it was just because I was not use to eating raw zucchini. I put some salt on it (knowing that salt covers bitterness) a took another bite. It was very bitter and I spit it out.

I got very sick with vomiting and diarhhea. I eventually figured out that it was due to a dominate mutation in the plant that caused it to have high levels of cucurbitacin:

http://www.foodsafetywatch.com/public/504print.cfm

Curcubitacin is a natural pesticide.
So you got sick from eating locally-grown organic zucchini.
Was it worth it financially?

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Re: Is buying organic worth it financially in the long term?

Post by bertilak » Fri Nov 14, 2014 12:34 pm

jstrazzere wrote:
tadamsmar wrote:When I tasted it, it seemed bitter.
Was it worth it financially?
If it's bitter isn't that worth paying extra for?
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