Does Organically Grown always mean Chemical Free?

I have a recent cancer survivor in my close family. And her Oncologist suggested she eat mostly organic foods. As the chemicals in many of the processed foods can interrupt and even counter act some of the medications she is taking. And of course absolutely no soy. That is full of anti-oxident’s and that is no good for someone on this particular cancer med.

This brings me to a point. The grocer we go to has a nice organic section for those who want their foods chemical free. But I am wondering, after having finished an organic apple and wiping some white substance from it’s skin, just how chemical free organically grown or made products really are. Does anyone have the dope on this. Should we really be spending all this money to go green? Or are we fooling ourselves.

We have even gone so far as to eliminate pesticides and fertilizers on our garden and property. We use special imported spiders for the garden (big nasty spiders who eat anything but the veggis) and nematodes for fertilizer…they eat the grubs.

Who said organic means healthy?

Cecil write a column on this a couple of yeas ago named Is it true they allow “certified organic” produce to be sprayed with chemicals? The answer to that question is Yes, within reason..

Picking raisins from the cake:

One more thing to consider is that vegetables grown organically have probably been fertilized with some kind of manure. It is therefore more important to wash them properly, to get rid of e-coli.

There was a study a couple ago where they measured vitamin contents in carrots. Organically grown produce actually contained less vitamins than conventional, although the difference was tiny.

As always, make sure to study in depth before you decide.

Study in depth is what we do best. There are certain places around here that give copious amounts of knowledge as to where the fruits and veggies were grown and what was used to store them etc…etc…

However, I doubled the size of our garden this year to 20’ X 70’. We have more squash/zucchini, tomatoes, carrot’s, lettuce, peas, pepper’s and corn than we know that to do with. And my dog is the best damn deer/vermon repellent I’ve ever seen.

Gah! “Chemical-free” means nothing. Let me repeat that: nothing! What do you think your lovely organic apple is composed of, if not chemicals? Sheesh.

There’s no firm regulation on the use of certain words on food labels in most places. “Organic” means containing carbon compounds. Any and all food may therefore be labeled organic. “Natural” is another one. Even plastic is made from things dug out of the earth, which thus makes it natural. Don’t be fooled or misled by marketing gimmicks.

If memory serves, the state of California has changed the law so “organic” on a label has to mean what consumers want it to mean–you know, healthy, non-artificial–but I’m not 100% certain as to the specifics.

That said, I’m also not sure how much bloody difference it makes whether I eat “organically grown” carrots or regular carrots. I sense a rant coming. It’s getting to where you can’t eat vegetables & fruits because of the pesticides & irradiation, you can’t eat meat because of the hormones, nitrites & stress to the animals, you can’t eat fish because of the mercury & unintended netting of dolphins, you can’t eat shellfish or eggs because of the cholesterol, you can’t eat carbs because they turn into sugar, you can’t eat sugar because you’ll get diabetes, you can’t eat salt because you’ll get hypertension, you can’t eat fat because it contains fat,…etc. What are we supposed to do? Eat only tofu and newspaper, starve slowly to death or throw ourselves in the sea & get it over with? No wonder so many people throw up their hands and say ‘the hell with it,’ and just eat whatever garbage they feel like, since they’re gonna die soon enough anyway. That’s unfortunate, since eating decent food and being healthy is so much cheaper than the alternative.

Just so we’re clear: the United States has a national organic standard.

There’s conflicting research on whether organic produce is more or less nutritious, or functionally equivalent to, conventional produce. Some argue that because organic produce spends more time attacked by diseases and pests, it spends less energy on production of fruiting bodies. Others argue that many vitamins and minerals are actually produced in response to attack by pests and diseases, and that therefore organic products are more nutritious.

See this New York Times article for details on the latter argument (note that it’s on an advocacy Web site; you can find it on the NYT too, but you’ll have to pay for it there).

Regarding silly arguments about how “apples are made of chemicals” and “all food is organic”: yes, yes, yes, if we take our apple into a chemical laboratory, this is correct. However, these words have different meanings in the world of food production, and using irrelevant definitions from other fields serves only to obfuscate. The USDA Website above should clarify what “chemical” and “organic” mean within the world of food production.


ALL FOOD IS ORGANIC!! What, pray tell is the alternative? Synthetic food? I’m not a fan of nylon carrots. Inorganic food? I get indigestion from granite and basalt. Mercury, while very bad for one, seems quite tasty in tuna.
Sorry, I have a thing for language. (not spelling, just language.) please don’t hit me… :slight_smile:

:whacks picunurse:

If you have a “thing for language”, surely you’ve learned by now that:

  1. Words have different meanings in different contexts;
  2. It pays to read an entire thread before posting (so you’d see, for example, that someone had already addressed this point); and
  3. “Thing” is a remarkably vague word, the least-specific noun available, to be chosen by somebody with a penchant, an obsession, a love, an interest, in/for/with language.


In hopes that nobody else will make this lame, tired joke, I’ll break one of my usual rules (“Nobody likes a dictionary-quoter”) and quote on the matter. Note the bolded definition. Let’s all use this definition for the rest of this thread, shall we?

Nobody use the legal definition, the chemistry definition, or any of the other irrelevant definitions, m’kay?

If you want, you can refer to the USDA Web site above for a more complex definition that applies specifically to organic food in the United States.


Geez if you want to talk about language why don’t you go over to my other thread about language. You know the one about why mooses are mooses but gooses are geeses!

Au contrair. In order to meet the federal organic rule, an organic farmer in the U.S. must satisfy explicit criteria dealing with cleanliness and timing of manure application. This and other aspects of rule compliance are certified annually by an independent system of inspectors and review committees. Organic food production has A LOT more oversight than conventional. In my neighborhood conventional growers apply raw cow manure to their fields whenever it is convenient for them. Organic growers may not apply raw manure sooner than 120 days before harvest for root and leaf vegetable crops like carrots. For other crops, like corn and soybeans, 90 days is the cut-off.

Back to the OP: When you eat organic food, you are NOT eating toxic chemicals! They are verboten in the organic rule for crops, cattle, handling, shipping, and packaging. Phlosphr, the white stuff you wiped from the skin of your organic apple was almost certainly kaolin clay, which is sprayed on the fruit to irritate pests such as the plum cucurlio and apple maggot (usually marketed to farmers under the brand name “Surround”).

Popup’s quote of Cecil (" The OCIA also allows restricted use of such things as strychnine (as a rat poison) and pyrethrum, a strong pesticide that kills good insects as well as bad ones." ) is out of date and incomplete. Strychnine is not allowed at all under the federal organic rule (section 205.604a). Pyrethrum is a non-synthetic plant derivative that decomposes quickly once it is applied. There is NO residue by the time you eat your organic produce.

Organic may have more than one meaning, but a chemical is a chemical. Further to r_k’s grumble, there is no such thing as a chemical free apple…I presume you are talking about ‘toxic chemicals present above certain concentrations’. I’ll second that sheesh.

Hey, I’ll sell 100% perfectly chemical-free apples–soon as I find some morons stupid enough to pay me money for nothing.

Nitrogen is a chemical. How the plant gets nitrogen is another story, but try growing anything without nitrogen. See here.