Food quality; Devil's Advocate

No Snacks, no sweets, no seconds. Except on Days that start with S. Too simple for you? Simple is why it works. Look here for questions, introductions, support, success stories.

Moderators: Soprano, automatedeating

Post Reply
stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by stevecooper » Tue May 15, 2007 7:38 am

Hi, All.

I didn't want to hijack the current quality of food matters thread, but it got me thinking about our attitudes to food safety.

I'm going to make a few statements, and I was wondering if anyone could knock them down with any firm evidence. They swim against the current fashion, but just as an exercise in challenging assumptions, have a go at blatting it down, with evidence. I am playing Devil's advocate, because I want to get people thinking about the basis of their current beliefs.

Because organic foods use less pesticides, they get more pests.

Pesticides kill pests. Organic food, which uses less pesticides, therefore gets more pests. Quality control filters out the spoiled stuff, but the consequence is that an organic field yields less than a non-organic field. Which leads me to...

Organic farming put's pressure on us to cultivate wild land

Non-organic methods of farming are designed to yield high volumes out of small areas. Organic methods yield less produce per acre. If we eat the same amount of fruit, vegetables and meat, moving over to organic farming requires us to use more land to compensate. We aren't going to knock down cities; we're going to start encroaching on previously-uncultivated land. Like cutting down the rainforest to grow organic soy beans.

Pick any organic product from a supermarket shelf. It will not have been available to our ancestors 10,000 years ago, because it has been created by genetic modification.

For over 10,000 years, mankind has used artificial selection to create high-yield crops and livestock. Wheat, for example, was cultivated from wild grasses. Modern pigs are cultivated from boar. Over the millenia, we have selected and selected and selected, and no modern food is 'natural', in the sense of 'in an unmodified state'.

Our ancestors would not have been able to eat wheat, rice, oats, carrots, pork from pigs, beef from cows, loganberries, or almonds. (Wild almonds are poisonous. Carrots were 'invented' in the tenth century. The Loganberry was created in 1880.)

So -- you aren't getting 'natural' products if you start growing ultra-cultivated plants without pesticides. The plants themselves are as natural as a plastic bag.

But, that doesn't matter much, because

No-one ever got sick eating GM foods

In fact, people get better. GM foods like [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_rice]golden rice[/rul] would help save millions of lives per year. Except that developed-world ecological movements like greenpeace oppose it's introduction, leading to blindness and death where they succeed in limiting it's introduction.

In the good old days, food used to be of much lower quality

Way back when, when food was produced more naturally, there were significantly higher incidences of food poisoning, and food used to spoil more quickly. Natural food is dangerous food. Feeding your kids natural food will make them sick more often.

Modern farming makes fresh food more readily available

High-yield farming produces more food; greater supply drives down prices. Therefore, more people can afford more fresh fruit and vegetables. Produce has never been cheaper. This promotes healthy eating for the entire society.

Anyway, that's got to be enough to get on with. Enjoy!

dvisnjevac
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:17 am

genetically modified food

Post by dvisnjevac » Tue May 15, 2007 11:44 am

The most significant components of food that play the largest role in weight gain and obesity are food additives, chemicals, and food processing techniques. It is not food itself; it is not really the calories, the amount of fat, and the amount of carbohydrates, sodium, glycemic index level, or protein. It's how food is processed and man-made chemicals and additives in the food that actually cause weight gain and obesity.
These include bovine growth hormone and antibiotics injected into meat, poultry, and dairy products, flavours enhancers, such monosodium glutamate, artificial sweeteners (aspartame). This also includes man-made sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, fructose, highly refined white sugar, processed molasses, processed honey, dextrin, plus the other 15,000 chemicals that are routinely added to virtually every product you buy, including conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Man-made trans fats such as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils cause weight gain and obesity. Additionally, food processing techniques such pasteurization, which is now done on virtually every product in a bottle or carton, homogenization, and irradiation (which is done to over 50% of all food products sold in America) all cause weight gain.

There are many books and articles available.
Following my own experience and research (books, articles) I choose to believe that genetically modified food is not so safe.

User avatar
paulrone
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:42 pm
Location: Missouri

Post by paulrone » Tue May 15, 2007 1:48 pm

I'd like to know where the evidence is for the above response. I'm skeptical by nature, so I'm doubting that animal antibiotics are responsible for weight gain in humans. Hormone injected meat might do it, but homogenizing and pasteurizing? No way.

People get fat from eating more than their body uses - period. I didn't get fat from irradiated cream cheese. I got fat from TOO MUCH cream cheese.

Show me hard empirical evidence and I'll change my mind, but the skeptical side of me says it's just not true.

As for Steve's assertions, I have no opinion yet, except for the idea that organic foods make us sick because they spoil faster. I don't buy that and I don't need a scientist to prove it to me. If it were true, then everyone who has a garden in their back yard would be sick all the time from eating low quality natural food. People got sick in the old days because food storage was primitive or simply didn't exist.

As for the rest of the ideas he poses, perhaps there are some points others would like to address.
-Sometimes Fundamentalist and self-appointed King of the S-day Moderates
"As it is (sometimes) written, so let it (sometimes) be done."

florafloraflora
Posts: 219
Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2007 7:03 pm
Location: Washington, DC USA

Re: Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by florafloraflora » Tue May 15, 2007 2:13 pm

I'll play, even though I think the debate is probably pointless, especially if we're just flinging around assertions without any special background in farming techniques:
stevecooper wrote: Because organic foods use less pesticides, they get more pests.

Quality control filters out the spoiled stuff, but the consequence is that an organic field yields less than a non-organic field.

Not necessarily. Organic farming techniques, with more micronutrients in the soil, produce stronger plants that are better able to fight off diseases and pests. Over the long run, organic farming is actually known to produce equal or higher yields per acre, and especially per dollar of input.

Which leads me to...

Organic farming puts pressure on us to cultivate wild land

Again, not necessarily. See above. And at least in the US, where there is a massive agricultural surplus and we actually pay some farmers not to cultivate their land, we'd have no trouble feeding ourselves adequately even if yields from organic farming were lower.

Pick any organic product from a supermarket shelf. It will not have been available to our ancestors 10,000 years ago, because it has been created by genetic modification.

So -- you aren't getting 'natural' products if you start growing ultra-cultivated plants without pesticides. The plants themselves are as natural as a plastic bag.

Apples and oranges: whether a food was around in its current state thousands of years ago has nothing to do with the way it is produced today, and I would argue, not much to do with its healthful qualities. When people look for "natural" foods (whatever that means), I doubt they're looking for a genetic profile that hasn't changed in 1000's of years.

But, that doesn't matter much, because

No-one ever got sick eating GM foods

I don't know about this one way or the other, but there's a huge difference between breeding plants for flavor or disease resistance and breeding them to resist a certain pesticide [edited: I meant "herbicide"], which gives one chemical company a marketing boost and jeopardizes the crops of neighboring farmers who don't use that chemical. Some GM crops may have higher yields, but they are more expensive to produce, especially when you consider externalities like increased pesticide [again, I meant to say "herbicide"] use on fields of Roundup-ready crops, and possible decreases in the diversity of crop varieties.

In the good old days, food used to be of much lower quality

I'd add "storage techniques" between "food" and "used".

Modern farming makes fresh food more readily available

Not sure what you mean by high-yield farming; that could cover a number of techniques but probably means more pesticides and artificial fertilizers. Food grown under those conditions is not going to be as rich in nutrients as organically-grown food, and the damage to human health from pesticides and artificial fertilizers more than outweighs any benefit from cheaper low-nutrient fruits and vegetables.
I try to eat organically-produced food because I think it's higher in nutrients and better for human health because it eliminates the damage that can be done by pesticides and artificial fertilizers. I think organic fields are better for farm workers and for farming communities. Beyond that, a lot of organically-produced food just tastes better to me.
Last edited by florafloraflora on Wed May 16, 2007 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

wosnes
Posts: 4168
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:38 pm
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA

Post by wosnes » Tue May 15, 2007 3:38 pm

I'm not sure that organic food is more nutritious -- if I remember correctly, studies have shown that there's no difference in the nutrient values. But, it's without all the "-cides" and fertilizers and it definitley tastes better.

Animal products that aren't even organic, but where the animals have been grown without hormones and antibiotics taste so much better than the standard supermarket varieties. Yes, they're more expensive, but they're worth it, especially if you do as Michael Pollan and others suggest and eat less.

I'm tired of better eating through chemistry.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the thing itself has changed but our power to do it is increased." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You are what you eat -- so don't be Fast, Easy, Cheap or Fake."

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Re: genetically modified food

Post by stevecooper » Tue May 15, 2007 5:02 pm

dvisnjevac wrote:The most significant components [...] in weight gain and obesity are food additives, chemicals, and food processing techniques. [...] it is not really the calories
Wow. It's not calories. It's aspartame. I'd never have thought that, because, well, no doctor I've ever talked to ever mentioned it. They just talked about reduced calorie intake and moderate exercise. Any hard evidence that calories don't make the difference?

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Tue May 15, 2007 5:09 pm

paulrone wrote:except for the idea that organic foods make us sick because they spoil faster. I don't buy that and I don't need a scientist to prove it to me.
Yep. That was one of the ones I made up out of the blue. I have heard that food used to be more likely to cause food poisoning, but I can't quote a source, and I'm not sure if I believe it.

As a cool little turnaround on this point, my fiancee suggested that she remembers hearing (again, no evidence to quote) that organic food may be healthier because it actually contains more pests, and the pests promote the immune system. This is thinking analogous to the idea that kids are getting more asthma nowadays because their mum's are keeping houses too clean and free of bacteria during their early development.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Re: Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by stevecooper » Tue May 15, 2007 6:09 pm

Florafloraflora;

You wrote "I'll play, even though I think the debate is probably
pointless, especially if we're just flinging around assertions without
any special background in farming techniques"

That's part of the point, really. I'm throwing around statements in
direct contradiction to some commonly held beliefs; things like
'organic food is healthier' and 'organic food is good for the
environment'.

If these things were confirmed fact, it should be very easy to counter
my points with evidence.

What I'm aiming for is a socratic dialog, a good, healthy challenge to
thought. This being the internet, though, I have to face the fact that
it's going to feel just a little like I'm trolling. I promise I'm
not. ;)

------------------------------------------

I wrote: Because organic foods use less pesticides, they get more
pests.


And you wrote: Not necessarily. Organic farming techniques, with
more micronutrients in the soil, produce stronger plants that are
better able to fight off diseases and pests. Over the long run,
organic farming is actually known to produce equal or higher yields
per acre, and especially per dollar of input.


Cool, that's interesting, but I'm not yet convinced. Two things;

First up, why would organic farming techniques invest the soil with
more micronutrients? That's what fertilisers are; 'organic' usually
implies less fertilisers, so presumably less fertile soil.

Second, where did you get the assertion that organic food is yields
more per acre and per dollar? What's the source there?

------------------------------------------

I wrote; Organic farming puts pressure on us to cultivate wild
land


And you replied; Again, not necessarily. See above. And at least
in the US, where there is a massive agricultural surplus [...]


As you say, I suspect my original assertion is thrown wildly off by
agricultural policy. In an environment involving subsidies to both
produce and not produce, my 'market forces' argument doesn't hold much
water.

It might hold more water in other situations; say, the growing of
organic produce in countries without farming subsidies. I would guess
(without evidence) that organic foods, with their higher pricetags,
are an attractive cash crop in the developing world?

------------------------------------------

I wrote: Pick any organic product from a supermarket shelf. It will
not have been available to our ancestors 10,000 years ago, because it
has been created by genetic modification.


And you replied; Apples and oranges: whether a food was around in
its current state thousands of years ago has nothing to do with the
way it is produced today, and I would argue, not much to do with its
healthful qualities.


My thinking here was to segue from organic food (the big 'yes') to
genetically modified food (a big 'no', at least here in the UK.)

In the UK, the press regularly label crops from companies like
Monsanto as 'Frankenstein foods', with an implicit belief that these
foods are unlike 'natural' foods -- presumably, good old-fashioned
foods like the carrot.

My thoughts here are influenced by the ideas of the paleolithic diet,
which is the idea that we should eat like our hunter-gatherer
ancestors. About 10,000 years ago, there was a shift in eating from
game and foraged foods to farmed foods. Considered from an
evolutionary perspective, any artifically-selected farm produce can be
seen as 'not the original food of our species.'


------------------------------------------

I wrote; No-one ever got sick eating GM foods

And you replied: I don't know about this one way or the other, but
there's a huge difference between breeding plants for flavor or
disease resistance and breeding them to resist a certain pesticide


Yes, indeed. Putting people over a barrel when it comes to their food
source is a evil business. Creating food with higher levels of
nutrients, leading to fewer critical vitamin deficiencies, well, that
I have less of a problem with.

Again, this is probably my UK-centric view, where GM foods are seen as
a priori evil.

------------------------------------------

I wrote; Modern farming makes fresh food more readily available

And you replied; Not sure what you mean by high-yield farming; that
could cover a number of techniques but probably means more pesticides
and artificial fertilizers. Food grown under those conditions is not
going to be as rich in nutrients as organically-grown food, and the
damage to human health from pesticides and artificial fertilizers more
than outweighs any benefit from cheaper low-nutrient fruits and
vegetables.


By high-yield farming, I meant, really, anything that increases the
yield of produce. I suppose you could see it as 'what the other 96% of
farmers do.' These farmers have, as a primary incentive, the
production of huge amounts of fruit and veg for as little cost as
possible. The argument is, by producing cheaply, market forces drive
down prices to consumers, encouraging consumption.

Of course, this will be affected by government subsidies. If our
governments pay people not to produce at top intensity, the market
forces shift.

Can you tell me your sources for believing that artificial pesticides
cause health problems? Specifically, what problems, how severe are
they, and who is at risk?

florafloraflora
Posts: 219
Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2007 7:03 pm
Location: Washington, DC USA

Post by florafloraflora » Tue May 15, 2007 7:41 pm

Steve, I appreciate what you're trying to do but I'm not going to cite sources. The problem with debates like this is that you can always find a quote from someplace official-sounding like the Institute for Human Nutrition, the Center for Technological Advancement, or "scientists in Italy", to support just about any position, and I don't want to get mired in nitpicking about statistics. So I'll just say that about yields from organic vs. conventional farming, and the negative health effects of pesticides, I've heard about them from different sources I find trustworthy. Plus, on pesticides, I have my own natural skepticism of any chemical that hasn't been thoroughly tested, over decades and lifetimes, and found to be safe. That goes for pharmaceuticals that are approved for human use, too.

I think we're not very far apart on the issue of GM crops, although I can think of a lot of other solutions I'd look to first for the world's food problems.

For the issue I can respond to off the top of my head: organic farming doesn't mean that fertilizers aren't allowed, it just means using organic sources of fertilizer (manure, fish emulsion, composted plant wastes, etc.) rather than synthetic/petroleum-based ones. These food sources provide a fuller spectrum of micronutrients than the synthetic fertilizers, which consist of no more than a few different chemical compounds (as opposed to hundreds in organic sources) formulated with an eye to N-P-K balance but nothing else. Same for pesticides: organic farmers fight pests too, but they're more likely to deploy insects or bacteria that prey specifically on the targeted pests than to use toxic chemicals. The result, with organic agriculture, is food that contains more helpful micronutrients and fewer toxic residues.

Having said all that about sources, now I'm going to point to Zoolina's post in this thread: http://everydaysystems.com/bb/viewtopic.php?t=2005, which summarizes a study that found higher levels of nutrients in organically-grown food.

User avatar
paulrone
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:42 pm
Location: Missouri

Post by paulrone » Tue May 15, 2007 9:57 pm

I don't know how many of you read the comic, "Nonsequitor", but a character named Danae once said that no one can argue with you if you start your statement with "they say." After all, who are "they" and how can you prove "they' didn't actually say it? (i.e. "They say you hate babies, puppy dogs and the color blue. Is that true, Senator?") See? You just can't argue with that sort of logic.
So, if you don't want to cite sources, just type "they say" first, and you're in the clear!
-Sometimes Fundamentalist and self-appointed King of the S-day Moderates
"As it is (sometimes) written, so let it (sometimes) be done."

joasia
Posts: 1101
Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:22 pm
Location: California

Post by joasia » Wed May 16, 2007 12:24 am

I think it is common sense that something sprayed with chemicals will never be as good for you as organic. I try to buy organic when I can. Than being said, I think the biggest issue is eating too much. I need to tackle that problem first.
The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they feed themselves. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

joasia
Posts: 1101
Joined: Tue Aug 22, 2006 3:22 pm
Location: California

Post by joasia » Wed May 16, 2007 12:26 am

P.S. and if we want to get technical everything around us is bad. From the chemicals we use to clean the bathroom to the laundry soap. All of that goes into your skin and lungs. We can't get paranoid. Do what you can.
The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they feed themselves. Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Bee
Posts: 125
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:12 am

Post by Bee » Wed May 16, 2007 2:35 am

For me, the logic behind eating more organic foods is two-fold:
1. Organic food is more closely related to the way we ate a long time ago. Sure, in our hunter-gatherer days we didn't have domesticated animals and vegetables, but we also didn't consume a lot of pesticides and hormones. I, for one, am not about to go back to being a malnourished, worm-eating cavewoman, but I would like do what I can to avoid a lot of extra chemicals on my food
2. Supporting the organic and natural food producers sends a message to society and to more mainstream food producers that we are mindful and careful about where out food comes from and how it is produced. If they had it their way, food producers would produce horrendous processed and chemical laden food that is cheap to manufacture and that is probably going to make us all die a slow and horrible death. Their bottom line is not really what I want the basis for my food choices to be about.

You can do these studies showing that this or that is better or worse for you. And probably a lot of them are valid, some aren't and that's great, but when you look at the big picture, it is hard to gauge the effects of these huge, big-picture things like societal diet trends. We CAN'T know the large-scale, population-level, long term relationships between health and eating crap. It's just not going to be that clear cut and it will take a lot of years of eating like this for measurable trends to really clearly emerge. So in the mean time, I vote for the sensible strategy: don't eat too much crap!

Bee
Posts: 125
Joined: Tue Jan 09, 2007 1:12 am

Post by Bee » Wed May 16, 2007 2:47 am

Also, of course when it comes to organic farming, yes, in theory it costs more to produce and takes up more land, blah blah blah, but we all know that MANY of the problems behind people getting a healthy diet are issues unrelated to the cost of producing healthy food and supply issues and are MORE related to:
1. distribution and availability problems
2. cultural attitudes about diet
3. socioeconomic inequalities

zoolina
Posts: 252
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:48 pm
Location: In Transit

Post by zoolina » Wed May 16, 2007 6:47 am

This debate reminds me of an article I read in one of those airplane magazines about how good it is to smoke, drink tons of coffee and eat a diet high in saturated fat and sugar. The article was, of course, tongue in cheek, but the author did quote a lot of credible scientific studies to show how these things are actually very, very good for you.

Would you use a DDT-laced cooking spray if it were a third of the price? If your answer is yes, don't worry about buying orgainc; if your answer is no, then you might consider supporting your local health food store.

wosnes
Posts: 4168
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:38 pm
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA

Post by wosnes » Wed May 16, 2007 12:38 pm

if your answer is no, then you might consider supporting your local health food store.
When possible, I support my local farmers and farmer's market instead of the HFS.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the thing itself has changed but our power to do it is increased." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You are what you eat -- so don't be Fast, Easy, Cheap or Fake."

dvisnjevac
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:17 am

genetically modified food

Post by dvisnjevac » Wed May 16, 2007 1:25 pm

If you want to get more details how weight gain is related to genetically modified food read “Weight Loss Cure” by Kevin Trudeau.

User avatar
paulrone
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:42 pm
Location: Missouri

Post by paulrone » Wed May 16, 2007 1:51 pm

Perhaps I'm a neophyte to the organic foods industry, but the main reason my family buys organics is for taste. The difference between Kroger cucumbers and Isaac, the local Mennonite farmer's cucumbers is taste. Isaac has corn and cucumbers that taste so good you could cry.

I also refuse to pay a higher price for organic foods simply because "the market will support it." I understand the economics of something as chic and popular as eating organic, but the reality is that production is not that much more expensive for organic farmers. They have lower crop production, but they also reduce expenses by not using insecticides. It's a wash, really. The price shouldn't be so high. If prices would come down, I would be more inclined to buy organic. As it stands now, I will grow my own food to the extent that I can and it will supplement what I buy at the store. I may not eliminate all chemicals from my food, but I can reduce them.
-Sometimes Fundamentalist and self-appointed King of the S-day Moderates
"As it is (sometimes) written, so let it (sometimes) be done."

dvisnjevac
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:17 am

Post by dvisnjevac » Wed May 16, 2007 3:11 pm

People make different choices every day because we all have different priorities.
However it is important to be informed and hear what other people say.

Here is interesting article about organic food:
Organic Food

User avatar
paulrone
Posts: 112
Joined: Thu Apr 26, 2007 6:42 pm
Location: Missouri

Post by paulrone » Wed May 16, 2007 5:37 pm

OK, so I read the article.

I really don't feel any more informed, though. I'm not against organic foods - quite the opposite, actually. Specifically, I'm against the high prices charged by retailers.

I think you misinterpreted my intentions in previous posts. I'm not against hearing what others have to say or considering other points of view. I only feel that individuals are responsible for avoiding and correcting misinformation when they see it. An earlier post informed other members that food additives make people fat. I'm not arguing whether it's right or wrong, I just want to see some research to back this. It goes against conventional knowledge, thus requiring scrutiny before acceptance.

New and irreverent ideas are a good thing - as long as they can stand on truth, not misinformation. So show me the source of this information. I would really like to know more.
-Sometimes Fundamentalist and self-appointed King of the S-day Moderates
"As it is (sometimes) written, so let it (sometimes) be done."

User avatar
reinhard
Site Admin
Posts: 5805
Joined: Tue Apr 12, 2005 7:38 pm
Location: Cambridge, MA
Contact:

Post by reinhard » Wed May 16, 2007 6:13 pm

Interesting thread! But sorry, I'm way too ignorant on this subject to add much... I've read enough on both sides of the argument to know that there's a lot more to it than initially seems to be the case.

I buy organic milk and free range eggs because I feel sorry for the cooped up cows and chickens in conventional factory farms. Otherwise I have to admit to being a bit of a miser when it comes to shelling out for (far less sympathetic) vegetables... I understand why they cost more. I just can't usually bring myself to pay it.

Reinhard

wosnes
Posts: 4168
Joined: Mon Sep 18, 2006 3:38 pm
Location: Indianapolis, IN, USA

Post by wosnes » Wed May 16, 2007 10:28 pm

The "organic" label on milk, eggs, and so on doesn't mean the animals weren't factory farmed. It just means that is was done by organic means. I think you've got to look for "free range" to insure that they weren't cooped up. Maybe that's what you meant, though.
"That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do. Not that the nature of the thing itself has changed but our power to do it is increased." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

"You are what you eat -- so don't be Fast, Easy, Cheap or Fake."

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Thu May 17, 2007 1:12 pm

I apologise about not having enough time to answer everyone's points
directly! I'll do what I can. Milczar, I'm concentrating on your point
because it was so short, I think your point sums up a common feeling,
and I wanted to go into a single, small example in some depth.
milczar wrote:I think it is common sense that something sprayed
with chemicals will never be as good for you as organic.
Common sense often turns out to be very wrong indeed.

Aristotle, and every physicist after him until Galileo, believed that
lead balls fall faster than wooden balls. That's common sense. To be
honest, even though I've done the experiments and have a degree in
physics, some part of me still believes that lead balls fall
faster than wooden balls. Common sense screws with you.

Diets and weight-loss are particularly prone to common-sense
pitfalls. Common sense things from dieting history include;

- 'if you eat low-fat products you will get less fat'
- 'skipping meals will help you lose weight'
- 'fat people are lazy and greedy'

All of them are reasonable, common-sense ideas, but the evidence shows
them to be false. That's why I'm so insistent on evidence over common
sense.

How you phrase things matters in debates like this.

Phrases like 'sprayed with chemicals' has a powerful rhetorical power
-- 'chemicals' are bad, right? But everything is chemistry. Vitamins
and minerals are chemicals. Antioxidants are chemicals. Water is a
chemical. (Have a watch of the fun
Penn and Teller
video
where they get people to sign a petition against
dihydrogen monoxide...)

My point is, the phrases we use to describe our food contain this
powerful rhetorical effect. Here's some phrases equivalent in fact,
but opposite in rhetorical power;

1A I insist my family's food comes from traditional, organic sources.
1B I insist my children's food is grown in animal shit.

2A This food is fortified with natural Vitamin C!
2B The corporation injects this food with 2-oxo-L-threo-hexono-1,4-lactone-2,3-enediol!

3A 21-day matured beef steaks.
3B 3-week-dead cow corpse lumps.

4A Charged with Glucose!
4B Stuffed with sugar.

5A Contains lots of minerals
5B Exhibits high levels of sulphur, sodium, and magnesium.

The point? Almost every reasonable, healthy, pleasant sounding
description can be paired with an unhealthy, unpleasant, evil-sounding
equivalent. We need a way to judge the effects of food beyond
description.
Last edited by stevecooper on Thu May 17, 2007 1:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Re: genetically modified food

Post by stevecooper » Thu May 17, 2007 1:27 pm

dvisnjevac wrote:If you want to get more details how weight gain is related to genetically modified food read “Weight Loss Cure” by Kevin Trudeau.
I looked it up on amazon. The reviewers almost universally panned it; it scores an average of 2 out of 5. One reviewer revealed the core of the system; "you have to get daily injections that can only be legally obtained only through an m.d. then, for the results he is talking about, you receive at least 2 professional colonics per week." It's written by a man "claiming to be a secret covert operative" (quote from the back flap of the book) and who is not a scientist.

This makes it less than compelling evidence.

dvisnjevac
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:17 am

Post by dvisnjevac » Thu May 17, 2007 2:13 pm

My post also say read the book. If you read it you will find reference to the many scientific documents, books articles, manuscripts…

For example:
  • Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NaturaSweet and the FDA May be Hazardous to Your Health, by Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Kendra Degen Pearsall (explains why artificial sweeteners are contributing to cancer, obesity, diabetes and more.)

    Inside the FDA: The Business and Politics Behind the Drugs We Take and Food We Eat, by Fran Hawthorne

    Fat Land: How Americans Became Fattest People in the World, by Greg Critser

    Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis and What We can Do About It, by Kelly D Brownell

    Aspartame: Is It Safe? by H.J. Roberts, M.D.

    Excitotoxins-The Taste that Kills, by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D

    Genetically Engineered Food - Changing the Nature of Nature, by Martin Teitel, Ph.D. and Kimberly A. Wilson
List above is just a small list of the many references from the Kevin’s book.
It is not simple as Amazon.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Thu May 17, 2007 4:50 pm

dvisnjevac wrote:My post also say read the book. If you read it you will find reference to the many scientific documents, books articles, manuscripts…
The reviews put me off the book, big time. The book itself, it seems, recommends injecting yourself with hormones to lose weight -- an approach I'm not going to subject myself to, and which makes me very suspicious. I really don't want to waste time or money on it. However -- I'm still happy to look at sources. I can't afford the time or expense of reading popular books on the subject -- thousands of diet books and 'food issue' books are available, and no clear agreement between them exists. This suggests that most of them are wrong. I'd rather look at some nice, solid scientific papers.

For example, I found this one interesting -- a ten page overview of what has been done to study organic food and it's differences from conventional farming.

It has some interesting points; for example, while organic foods may have more nutrients, this may not be an issue for most western people because they aren't vitamin-deficient anyway.

Nitrates are lower and beta-carotine levels higher, too; but I don't know the levels of nitrates necessary to cause problems -- how much veg must you consume to get levels of nitrates your kidneys don't just filter out?

Page 7 includes a summary of an investigation into the health of 17 elderly nuns, who felt better eating organic foods, but who lost no weight.

Interesting, too, were the absences; no large-scale studies of health effects, weight, etc.

I've emailed a professor of ecological agriculture to see if he can recommend any other stuff. I'll let you all know what I find out, if I do.

dvisnjevac
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:17 am

Post by dvisnjevac » Thu May 17, 2007 6:18 pm

Time is a problem to me too. However, books are free in any public library. By the way listed books in my previous post are result of scientific research. (Inside the FDA: The Business and Politics Behind the Drugs We Take and Food We Eat, by Fran Hawthorne, Fat Land: How Americans Became Fattest People in the World, by Greg Critser, Food Fight: The Inside Story of the Food Industry, America’s Obesity Crisis and What We can Do About It, by Kelly D Brownell, Aspartame: Is It Safe? by H.J. Roberts, M.D. , Excitotoxins-The Taste that Kills, by Russell L. Blaylock, M.D, Genetically Engineered Food - Changing the Nature of Nature, by Martin Teitel, Ph.D. and Kimberly A. Wilson)

kccc
Posts: 3950
Joined: Fri Oct 27, 2006 1:12 am

Post by kccc » Thu May 17, 2007 7:07 pm

I don't want to debate this, really. It's the sort of debate that can get nasty fast on a discussion board. Plus, it just takes too much typing. ;)

So I'll state my position, and bow out.

I choose organic, where I can, for these reasons:

1) It genuinely tastes better to me.
2) Though organic and free-range are not identical, much organic IS free range. I am not averse to eating animals, but would like them to be treated humanely. (I do look for "free-range.")
3) I think conventional farming practices are genuinely scary. For example, it seems clear that it's only a matter of time before mad cow disease is rampant in this country. The FDA is totally toothless in regard to oversight.

I also think that the claims that "it's identical" or "just as nutritious" are VERY over-rated. Scientists don't always identify every characteristic that matters, as we've seen over and over. Michael Pollen's wonderful article traces that history of discovery in a very readable form. (Link is on this site somewhere, but I'm too time-pressed to go looking.)

Anyway... organic might not be perfect. I'm sure there are instances where it is less desirable than some conventional methods. But you have to get specific to have a meaningful conversation about where it's better or worse, and this kind of discussion format doesn't go there easily.

Over and out. :)

pangelsue
Posts: 571
Joined: Sun Mar 12, 2006 2:13 pm
Location: Wisconsin

Post by pangelsue » Wed May 30, 2007 8:24 pm

I am jumping in the middle of this conversation because I feel I have a little different viewpoint on organic foods and foods free of additives and presevatives. One that hasn't been stated yet.
Up until 11 years ago, I ate whatever I wanted and whatever tasted good and was cheapest. Then my husband was diagnosed with lymphoma. He was only 50 at the time and after the cancerous lymph nodes in his neck were removed, the doctors said they would not do chemo unless it showed up again. We thought we were home free but they also told him he probably had about 6 years. We were in total shock. Well, anyone who knows me, knows I don't like being told what to do and I don't always believe that a doctor knows everything. We asked his oncologist about diet and nutrition and he (honestly) answered that he didn't know squat about nutrition and that his job was understanding the medicines used to fight cancer. So we started investigating on our own and found (as you all seem to have found, that there is a lot of information and misinformation out there and it is anyone's guess how much of it is true. We have gone from sceptical to lala land in our beliefs at times and have settled somewhere in the middle I think.
BUT, the cornerstone of our belief to spend the extra for organic/pesticide/additive/antibiotic free and hormone free foods, soaps and body products came from 2 experiences. The first was a questionaire the eye ear nose and throat surgeon gave my husband after his diagnosis. Questions on the form asked if he still have his tonsils, his gallbladder, spleen and appendix. It also asked if he had ever had extended exposure to chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. I asked why they asked those questions and the doctor was vague. He said there is some research being done to see if there is a relationship between these things and his type of cancer.
The other deciding factor came from attending several conferences presented by Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They do all of the regular chemo, testing, and surgery etc. as any other hospital but they also give advise and consultation on food and nutrition. (One of the books they recommend is "Beating Cancer with Nutrition". Awesome, readable book.) Someone in the audience asked the question that if all these additives, perservatives blah, blah, blah are so bad for us, why doesn't everyone get cancer? Their reply was that everything we eat becomes part of us. The liver, kidneys etc. filter out things that could presumably harm us. If one has a strong immune system, one could presumably eat anything and not be harmed by it. If one is however born with a weaker immune system or has history in their family of immune systme disorders (like cancer), the less load we put on the immune system the better. During the course of the first conference, nothing was said about blood cancers like my husband had. So after this type of cancer was also not discussed at the second conference, I talked to the doctor giving the lecture after the conference and asked specifically about lymphoma. I didn't even have the words out of my mouth, and she said, "organic, organic, organic and keep away from all pesticides, herbicides, additives, preservatives and chemicals (paint, cigarette smoke, solvents etc.). She said his immune system was working overtime trying to keep him healthy and that the less it was taxed the better. She made no promises about it curing him or anything dramatic like that, but she said it gave him a better fighting chance. So I started thinking that I don't really know what shape my immune system is in either. My mother died of breast cancer. I asked myself if I wanted to take the risk and the answer was "no". That was 11 years ago and he still hasn't needed any treatment. We don't go nuts or anything. We eat out at least once or twice a week. We eat whatever is served at friend's houses but we try to make 90% of what we eat as clean as we trust (at least with the information we have today) that we can get it.

By the way, to help support Reinhard's approach to eating, the writer of the book mentioned above also presents all kinds of research (footnotes) showing that cancer cells feed on glucose. He presents support showing that we have known this since the 1930's. Thanks, Reinhard for the caveat on sugar.

Also regarding antibiotics, I have read repeatedly (they, again, I know) there might be a relationship between the amount of antibiotics in our meat and dairy products and the reduced effectiveness of antibiotics in fighting infections. Don't know but would rather not take the chance. Cost? We make casseroles with half a pound of meat instead of a pound. Supplement with beans or cheese.

Regarding transfats- (from a presentation on obesity/stomach stapling presented through my workplace by my insurance company) Because transfats are not a food source but a step away from being a plastic, they clog the fine hairs in our digestive tracts that take up nourishment to our bodies. Those clogged cila can become unclogged but it takes a long time. They said that research is being done to see if morbidly obese people are actually starving to death because they cannot get enough nutrients to survive from a normal amount of food. Again, I have no support other than doctors and insurance companies?? Why would they lie about this?

Also, 3rd world counties are getting on the band wagon growing certified organic coffee, chocolate, nuts etc. Another plus.

And finally, and then I will get off my soapbox, regarding soil nutients and organic farm animals. We are good friends with the farmer we buy our stuff from. He said he almost lost everything when he went organic in the 60's and 70's, long before it was chic. He said when he transitioned his farm, for the first 4 years or so, the soil was dead. There were no insects, no worms, nothing but soil. His crops were small and diseased and not worth selling. His first attempt to raise organic animals resulted in many deaths and few healthy births. Then things started to turn around. The critters came back to the soil. He says his soil feels alive to him now. Also the animals started surviving and prospering. They rarely get sick. He stuck with it longer than I probably would have but it meant a lot to him and it still does. He said he wanted to do this because he is old enough to remember when his grandfather and father farmed without chemicals and antibiotics etc. he said he felt like he had become a chemist instead of a farmer and he wanted to believe in the soil as his ancestors had. Corny, I know, but believe me, you don't want to say "Steve, why do you grow organic" unless you have a couple of hours to spare."

Enough. Just some ramblings on what I believe and support.
A lot of growing up happens between "it fell" and "I dropped it."

Big Phil
Posts: 91
Joined: Tue Jul 12, 2005 6:13 am
Location: Adelaide, South Australia

Post by Big Phil » Fri Jun 01, 2007 5:21 am

Hi Steve,
I don't have the references at hand, but they shouldn't be too hard to search out...
About two years ago several brands of organic corn (I think it was corn) were pulled from the shelves in the UK due to aflatoxin contamination. The aflatoxin was produced by a mould growing on the corn, as the corn, being organic, was not treated with pesticides. Aflatoxin is a natural substance (how natural is mould!) but is also very toxic and one of the most carcinogenic substances ever discovered. So the contention that something is better for you because it is organic does not stand the empirical evidence. The problem with the organic corn did not get the media attention that protests against GE corn got, but there you go with the mainstream media liberal bias. This case was covered in an article on the Institute of Public Affairs website (Australia).
It is also illustrative that a natural contaminant (aflatoxin) is highly carcinogenic. A lot of food arguments are set up as if there is a perfect alternative -which there is not - it is all a balance of risks. Maybe some pesticides give you cancer after 40 years of exposure, but if they did not use those additives you would have died 20 years earlier due to food poisoning or aflatoxin. The same goes for the antibiotics. It is all a balance of risks, because after all we are all going to die, no matter how good our diet is. If someone starts telling you they have a diet or food that guarantees perfect health, grab your wallet and head for the hills!
The best measure of a diets effectiveness I think should be longevity - a measure of death from all causes. Because breaking it down into different diseases - heart disease, cancer, lyme disease :shock: , can cloud the fact that death from one category might be reduced while another increases.
On that note, maybe the foods today aren't perfect, but people are living longer than ever! I know that is a product of medical advances as well, but the food can't be hurting too much. Once again, we are not comparing against a past in which everyone lived to a ripe old age and died quietly in their sleep - far from it!! A brief glance at even recent medical history will show you that, let alone what people would have endured in the distant past!
In regards to improving the quality of food that other messages have touched on - the best thing anyone can do is vote out trade protection for US, European and Japanese agriculture. That will improve world poverty, limit over-production and reduce the price-competiveness of processed foods. It is a difficult problem because the people negatively affected (first world farmers) are easily identified and will immediately feel the effect, whereas the beneficiaries (third world farmers, consumers) either don't get the vote (third world farmers) or will not immediately realise the cause of improvements (consumers). Politically it is a tricky one, but that is why it should be mentioned.

All the best,
Phil.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Tue Jun 05, 2007 9:21 am

Thanks for those big posts, guys. Both very interesting and well-argued.

The Good Old Days

One thing that runs through both arguments, and much of the discussion, is contention over the idea that there were 'good old days', in which people ate naturally and thrived on it.

Phil says "we are not comparing against a past in which everyone lived to a ripe old age and died quietly in their sleep - far from it!! "

Pangelsue says "He said he wanted to do this because he is old enough to remember when his grandfather and father farmed without chemicals and antibiotics etc."

Bee says "Sure, in our hunter-gatherer days we didn't have domesticated animals and vegetables, but we also didn't consume a lot of pesticides and hormones."

I think this is one of those foundational beliefs behind the organic movement -- that we should return to a more natural relationship with the earth.

Me? I'm hesitant to 'return to nature' on principle. Nature doesn't seem to like us all that much. She assaults our food with mould, rats, locusts, blights, birds, infections, flies, weeds, and plagues of frogs. Much of the hard work of farming is defending your food against nature. I say from just a little knowledge; my fiancee has an allotment on which she grows fruit and veg, and much of the work is weeding and protecting growing plants from birds and such. If we left nature to it, we'd end up with no food. Nature is not a pleasant mistress.

So -- what evidence do we have that people were more or less healthy in the past? What evidence that this difference in health is due to food-growing processes, and not levels of exercise, calorie intake, etc? If they were healthier in the past, whatever the reasons behind it, then it's probably a good idea to copy them. If not, we should be looking for better approaches.

zoolina
Posts: 252
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:48 pm
Location: In Transit

Post by zoolina » Wed Jun 06, 2007 1:05 pm

It seems to me that longgevity is a complicated issue . There must be dozens of reasons why people live longer now or died earlier then, that the question of whether or not people who eat/ate orgainc foods live/d longer just can't be ascertained.

And sure, H2O is a chemical (or is it, are all molecules chemicals? Whatever.) and yes vitimins are chemicals. But surely while there are some chemicals that are harmless, even necessary for human life, some might be harmful? If a chemical is created to kill worms and inscects, and has (in the case of DDT) been known to cause birth defects and possibly contribute to cancer, isn't it logical to assume that that particular chemical might be better left uningested? While I do eat non orgainic food when I can't get the same thing in organic, I can't imagine wanting to ingest anything designed to kill. Of course humans are very different from insects, but with our DNA being about 95% the same, are we different enough? I'd rather hedge my bet with organic.

florafloraflora
Posts: 219
Joined: Tue Jan 16, 2007 7:03 pm
Location: Washington, DC USA

Post by florafloraflora » Wed Jun 06, 2007 5:34 pm

stevecooper wrote:Me? I'm hesitant to 'return to nature' on principle. Nature doesn't seem to like us all that much. She assaults our food with mould, rats, locusts, blights, birds, infections, flies, weeds, and plagues of frogs. Much of the hard work of farming is defending your food against nature. I say from just a little knowledge; my fiancee has an allotment on which she grows fruit and veg, and much of the work is weeding and protecting growing plants from birds and such. If we left nature to it, we'd end up with no food. Nature is not a pleasant mistress.
I think there's a middle ground between sitting helplessly by as weeds take over your fields, and carpet-bombing with Roundup. It's like the difference between domesticating wild ducks, and breeding them to be all breast and liver and grow in large beakers for more convenient slicing.
stevecooper wrote:What evidence that this difference in health is due to food-growing processes, and not levels of exercise, calorie intake, etc? If they were healthier in the past, whatever the reasons behind it, then it's probably a good idea to copy them. If not, we should be looking for better approaches.
This may be a US-specific argument because of our perverse farm policy, but even if synthetic agricultural chemicals weren't making us sick, they would still be creating a massive agricultural surplus, which leads to the dumping of the uber-fattening high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil on the market, which leads to an escalating arms race of flavor as manufacturers compete to make things tastier (I disagree, but I seem to be in the minority) by adding more sugar, grease, and salt. The pervasiveness of these agricultural chemicals doesn't just lead to overproduction, the capital-intensive nature of that type of farming also makes it harder for smaller-scale producers (the mythical "family farmer") to compete.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Wed Jun 06, 2007 7:50 pm

zoolina wrote:And sure, H2O is a chemical (or is it, are all
molecules chemicals? Whatever.) and yes vitimins are
chemicals.
Yeah, everything is a chemical. Saying something is full of chemicals
is basically saying 'it is made of "stuff"'. It's also a rhetorical
way of saying 'it's full of evil'
zoolina wrote:But surely while there are some chemicals that are
harmless, even necessary for human life, some might be harmful?
And even more confusingly, some might be both necessary for human life
and harmful. Water, for instance. dehydration and drowning'll
both kill ya. ;) Vitamin A, in too high a quantity,
will
kill you after turning you orange
. And don't forget that
apples contain
cyanide
.

My point? Water is toxic. Vitamins are toxic. Apples contain
poison. But that doesn't mean we should avoid vitamin supplements,
organic fruit, and spring water as dangerous foods. Or, put another
way, if you avoid everything with some level of toxins, you'll starve
to death.

As to not wanting to eat chemicals not designed to kill; plants
produce their own poisons to fend off insects, mammals, molds, and
such. You can't eat a potato without eating poison. In fact,
99.99% of all the
pesticide you eat is created by the plant itself.
;

The toxicological significance of exposures to synthetic chemicals
is examined in the context of exposures to naturally occurring
chemicals. We calculate that 99.99% (by weight) of the pesticides in
the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend
themselves. Only 52 natural pesticides have been tested in high-dose
animal cancer tests, and about half (27) are rodent carcinogens; these
27 are shown to be present in many common foods. We conclude that
natural and synthetic chemicals are equally likely to be positive in
animal cancer tests. We also conclude that at the low doses of most
human exposures the comparative hazards of synthetic pesticide
residues are insignificant.


This particular paper's full of interesting stuff. Did you know
processing flour and rice removes toxins? Brown rice, stuff of health
legend, has large amounts of toxins. I'm gonna leave you know and keep
reading the paper...

----

I'm back to post this quote; Among 1052 chemicals tested in at
least one species in chronic cancer tests, only 52 are naturally
occurring plant pesticides (10-13). Among these, about half (27/52)
are carcinogenic. 11 Even though only a tiny proportion of the plant
toxins in our diet have been tested so far, the 27 natural pesticides
that are rodent carcinogens are present in the following foods: anise,
apple, apricot, banana, basil, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage,
cantaloupe, caraway, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cinnamon,
cloves, cocoa, coffee, collard greens, comfrey herb tea, currants,
dill, eggplant, endive, fennel, grapefruit juice, grapes, guava,
honey, honeydew melon, horseradish, kale, lentils, lettuce, mango,
mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, orange juice, parsley, parsnip, peach,
pear, peas, black pepper, pineapple, plum, potato, radish,
raspberries, rosemary, sesame seeds, tarragon, tea, tomato, and
turnip. Thus, it is probable that almost every fruit and vegetable
in the supermarket contains natural plant pesticides that are rodent
carcinogens.
The levels of these 27 rodent carcinogens in the
above plants are commonly thousands of times higher than the levels of
synthetic pesticides.


Or -- all vegetables are full of natural chemicals that cause cancer
in rats. Levels of synthetic pesticides are insignificant.

Too solid flesh
Posts: 638
Joined: Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:22 pm
Location: England

Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by Too solid flesh » Wed Jun 06, 2007 8:19 pm

stevecooper wrote:rodent carcinogens are present in the following foods: anise,
apple, apricot, banana, basil, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage,
cantaloupe, caraway, carrot, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cinnamon,
cloves, cocoa, coffee, collard greens, comfrey herb tea, currants,
dill, eggplant, endive, fennel, grapefruit juice, grapes, guava,
honey, honeydew melon, horseradish, kale, lentils, lettuce, mango,
mushrooms, mustard, nutmeg, orange juice, parsley, parsnip, peach,
pear, peas, black pepper, pineapple, plum, potato, radish,
raspberries, rosemary, sesame seeds, tarragon, tea, tomato, and
turnip.
What is left to eat?! And I was feeling so virtuous getting a weekly organic veg box.

zoolina
Posts: 252
Joined: Sat Nov 04, 2006 2:48 pm
Location: In Transit

Post by zoolina » Thu Jun 07, 2007 8:24 am

I think the problem with this discussion is that none of us are experts. So many points of fact are obscured to us that we can only go on hunch and intuition and devils-advocaty points of logic. while I dearly love to play the game, I find my stamina flagging, so here are some questions I would like answered:

Are plant toxins specific to one kind of parisite, or to all of them? that is, does the cabbage have toxins that only affect the cabbage butterfly, or all catapilliars? (My question refers to the idea that because humans eat tons of different kinds of plants, maybe we spread the damage of the different plant toxins around while-- again, my limited knowledge gets in the way and I have to suppose--man made toxins are fewer in number and are sprayed on many kinds of plants (brocccoli and cabbage and apples and, etc.)-- do these toxins, because they're on everything, build up in our systems faster?

How do the different plant toxins work? On the nervous system? On the digestive system? And how do plant toxins compare in their working to man made toxins? Which pose a greater threat to our health?

What levels of toxins do plants secrete? And how do these compare to the levels of man made toxins sprayed on plants?

In the case of cyanide in apples, I do know that this poison is located in the seed, but that an antidote for the toxin is found in the skin. (this prevents birds form eating only the seeds, while other animals who eat the whole apple might excreate the seeds, spreading the apple to a new place.) What other safeguards do plants create so that their toxins do not affect all the creatures who might ingest them? Do man made toxins also have similar safeguards?

And on and on. I mean, what do we really know?

So back to my personal hunch, my own intuition: why would you want to eat anything with MORE toxins in it than are already there?

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Thu Jun 07, 2007 1:41 pm

Hi. I'll do my best to answer the questions with the best quality references I can, rather than Internet Logic ;)
zoolina wrote:Are plant toxins specific to one kind of parisite, or to all of them?
This paper suggests that plant toxins come in many forms; herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, etc. So there are different toxins which target different types of life. So yes, there is a decree of specificity here. I'd think that something that harms rats is more likely to harm us than something which harms fungus, but that's by no means a certainty and will vary greatly by chemical.
zoolina wrote:that is, does the cabbage have toxins that only affect the cabbage butterfly, or all catapilliars?
Don't know about data for this, but my thought is that the cabbage will produce the simplest possible toxin possible that harms the cabbage butterfly. Evolutionary pressure would keep the complexity down unless it proves especially effective.

I don't see a reason why there would be a significantly reduced effect on other caterpillars. Remember the apple; it contains hydrogen cyanide, which is a simple chemical and kills -everything-; why make it more complex and more targetted?
zoolina wrote:do these toxins, because they're on everything, build up in our systems faster?
I have very little idea how toxins build up, but I do know there's a phenominal amount of rubbish talked about toxin buildup, so I think it's wise to be cautious. The recent fad for detoxing is illustrative. AFAIK, there is no reason to suspect that detoxing does anything at all. Take a look at this Guardian UK article about the myths surrounding detox, by an MD who regularly writes a 'bad science' column for that paper. His BadScience.Net site is great for articles about pseudo-science health nonsense like Wifi-poisoning or detoxing.

For a very accessible, short introduction to the issues of toxins, synthetic chemicals, and the misunderstanding of chemistry in general, written by chemists, check out Making Sense of Chemical Stories, which includes this quote on detox;

“Among these [myths] is the idea that in some way the body accumulates noxious chemicals during everyday life, and that they need to be expunged by some mysterious process of detoxification, often once a year after Christmas excess. The detox fad — or fads, as there are many methods — is an example of the capacity of people to believe in (and pay for) magic despite the lack of any sound evidence.â€
zoolina wrote:What levels of toxins do plants secrete? And how do these compare to the levels of man made toxins sprayed on plants?
In this paper I quoted before, the authors estimate that for every ten kilo of pesticide in food, only 1 gram is synthetic. 27 of 52 tested natural pesticides are carcinogenic to rats.

So, roughly, in a sack of pesticide, you'd expect half the sack to be cancer-causing natural chemicals, and one teaspoon to be tested, man-made chemicals.
zoolina wrote:In the case of cyanide in apples, I do know that this poison is located in the seed, but that an antidote for the toxin is found in the skin.
Can't find any reference to that, though would be interested in evidence for 'anti-toxins' and such in plants.
zoolina wrote:So back to my personal hunch, my own intuition: why would you want to eat anything with MORE toxins in it than are already there?
Because we don't know that there _are_ more.

Chatting to a friend this lunchtime, he told me something that sounded plausable, though, of course, he couldn't justify it; his idea was that plants produce more toxins the more threatened they are -- just like the human immune system fills with antibodies in reaction to infection. Using synthetic pesticide kills pests, reducing the need for the plant to create it's own and decreasing the overall level of toxins. Since these pesticides are applied to the surface of the plants rather than grown inside the flesh of the plant, presumably washing and peeling will get rid of them. resulting in an overall-reduced level of toxin. Again, not at all scientifically backed up.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Re: Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by stevecooper » Thu Jun 07, 2007 1:46 pm

Too solid flesh wrote:What is left to eat?! And I was feeling so virtuous getting a weekly organic veg box.
All food is poisonous, to some extent. But that's generally OK -- we've got kidneys. ;) Hell, the weekly organic box has got to be good for you; I'm guessing you're eating less crap, generally, right, and getting enough veggies? Feel good about it.

dvisnjevac
Posts: 9
Joined: Fri May 11, 2007 11:17 am

Post by dvisnjevac » Thu Jun 07, 2007 3:35 pm

As zoolina mentioned we are not scientists and this discussion is limited in that direction. Life threatening experiences (like in Pangelsue post) are speaking for itself.

Too solid flesh
Posts: 638
Joined: Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:22 pm
Location: England

Re: Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by Too solid flesh » Thu Jun 07, 2007 8:59 pm

stevecooper wrote:the weekly organic box has got to be good for you; I'm guessing you're eating less crap, generally, right, and getting enough veggies? Feel good about it.
Yes, I started getting a veg box because it's better for the environment (no agricultural pesticides, and fewer food miles because it is from a local farm) and benefits the farmers, but it has the bonuses of being fresher, tasting better and leaving me less room to eat other things!

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Re: Food quality; Devil's Advocate

Post by stevecooper » Fri Jun 08, 2007 9:19 am

Too solid flesh wrote:Yes, I started getting a veg box because it's better for the environment (no agricultural pesticides, and fewer food miles because it is from a local farm)
Good on you. I like the idea of food miles, particularly -- given that most stuff is transported by burning oil, which is quite demonstrably screwing up the world, it may be that buying local will do us all more good than any other food choice. Though I haven't looked into any numbers.

stevecooper
Posts: 124
Joined: Thu Jan 26, 2006 2:56 pm

Post by stevecooper » Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:13 am

dvisnjevac wrote:As zoolina mentioned we are not scientists and this discussion is limited in that direction.
The question of expertise is a difficult one. Real knowledge can take a while to aquire. That said, I have found it relatively straighforward to get to the actual research, and have found it relatively accessible.

I think it's worth realising that you can get to find out exactly what has, and hasn't been done. Google is magnificent for this -- plain old google, with the right searches, will pop up all manner of interesting stuff. For this thread I've been using vanilla google, but a friend recommended [url]http://scholar.google.com]Google Scholar[/url], which concentrates on indexing academic articles, and could be worth a look.

When I'm thinking about sources, the guidelines I'm using are;

* The ideal source is a paper published in an academic journal, and available for download as a PDF. I've posted links to a few of these. You're looking for PDFs of about 10-50 pages, written by doctors and professors, and published in an appropriate journal.

* Next up is a teaching resource on a university website. If you find the MIT course on Biological Chemistry, that again is pretty trustworthy.

* Specific always beat general. Good sources sound like this; 'in a sample of 1038 women aged 45-55, increasing their consumption of 70% cocoa solids by 25g/day lead to a 4% mean increase in seratonin levels' Bad sources sound like this 'Scientists say 'chocolate is good for you''.

* Never trust summaries from journalists or popular media outlets like Yahoo. If you find an article called 'Chocolate linked to Cancer, say scientists', then google for the names of the scientists or the paper, and read it yourself. (Obviously, journalists working for Scientific American are a bit more trustworthy than the National Enquirer)

* Never trust authors of popular diet books. These people make their money by selling diet books, which has almost nothing to do with writing the truth. Reinhart especially. He's a suspicious fiend, if you ask me. ;)

* Numbers are everything. If a particular food raises your chance of getting a disease 1,000%, but there's only a 1-in-10-million chance you'll get it in the first place, well, sod it. It's still 1 in a million. Anything that just quotes the '10 times worse for you' is designed to scare you, to sell papers.
dvisnjevac wrote:Life threatening experiences (like in Pangelsue post) are speaking for itself.
... yes, and no. Pangelsue's case is one piece of data, and I'm extremely glad both her and her husband are healthy. Building on that, a broader picture emerges when you collect more and more evidence. If someone takes the time to track ten thousand similar cases for ten years, some of whom eat organic and some who don't, and then counted the remission rates in both, that tells you something more weighty.

Post Reply