WootBot


quality posts: 14 Private Messages WootBot

Staff

Wine.Woot guest blogger emeritus Peter Wellington comes down from the mountain bearing more of his winemaking wisdom!

Let me start by saying I don't really hate organic. I just have some major quarrels with its current manifestation in our culture. The title of this blog is more the result of my obsession with perverting cultural references. Lest I alienate a large number of you, and instigate a bunch of hate mail, I'll start with some background on the environmental and organic movements...

The first generation synthetic pesticides (primarily insecticides) were developed in the 1940's and 50's, at a time when we were making the transition to dial phones, automatic transmissions and transistor radios (just to put the concurrent level of technological sophistication into perspective). These chemicals were cheap and easy to produce, highly effective and much less toxic to humans than the 'natural” insecticides, like nicotine and arsenic, that they replaced. Broad spectrum effectiveness and slow breakdown were considered to be positive pesticide attributes; for example, DDT was still lethal to mosquitoes six months after application and is responsible for saving 10's of millions from death by malaria.

Widespread use of synthetic pesticides was just one aspect of a sea change in American agriculture that took place mid-20th century. Mechanization multiplied and the farm population dropped precipitously. Corporate agribusiness utilizing large scale monoculture, excessive plowing with tractors, chemical fertilizers and pesticides replaced complex, labor intensive family farms. It didn't take long before serious problems with the new system became evident: loss of soil fertility, accelerated soil erosion, water pollution and repercussions on wildlife and human health. Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, published in 1962, is widely credited as giving birth to the environmental movement. Environmentalism and the organic movement grew in no small part out of backlash against the problems created by “modern” agriculture.

A little personal background fits into the time frame at this point. My interest in environmental issues grew dramatically around 1970, when I helped organize campus activities for the first Earth Day and became a vegetarian (38 years and counting). My personal concerns also dictated my educational path. After initially majoring in nutrition, I got my B.S. at UC Berkeley in Biology of Natural Resources, with emphasis in Soil Science and Plant Nutrition. My coursework included geological morphology, soil chemistry, genetics, microbiology, plant biochem, pesticide toxicity and toxicology, plant pathology, soil conservation among many others. More than any specific vocational goal, I had a desire to understand how the natural world works. One of my favorite sayings is, “Earth's ecosystem is more complex than man thinks because it is more complex than man can think” (or something along those lines, attributed to Bucky Fuller).

My understanding of organic principles is that there are two main goals, safe healthy food and a healthy environment. Some pesticides, both natural and synthetic, have had significant negative impact on one or both. The issues with synthetic fertilizers are all about environmental impact, not food safety or nutritional value. The two main effects are depletion of soils when trace minerals and organic matter (humus) are not replaced and both surface and ground water pollution from over application (also possible with organic fertilizers). Organic farming's simple solution was to distrust anything synthetic and set up a system of regulations based on that belief. This brings me to a point where I can start listing the 10 things I hate about O.

1. It is based on a simplistic categorization of natural vs. synthetic that overrides consideration of whether something is the best practice for food safety and environmental health. It caters to mistrust of technology and scientific learning. Organic regulations are probably one of the few things in our society that didn't piss off Ted Kaczynski.

2. The regulations are proscriptive rather than prescriptive. Rather than a recipe of sound farming practices, we are given a list of prohibited substances. Building and maintaining healthy soils, waterways and air involves a lot more than just not using certain fertilizers or pesticides. IMHO, routine plowing is far more destructive than the use of manufactured fertilizers, yet is perfectly acceptable under organic regulations. Cultivation with diesel tractors is one of the largest causes of air pollution, water pollution, and soil loss in the world.

3. Complying with organic regulations can actually foster practices that are more destructive to the environment. One of the arguments against synthetic fertilizer is that petroleum is burned for energy used in its production. How much petroleum is burned when you haul organic compost from the next county and spread it with a diesel tractor?

The main cultural practice that prevents many vineyards from meeting organic standards is in-row weed control. Back in the 90's an “organic” friend encouraged me to look into some new equipment, a weed flamer that uses 100,000 BTU propane torches to heat weeds to permanent wilting temperature, killing the above ground parts but not the roots. I watched a demonstration and it seemed like a great idea until I thought about it for a while. The positive aspects were no “chemicals” and no soil disturbance. The negative was burning 10 gallons or more of fossil fuel per crop acre per year, not even counting tractor fuel to haul the equipment through the vineyard several times a year. A prominent biodynamic vineyard and winery uses weed flaming extensively; somehow this doesn't seem to fit with the concept of a self-contained farm. Other organic weed control methods include gas driven string trimmers (weed eaters), hand hoeing and various mechanical devices that use considerable amounts of tractor fuel and tend to beat up the soil and cause vine injuries. There's no free lunch.

When wearing my vineyard cap I probably agonize more about weed control than anything else. I will admit to using weed eaters. Our current model has a 4-stroke engine, so it burns a lot cleaner than the more common 2-stroke which uses oil-gas mix. We've also done hand hoeing at times, but I'm reluctant to ask vineyard workers to do that because it's extremely hard physical labor. If I were to change to a non-chemical method it would probably be mechanical – a french plow or rotary plow followed by hand hoeing clean-up. The big trade offs would be increased fossil fuel usage and soil damage that doesn't occur with the chemical weed control we currently use.

4. Current common organic practices are not the most sustainable practices. Sustainability is a three legged stool. We tend to think mainly in terms of environmental sustainability, but economic and social sustainability are also necessary. Organic addresses environmental sustainability only partially, banning synthetic substances (except fossil fuel), but not limiting use of fossil fuel inputs or destructive soil cultivation techniques. It certainly is economically sustainable as long as enough people are willing to pay a premium for products carrying an organic label. It is also more socially sustainable than “conventional” farming from the standpoint of community acceptance but less socially sustainable to the extent that it is more dependent on manual labor. A perpetual supply of a hungry labor force from third world countries is not something upon which we can or should rely.

5. There is a myth that organic tastes better. Fresh, local and ripened-on-the-plant taste better. Back in the day when the only organic producers were small farms, most organic produce tasted great. Organic produce that is factory farmed and/or shipped long distances doesn't taste so good. Our local Sonoma County “regular” milk from pasture grazed herds tastes great. I can't print the words I use to describe the taste of the supermarket organic milk we can buy that comes from a huge feedlot dairy hundreds of miles away. Whenever possible, eat local!

6. Another myth is that organic foods are healthier or more nutritious. The same arguments I applied to flavor pertain here. The deadly E. coli outbreak of 2007 involved both regular and organic spinach. I've had a running battle with my wife for years over buying pre-packaged greens. I've been known to put “real lettuce” on the shopping list. I've always washed the pre-packaged stuff and been asked why I did so; when the spinach disaster occurred I was finally able to say, “that's why”. Again: eat local!

7. Organic legitimizes biodynamic, or VDDD as someone here put it (MarkdaSpark, perhaps). Upon reading an article about a local winery “making the transition from organic to biodynamic” my wife asked why we're not going biodynamic. My reply was that I am respected as a rational, reasonably intelligent member of the community and I don't wish to change that. I'm not any more likely to time vineyard and winery operations based on a biodynamic calendar than I am to plan my daily life based on my horoscope.

Biodynamic is for the most part benign unless too much reliance on some of its claims lead you to neglect common sense. A tragic example of this was the loss of a beautiful old vineyard that was ravaged so completely by mildew that it had to be destroyed. Apparently the vineyard manager had put unwarranted faith in the claim that biodynamics would increase the vines' disease resistance.

8. Both consumer perceptions and legal definitions of what organic actually means are highly variable. I'm always somewhat wary of foreign produce whether it's marketed as organic or not. I know a vineyard manager (primarily of organic ranches) who went on a vineyard tour in France and always asked to see the vineyard sheds – full of chemicals whether the vignerons were “organic” or not. He asked one organic grower what he did for weeds and the straight faced answer was “le Roundup”.

A lot of people think organic means no pesticides. A friend of my wife's was visiting once and when I told her I had to get up early the next morning to sulfur dust she reacted as if I had said I was going to torture kittens. All was forgiven the next day when I explained that sulfur was what the organic growers used. The line between synthetic and “natural” pesticides gets blurrier all the time. Sulfur dust, originally mined from mineral deposits, now comes as a byproduct of petroleum refining but is still okay for organic. High tech fungicides based on plant extracts are also okay. In the meantime, “conventional” pesticides, like pharmaceuticals, are using ever more specific biological activities, often based on plants' natural defense mechanisms. Rather than diverging, organic and conventional viticulture are becoming more alike.

9. Organic carries an inference that anything not organically certified is contaminated or unhealthy. My wife once asked me if I ever worry that the Roundup I spray on weeds could end up in the wine. I explained to her that Roundup is thousands of times more toxic to plants than to people and it would kill the vines if it got into them. I'm more concerned about contamination from auto exhaust from Highway 12 (which, fortunately, is downwind from us most of the time).

The first generation of synthetic pesticides like DDT have all been replaced by pesticides with more specific biological modes of action, less bio-persistance and lower toxicity to non-target organisms. I'm not so naive as to claim that today's pesticides are completely benign, but when used properly they are safer than their predecessors by orders of magnitude. Today's farmers are more educated and more heavily regulated as well. Risk is a combination of toxicity and exposure, and both factors have been greatly reduced in recent years, yet an unwarranted hysteria about possible food contamination remains. You have an immensely higher risk of cancer from not eating fruits and vegetables than you do from eating conventionally grown produce.

10. Greenwashing. Andy Peay of Peay Vineyards wrote a thought provoking article that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle last November, questioning wineries' motives for going green. While some vineyards and wineries truly have their hearts into organics, I wonder about a lot of the others. One company that has for many years touted its rationale for organic as worker safety and environmental stewardship committed total land rape a few years ago. They bought an old vineyard, ripped it out, clear cut almost a mile of stream (Cal. Fish & Game fined them for that), and fumigated with one of the most toxic and environmentally damaging chemicals allowed in U.S. Agriculture (and being phased out by international accord). The cynic in me says they applied for organic certification the very next day – it's a three year wait, about as long as it takes to get a vineyard into production.

Twenty years ago a family member from another local vineyard and winery chastised me strongly for not cultivating (discing) our new vineyard blocks. I was mowing rather than plowing. Their vineyards always looked immaculate; I swear they would send a tractor down a row, churning the soil relentlessly just to kill the last little weed that had escaped the previous four or five passes of th disc. This same family operation is now lauded for their green accomplishments. They disc less, have put up multiple bird roosts and nesting boxes and are using softer chemicals. I'm pleased to see all this, but I can't help wonder how much of the change is based on PR and marketing value versus just doing the right thing. They do get a lot of mileage out of their greenness, but who am I to complain – I brag about our green practices all the time.

In December I went to a conference on wine industry sustainability put on by my old college (College of Natural Resources) in Berkeley. Talks ranged from the potential consequences of climate change (including some I hadn't considered), to energy practices and raw materials input. The most interesting presentation was made by a viticulturist for a long established, highly respected winery. He gave a very frank description of the conversion of some of their vineyards to certified organic status. The company does not want to be excluded from the growing number of restaurants that sell only wines made from certified organic grapes. They have carefully chosen some, but not all, of their vineyards for this process. Hillside vineyards were left out of the organic program due to concerns about erosion and worker safety. This company is quite forthright (at least in this academic setting) that it is doing some conversion to organic solely for marketing purposes. They are already very green and environmentally responsible and have instituted some cutting edge practices on that front. This conversion is costing them some money for new equipment, more labor including more tractor usage, and record keeping for organic compliance. It also may be a slight step backward for them in terms of environmental impact and sustainability.

The commercialization of organic has bothered me for years. Government organic standards have been lowered time and again in response to pressure from big agri-business concerns eager to cash in on the demand for organic products. They even have provisos for substituting “non-organic” supplies and ingredients when the cost of the organic corollary gets too high! Too many marketing strategies are based on what is not in products rather than what is in them. Does anyone really think organic tortilla chips are a healthy snack? I'm reminded that a few years ago, at the peak of the low carb fad, a winery came out with some brands like 1.6 Chardonnay and 1.9 Merlot, referring to the grams of carbohydrate per 5 ounce glass. They got a lot of press as “reduced carb” wines. Reduced from what? Those are both over 1% residual sugar! My immediate thought was, “Geez, my wines are all, like, 0.1 to 0.4 by their criteria; what a bleeping scam!” They were charging 10 bucks plus for crappy, semi-sweet wine, preying on ignorance and gullibility.

In summary, I don't want to give the impression that all current vineyard chemicals are benign or that the environmental and health hazards of agriculture have completely disappeared. Organic practitioners are not completely irrational, and many of them have true passion for what they do and great respect for the land. Most vineyardists have a more holistic approach than they did 10 or 20 years ago, using more sustainable techniques that foster biodiversity and healthier soils. Fortunately, grapes have very few pests in California, and most vineyards never need to use insecticides. Sulfur dust is the only thing many growers, organic and not, ever spray on the vines, and the health risk of substances other than alcohol in California wine is minute. I can't speak for imported wines, but as with anything else, always consider the source. If I ever try a Chinese wine I'm using a spit bucket;)

Loweeel


quality posts: 5 Private Messages Loweeel

PETER (oops! sorry!), this post is awesome! I agree with the whole thing! You are really demonstrating your mastery not just of science, but of the scientific method of thinking, which is as impressive and elegant as your wines.

Some specific comments.

1. I think TMR came up with VDDD (voodoo doodoo) -- before that we were using "BDBS" to refer to it instead.

2. My problems with VDDD are only due to its "mystical" aspects and provably false claims about crystallization, homeopathy, sympathetic magic, astrology, and the like. To the extent that it is, as Daniel Rogov puts it, otherwise comprised of organic methods/inputs and "sound common-sense farming principles," it's no more objectionable than the proscriptive organic farming that you critique so well in your blog.

3. You're spot on that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Everything involves tradeoffs in one way or another. Just considering fossil fuels and carbon, what's the cost of only using animal manure as fertilizer once you consider collection, packaging, distribution, and application? (Yeah, you could dehydrate it as well, but there's an energy cost for that too). Similarly, we could grow everything for the whole world organically (or could we?); it would just require us to destroy a lot of forests and grasslands, due to the much lower yield.

4. You are to be commended for attacking the Luddite notion that technology and science are bad, and "natural" is best. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't -- but you clearly demonstrate that you see the whole picture, rather than using green-tinted lenses with a narrow field of view.

5. Regarding the roots of VDDD, it was created by an nutjob named Rudolf Steiner in 1920's Austria, and it was steeped in the same sort of racist dogma of other ideologies arising in 1920s Austria. It was a reaction to smaller, family farms no longer being able to compete with larger farms, and traditional farms not being able to compete with those who used these newfangled fertilizers. Since they couldn't compete in the market, Steiner's incoherent rantings that the old ways were morally, spiritually, and ecologically superior found a willing audience. (but I could go on forever).

Kudos to you for wanting to retain your status as an intelligent, rational winemaker, and even bigger ones for doing it so successfully.

Favorites: Roessler ¬ KRPN ¬ Etude ¬ Stuart ¬ KRPort ¬ Tøøthstejnn ¬ Titus ¬ URSA ¬ InZin ¬ SBMystery ¬ SxBS&Z+4 ¬ DC3&4 ¬ TyC3&FB ¬ FeEquus ¬ PSPS ¬ Harvey ¬ SBRes&CR ¬ Corison ¬ Noceto ¬ Humbug ¬ KRSEXY3SOME ¬ PoiZin06 ¬ POLY ¬ Castoro ¬ SBCab ¬ KRPS2K ¬ HW12 ¬ GSaké ¬ הגפןCab ¬ PepBr

CT ¬ PSychos' Path
"The one difference between me and Petite Sirah is that I don't have a dumb period." - YT

andyduncan


quality posts: 32 Private Messages andyduncan

Just when you thought you were out...

I'm putting WD's kids through college.

aces219


quality posts: 5 Private Messages aces219

Not Scott, L, Peter Wellington! Peter, you are totally my hero.

DrObviousSo


quality posts: 0 Private Messages DrObviousSo

It's nice to see an article this rational on the topic.

I generally avoid any wine or other product sold as "Organic", because I know I'm just paying for extra paperwork and bureaucracy, and that's not something that has any utility to me.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Loweeel wrote:Scott, this post is awesome! I agree with the whole thing! You are really demonstrating your mastery not just of science, but of the scientific method of thinking, which is as impressive and elegant as your wines.

Some specific comments.

1. I think TMR came up with VDDD (voodoo doodoo) -- before that we were using "BDBS" to refer to it instead.

2. My problems with VDDD are only due to its "mystical" aspects and provably false claims about crystallization, homeopathy, sympathetic magic, astrology, and the like. To the extent that it is, as Daniel Rogov puts it, otherwise comprised of organic methods/inputs and "sound common-sense farming principles," it's no more objectionable than the proscriptive organic farming that you critique so well in your blog.

3. You're spot on that there's no such thing as a free lunch. Everything involves tradeoffs in one way or another. Just considering fossil fuels and carbon, what's the cost of only using animal manure as fertilizer once you consider collection, packaging, distribution, and application? (Yeah, you could dehydrate it as well, but there's an energy cost for that too). Similarly, we could grow everything for the whole world organically (or could we?); it would just require us to destroy a lot of forests and grasslands, due to the much lower yield.

4. You are to be commended for attacking the Luddite notion that technology and science are bad, and "natural" is best. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't -- but you clearly demonstrate that you see the whole picture, rather than using green-tinted lenses with a narrow field of view.

5. Regarding the roots of VDDD, it was created by an nutjob named Rudolf Steiner in 1920's Austria, and it was steeped in the same sort of racist dogma of other ideologies arising in 1920s Austria. It was a reaction to smaller, family farms no longer being able to compete with larger farms, and traditional farms not being able to compete with those who used these newfangled fertilizers. Since they couldn't compete in the market, Steiner's incoherent rantings that the old ways were morally, spiritually, and ecologically superior found a willing audience. (but I could go on forever).

Kudos to you for wanting to retain your status as an intelligent, rational winemaker, and even bigger ones for doing it so successfully.



It is indeed me. I sent WD a self-portrait, so maybe my face will soon get plastered where Scott's is now. (btw, I'm not inferring Scott is plastered) My apologies to TMR - I shoulda known. Maybe someone can make an active link to the site below for a well researched, in depth article about BDBS

http://www.sfweekly.com/2008-11-19/news/voodoo-on-the-vine/1

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
aces219 wrote:Not Scott, L, Peter Wellington! Peter, you are totally my hero.



Congrats on your own recent accomplishments!

themostrighteous


quality posts: 12 Private Messages themostrighteous
SonomaBouliste wrote:It is indeed me. I sent WD a self-portrait, so maybe my face will soon get plastered where Scott's is now. (btw, I'm not inferring Scott is plastered) My apologies to TMR - I shoulda known. Maybe someone can make an active link to the site below for a well researched, in depth article about BDBS

SF Weekly article on VDDD


first of all: WOW! your post brought a tear to mine eyes! AWESOMENESS define for all of the reasons that L already cited. and especially admirable when so many of your fellow winemakers are falling like dominoes before the rising surge of the VDDD machine. truly.

second of all: i can only take credit for introducing the term VDDD here, but i am certain that i read it elsewhere originally.

third of all: speaking of reading: Skeptical Inquirer article on VDDD.

finally: if you really want to pull your hair out, watch episodes 628 & 629 of WLTV where GV interviews Nicolas Joly (he of the pic in the Skeptical Inquirer article). the DD that VDDD religionists put into the ground is apparently recycled in the form of the unbelievable BS that comes out of their mouths! little respect here left for GV, who is otherwise making a BIG push for VDDD (e.g. see episodes 630 & 631), which i guess is not surprising since VDDD wines do tend to sell at a price premium.

thanks again for this most excellent post!

do you know... what biodynamics is?

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 152 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines

Peter,
What a great blog. My feelings as well. With your background and concern you have really helped me better understand the subject. Going from growing grapes in Germany, where humidity made us spray so often. I have always felt fortunate to farm grapes in Califronia where the growing season is so dry. Although I farmed pretty much organically, I thought it a waste of time to go through the process to certify and limit my choices to what is best for the soil and the wine produced.

jwhite6114


quality posts: 119 Private Messages jwhite6114

Peter -- thanks again for your insights and eloquence. You offer not only common sense, but a view on the matter than those of us not associated with agriculture are unlikely to see.

With such a pragmatic approach as you have, combined with your education, experience, and obvious mastery of the details involved with what you do, it is no wonder the wines you make are so well liked!

Thank you!

(PS: I do have to wonder, though, did you know how to spell "Kaczynski" or did you have to look it up for this blog? )

CT | | | | | |

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
jwhite6114 wrote:Peter -- thanks again for your insights and eloquence. You offer not only common sense, but a view on the matter than those of us not associated with agriculture are unlikely to see.

With such a pragmatic approach as you have, combined with your education, experience, and obvious mastery of the details involved with what you do, it is no wonder the wines you make are so well liked!

Thank you!

(PS: I do have to wonder, though, did you know how to spell "Kaczynski" or did you have to look it up for this blog? )



I checked after I wrote it and I had it right the first time. If you have any Polish friends it's pretty intuitive - how else would you spell it?

woopdedoo


quality posts: 36 Private Messages woopdedoo

Hey Peter -

Great article - again you honor us by giving the community the inside view of what is really going on in the winemaking process.

Your missive reminds me of the assessment that Asprin would not get FDA approval if it had to go through the current review process, not to mention all of the toxic qualities of - WATER.

Also, there is great frustration in the international community about DDT. If it is applied carefully rather than indiscriminately, it is highly effective, extremely non-toxic to non-insects, and inexpensive. Contrast that to the human and world cost of malaria and it seems like we are being unfaithful to our neighbors and unfaithful to science.

As for Roundup, I was at a conference talking with a Monsanto scientist (admittedly biased) who said that Roundup is so non-toxic to humans and even insects, that you could drink the stuff straight with no ill effects. It doesn't even pollute the soil. It needs to be sprayed on the leaves themselves to be effective as it inhibits a specific enzyme only found in plants and it needs to get absorbed through the leaves.

Thank you for keeping everything in perspective and your focus on true environmental preservation rather than being Organic (followed by a registered trademark).

darlenee1


quality posts: 7 Private Messages darlenee1

I'm with you Peter, on buying local vs buying organic. Oftentimes the local growers are practicing organic as much as they can, but not enough to go through the prohibitively expensive certification process. And local is better for the environment all around, as we aren't shipping food across continents.

Darlene
(proud CSA member )

Ran out of room for the wines, and can't think of a good quote for now

joelsisk


quality posts: 9 Private Messages joelsisk
darlenee1 wrote:I'm with you Peter, on buying local vs buying organic. Oftentimes the local growers are practicing organic as much as they can, but not enough to go through the prohibitively expensive certification process. And local is better for the environment all around, as we aren't shipping food across continents.

Darlene
(proud CSA member )



ditto. We are a CSA distribution center for our area.

orthancstone


quality posts: 1 Private Messages orthancstone
woopdedoo wrote:As for Roundup, . . . It needs to be sprayed on the leaves themselves to be effective as it inhibits a specific enzyme only found in plants and it needs to get absorbed through the leaves.



Indeed, Roundup has been "perfected" (if you will) over time to be more focused on only affecting plants. Which also comes with the one major downside of Roundup: It is indiscriminate, so make absolute sure you don't hit plants you want to keep .

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
woopdedoo wrote:Hey Peter -

Great article - again you honor us by giving the community the inside view of what is really going on in the winemaking process.

Your missive reminds me of the assessment that Asprin would not get FDA approval if it had to go through the current review process, not to mention all of the toxic qualities of - WATER.

Also, there is great frustration in the international community about DDT. If it is applied carefully rather than indiscriminately, it is highly effective, extremely non-toxic to non-insects, and inexpensive. Contrast that to the human and world cost of malaria and it seems like we are being unfaithful to our neighbors and unfaithful to science.

As for Roundup, I was at a conference talking with a Monsanto scientist (admittedly biased) who said that Roundup is so non-toxic to humans and even insects, that you could drink the stuff straight with no ill effects. It doesn't even pollute the soil. It needs to be sprayed on the leaves themselves to be effective as it inhibits a specific enzyme only found in plants and it needs to get absorbed through the leaves.

Thank you for keeping everything in perspective and your focus on true environmental preservation rather than being Organic (followed by a registered trademark).



You're right about aspirin, patented by Bayer and first marketed in the same year as their other wonder drug, heroin.

DDT almost wiped out Pelicans and bald eagles. It and its break-down product, DDE, last way too long. By the time it was banned in the early 1970's it had lost most of its effectiveness anyway due to resistance evolved by insects.

Yes, Roundup is pretty safe, but I'm reminded of a community forum that Monsanto put on where the company rep insulted everyone's intelligence. Among other things, he said Roundup was innocuous because it contained only carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen and broke down to those elements. Yeah, so did the methly isocyanate that killed 3000 people in Bhopal.
Edit: just looked it up in wiki, and apparently 8000+ died.

woopdedoo


quality posts: 36 Private Messages woopdedoo
SonomaBouliste wrote:You're right about aspirin, patented by Bayer and first marketed in the same year as their other wonder drug, heroin.

DDT almost wiped out Pelicans and bald eagles. It and its break-down product, DDE, last way too long. By the time it was banned in the early 1970's it had lost most of its effectiveness anyway due to resistance evolved by insects.

Yes, Roundup is pretty safe, but I'm reminded of a community forum that Monsanto put on where the company rep insulted everyone's intelligence. Among other things, he said Roundup was innocuous because it contained only carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen and broke down to those elements. Yeah, so did the methly isocyanate that killed 3000 people in Bhopal.
Edit: just looked it up in wiki, and apparently 8000+ died.



All true, but everything including such as seemingly innocuous activities as discing are harmful if poorly applied. If we were really so concerned about global warming, we should have a wide embrace of nuclear power. Sure there are challenges with regard to safe storage and total cost of delivery, security, etc. but somehow denuding the forests and our landscape in pulling coal out of the ground and the acid rain fallout is more acceptable than the small real risks of a nuclear accident or dying from radiation poisoning. For some reason, these are much more frightening than the deaths that occur in coal mining accidents.

thatguy314


quality posts: 7 Private Messages thatguy314
woopdedoo wrote:Your missive reminds me of the assessment that Asprin would not get FDA approval if it had to go through the current review process



That's poppycock! Everyone knows that it's tylenol that wouldn't have been approved. Esp. for use in wine.wooters

canonizer


quality posts: 22 Private Messages canonizer

I have to add, my original hatred of the name "Organic" comes from the fact that it is dumb name. All things living things are organic, carbon-based, et al. This is before I knew anything else about it.

Has anyone been reading about the peanut organic certification?

signed.

canonizer


quality posts: 22 Private Messages canonizer
thatguy314 wrote:That's poppycock! Everyone knows that it's tylenol that wouldn't have been approved. Esp. for use in wine.wooters



That was actually my understanding as well.

signed.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
woopdedoo wrote:All true, but everything including such as seemingly innocuous activities as discing are harmful if poorly applied. If we were really so concerned about global warming, we should have a wide embrace of nuclear power. Sure there are challenges with regard to safe storage and total cost of delivery, security, etc. but somehow denuding the forests and our landscape in pulling coal out of the ground and the acid rain fallout is more acceptable than the small real risks of a nuclear accident or dying from radiation poisoning. For some reason, these are much more frightening than the deaths that occur in coal mining accidents.



I remember questioning whether the coal industry was supporting the anti nuclear energy movement 30 years ago. Fear of catastrophic events seems to trump fear of everyday risks. Yes, the combined environmental, political and health risks of fossil fuel use are great, but spread out over extraction, transporting, processing, storing and the byproducts of consumption. A good parallel might be fear of flying versus driving; the statistics tell you flying is safer, but because airplane crashes are front page news...

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
canonizer wrote:I have to add, my original hatred of the name "Organic" comes from the fact that it is dumb name. All things living things are organic, carbon-based, et al. This is before I knew anything else about it.

Has anyone been reading about the peanut organic certification?



I was the teaching assistant for a class at UC Berkeley called Urban Garden Ecosystems. It was amazing how many (upper division) students confused "natural" with organic. On tests they would list rock phosphate as an organic fertilizer but not urea.

Loweeel


quality posts: 5 Private Messages Loweeel
darlenee1 wrote:I'm with you Peter, on buying local vs buying organic. Oftentimes the local growers are practicing organic as much as they can, but not enough to go through the prohibitively expensive certification process. And local is better for the environment all around, as we aren't shipping food across continents.

Darlene
(proud CSA member )



On the other hand, it's important to realize that most people can't do local-only without getting some serious nutritional deficiencies. Winter-time scurvy is no fun.

Local should be a preference, not an axiom. Just as with organic, you have to consider the whole picture, because the overall cost of doing things locally (like organically) can be worse overall than non-local (like non-organic) food.

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Loweeel


quality posts: 5 Private Messages Loweeel
SonomaBouliste wrote:DDT almost wiped out Pelicans and bald eagles. It and its break-down product, DDE, last way too long.



That's the common perception, perpetutated by the scientifically-untrained Carson. But I'm not convinced that it comports with reality. See also The Lies of Rachel Carson, and various critiques of Silent Spring, inc. the "eggshell" theory.

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bhodilee


quality posts: 32 Private Messages bhodilee
woopdedoo wrote:Hey Peter -

Great article - again you honor us by giving the community the inside view of what is really going on in the winemaking process.

Your missive reminds me of the assessment that Asprin would not get FDA approval if it had to go through the current review process, not to mention all of the toxic qualities of - WATER.

Also, there is great frustration in the international community about DDT. If it is applied carefully rather than indiscriminately, it is highly effective, extremely non-toxic to non-insects, and inexpensive. Contrast that to the human and world cost of malaria and it seems like we are being unfaithful to our neighbors and unfaithful to science.

As for Roundup, I was at a conference talking with a Monsanto scientist (admittedly biased) who said that Roundup is so non-toxic to humans and even insects, that you could drink the stuff straight with no ill effects. It doesn't even pollute the soil. It needs to be sprayed on the leaves themselves to be effective as it inhibits a specific enzyme only found in plants and it needs to get absorbed through the leaves.

Thank you for keeping everything in perspective and your focus on true environmental preservation rather than being Organic (followed by a registered trademark).



That's funny, we were just talking about how toxic water is about 25 minutes ago at work.

Roundup: Actually isn't toxic to people. My dog got into it and I called Roundup right away and they said, no problems. So I called my vet and he concurred. It kills plants, not animals. It also doesn't cross roots, and has no residual, unless you buy the kind that specifically has it. It's a pretty decent all around weed killer, it is NOT approved for aquatic use though. I think only Habitat is certified for aquatic use and you have to have a special permit to handle it. I work with the county weed superintendents around here and have learned quite a bit about herbicides in the last 4 years. I also learned that BASF will go out of their way to kiss your ass if they think it'll lead to a sale later on.

Peter, if I buy you a house here will you run for my board of directors? I'll fly you in once a month just to go to the meetings. I wish they got it like you do.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

– George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)

bhodilee


quality posts: 32 Private Messages bhodilee
orthancstone wrote:Indeed, Roundup has been "perfected" (if you will) over time to be more focused on only affecting plants. Which also comes with the one major downside of Roundup: It is indiscriminate, so make absolute sure you don't hit plants you want to keep .



Um, yeah. I'm wondering if my pine tree is gonna make it. Got some on it last year, not a lot, but it was an odd shade of brown this winter and the spots that got hit are quite dead. If it dies it dies, I actually don't even like it in the backyard, but I'm not gonna cut it down just because either.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

– George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)

Loweeel


quality posts: 5 Private Messages Loweeel
bhodilee wrote:That's funny, we were just talking about how toxic water is about 25 minutes ago at work.


The water used in semiconductor processing is so pure that it will kill you if you drink it.

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fairnymph


quality posts: 55 Private Messages fairnymph
Loweeel wrote:That's the common perception, perpetutated by the scientifically-untrained Carson. But I'm not convinced that it comports with reality. See also The Lies of Rachel Carson, and various critiques of Silent Spring, inc. the "eggshell" theory.



DDT is much less harmful than most people realise. It's not at all toxic to humans, and its toxicity to other animals is debatable. I am personally upset that it's been banned, because it's one of the few things that will kill bedbugs resistant to current insecticides.

The commercialization of organic has bothered me for years.



This, for me, is the biggest problem (though I agree with the others you've listed). People equate organic with small-scale, and that's sadly often not the case. The milk scam is the worst - Horizon, etc.

I have been eating nearly entirely organic food my whole life; I was raised on it and continue to use mostly organic food, but I'm cautious about my sources, and I do local (or homegrown) whenever possible.

And lastly...I DO think tortilla chips (fried in a healthy oil) are a healthy snack!

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79 wine.woots, 42 shirt.woots, 18 woots, 3 sellout.woots, 1 kids.woot

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andyduncan


quality posts: 32 Private Messages andyduncan
Loweeel wrote:The water used in semiconductor processing is so pure that it will kill you if you drink it.



Well, you'd have to drink a lot of it. It's not like it's poisonous to drink a couple glasses of it, and the "cure" would be something like a glass of Gatorade... or Brawndo (It's got electrolytes!)

I'm putting WD's kids through college.

fairnymph


quality posts: 55 Private Messages fairnymph
andyduncan wrote:Well, you'd have to drink a lot of it. It's not like it's poisonous to drink a couple glasses of it, and the "cure" would be something like a glass of Gatorade... or Brawndo (It's got electrolytes!)



I was just going to say that. I wouldn't call it toxic.

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SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Loweeel wrote:That's the common perception, perpetutated by the scientifically-untrained Carson. But I'm not convinced that it comports with reality. See also The Lies of Rachel Carson, and various critiques of Silent Spring, inc. the "eggshell" theory.



Both sides have been guilty of gross exaggeration, thereby weakening their credibility. Alarmism and overreaction by environmentalists frequently undermines their effectiveness. Likewise, corporate whitewashing and dishonesty has earned our distrust. I checked a couple of your citations and they are weak due to overstatement and poor logic. I mentioned backlash in my blog, and it gets hard to sort out the truth when both sides are inaccurate. Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to "take sides". I guess the logic is that if one side can't be trusted or believed than the opposition point of view must be accurate.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
Loweeel wrote:That's the common perception, perpetutated by the scientifically-untrained Carson. But I'm not convinced that it comports with reality. See also The Lies of Rachel Carson, and various critiques of Silent Spring, inc. the "eggshell" theory.



Both sides have been guilty of gross exaggeration, thereby weakening their credibility. Alarmism and overreaction by environmentalists frequently undermines their effectiveness. Likewise, corporate whitewashing and dishonesty has earned our distrust. I checked a couple of your citations and they are weak due to overstatement and poor logic. I mentioned backlash in my blog, and it gets hard to sort out the truth when both sides are inaccurate. Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to "take sides". I guess the logic is that if one side can't be trusted or believed than the opposition point of view must be accurate.



bhodilee


quality posts: 32 Private Messages bhodilee
Loweeel wrote:The water used in semiconductor processing is so pure that it will kill you if you drink it.



That's what I was telling people, pure water will kill your ass dead. Or too much water in general will kill you, kidney failure isn't it?

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

– George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)

bhodilee


quality posts: 32 Private Messages bhodilee
andyduncan wrote:Well, you'd have to drink a lot of it. It's not like it's poisonous to drink a couple glasses of it, and the "cure" would be something like a glass of Gatorade... or Brawndo (It's got electrolytes!)



I love that movie, Peter if you haven't seen Idiocracy, give it a go, I think you'll like it.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

– George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)

canonizer


quality posts: 22 Private Messages canonizer
SonomaBouliste wrote:Both sides have been guilty of gross exaggeration, thereby weakening their credibility. Alarmism and overreaction by environmentalists frequently undermines their effectiveness. Likewise, corporate whitewashing and dishonesty has earned our distrust. I checked a couple of your citations and they are weak due to overstatement and poor logic. I mentioned backlash in my blog, and it gets hard to sort out the truth when both sides are inaccurate. Unfortunately, a lot of people tend to "take sides". I guess the logic is that if one side can't be trusted or believed than the opposition point of view must be accurate.



Again, it seems pragmatism rules the day. The mass cloud spraying of ddt in the 1950s was overambitious and detrimental, as well as toxic. However, as intelligent human beings, it is up to us to determine what level of use, if any, is appropriate. Local sprayings around windows are the most efficient, safe, economical and environmental way to fight malaria, as far as I know.

Is it potentially viable and appropriate for use in the US? Maybe yes, but I'm hard pressed to believe that any massive crop dustings, whether "natural" "organic" or "synthetic" is good.

signed.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
bhodilee wrote:That's funny, we were just talking about how toxic water is about 25 minutes ago at work.

Roundup: Actually isn't toxic to people. My dog got into it and I called Roundup right away and they said, no problems. So I called my vet and he concurred. It kills plants, not animals. It also doesn't cross roots, and has no residual, unless you buy the kind that specifically has it. It's a pretty decent all around weed killer, it is NOT approved for aquatic use though. I think only Habitat is certified for aquatic use and you have to have a special permit to handle it. I work with the county weed superintendents around here and have learned quite a bit about herbicides in the last 4 years. I also learned that BASF will go out of their way to kiss your ass if they think it'll lead to a sale later on.

Peter, if I buy you a house here will you run for my board of directors? I'll fly you in once a month just to go to the meetings. I wish they got it like you do.



Just to show you how polarized people think: a few years ago I was having a friendly discussion with the mother of a student at the school across the street from our vineyard. (I have given every principal there a written description of our farming practices, particularly pesticide use, so that they can answer parents' concerns.) At one point she told me about her neighbor spraying Roundup on weeds where his driveway met the street, "His dog pees there. Doesn't he know he's giving his dog cancer?" I didn't waste my energy; some people are beyond simple reason.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
canonizer wrote:Again, it seems pragmatism rules the day. The mass cloud spraying of ddt in the 1950s was overambitious and detrimental, as well as toxic. However, as intelligent human beings, it is up to us to determine what level of use, if any, is appropriate. Local sprayings around windows are the most efficient, safe, economical and environmental way to fight malaria, as far as I know.

Is it potentially viable and appropriate for use in the US? Maybe yes, but I'm hard pressed to believe that any massive crop dustings, whether "natural" "organic" or "synthetic" is good.



I agree. Risk = toxicity X exposure

mother


quality posts: 15 Private Messages mother
bhodilee wrote:That's what I was telling people, pure water will kill your ass dead. Or too much water in general will kill you, kidney failure isn't it?


Uhh, drowning?

bhodilee


quality posts: 32 Private Messages bhodilee
mother wrote:Uhh, drowning?



Awesome, but no, I seem to remember that ingesting too much water or a short period of time can lead to renal failure. Didn't some radio station in California get in massive trouble for his a year or two back, something about who can drink the most water without peeing wins a Wii and some mother died due to it?

Nope, something about brain electrolytes still, crazy.

"The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it."

– George Bernard Shaw, author (1856-1950)

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 234 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
bhodilee wrote:That's what I was telling people, pure water will kill your ass dead. Or too much water in general will kill you, kidney failure isn't it?




Before I changed majors, I had a nutrition professor at UC, Dr. Stokstad, who voiced the opinion that anything you eat is deleterious to health if you consume too much of it, even water, but that you die faster if you don't eat at all. His advice was to eat a varied diet and not stress about it.