Malawi, me, friends, stories, and whatever else I generally find interesting that's going on in this world...

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The story of "O"rganics

Well, I'm back after a rather long hiatus. And today, kiddies, we're looking into why buying organic/biological/natural foodstuffs are not really a good idea at all.

First of all, lets look at some definitions, shall we? (Curtesy of Wikipedia, TIME Magazine, Scientific American, etc.)

Organic Farming: A form of agriculture which largely excludes the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators, and livestock feed additives. As far as possible, organic farmers rely on crop rotation, crop residues, animal manures and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and tilth to supply plant nutrients, and to control weeds, insects and other pests.

Biological Farming: Growing of living things. All foodstuffs that are grown, reared, cultivated, etc are Biological. Quite simply, they are or were alive. This term has no real connection with HOW, WHY, WHERE or WHEN foodstuffs are cultivated.

"Conventional" farming: This is a term I will use throughout this post, to define "standard", "normal", "conventional" agricultural practice. Basically, the way farms have been run over the last 100 or so years.

Here are a few facts about Organic and conventional agriculture:

- In 2007, the USDA approved 50 NEW inorganic chemicals to be used on Organic foodstuffs.Though some of the ingredients may not be available in organic commercial form, they are still not organic and in the end, you are not getting what you pay for.

- Independent scientists have yet to document a definite, long-term negative effect of modern pesticides on our bodies.

- Organic produce is not entirely free from chemicals – it is simply that a much narrower range of such chemicals is allowed for food to qualify as ‘organic’, and they tend to be used less frequently. Given that some of the things that pesticides are designed to eliminate – like poisonous fungal growths – are pretty dangerous, that is not necessarily beneficial in any event.

- To date, studies have shown no reproduceable nutritional difference between organic and conventional produce. William Lockeretz of Tufts University told an organic food conference: ‘I wish I could tell you that there is a clear, consistent nutritional difference between organic and conventional foods. Even better, I wish I could tell you that the difference is in favour of organic. Unfortunately, though, from my reading of the scientific literature, I do not believe such a claim can be responsibly made.'

- All farming, organic or not, has an environmental impact. All farming, Organic or not, uses chemicals.

- 95% of organic produce is more expensive to the end-consumer than conventional produce.

- Organic produce that is transported using the same methods as conventional produce have similar levels of chemicals, due to contact with toxins, plastics etc during transport. The only way to counter this would be to go to a farm (conventional or organic) pick the fruit yourself, and bring it home in a cloth bag)

- Any minimal difference between organic and conventional foodstuffs are lost if the foodstuffs are processed in any way (Dried, baked, salted, made into sauces, cooked, powdered etc)

- Although Organic farming use natural fertilizers, these need to be applied in much higher quantities, and while ‘natural,’ they are still not environmentally safe in high concentrations. Too much animal waste in any one area is bad for the environment. Manure runoff is bad for our water supply. And increased fecal exposure increases the risk of e. coli outbreaks.

- Environmentally, a "conventional" local apple is probably better than organic apples from Chile, because of all of the fuel burned to bring the apple here.

Norman Borlaug (Winner of the Nobel Peace prize, and father of the "green revolution" says:
The idea that organic farming is better for the environment is “ridiculous” because organic farming produces lower yields and therefore requires more land under cultivation to produce the same amount of food. Thanks to synthetic fertilisers, global cereal production tripled between 1950 and 2000, but the amount of land used increased by only 10%. Using traditional techniques such as crop rotation, compost and manure to supply the soil with nitrogen and other minerals would have required a tripling of the area under cultivation. The more intensively you farm, Mr Borlaug contends, the more room you have left for rainforest.

T-shirt and bumper sticker nominee - "Save the rainforests! Boycott organic!"

I believe that consumers who buy organic foods are just as ignorant as everyone else about where their food comes from and how it is produced. They just buy the food for the organic label, so they can feel better about themselves.
(I myself am included in the ignorant category. I have absolutely no idea where, how, why or when my food was cultivated, although I do not purchase organic products.)
For some reason, Organic Buyers feel that Organic foods are:
1 - Healthier
2 - Better for the environment
3 - Economically feasible to purchase
4 - Will help to reduce weight / Cholesterol, etc

Although none of these things have been scientifically backed up.

Organic growers, when questioned about whether they know certain facts about organic produce, usually answer defensively. They invariably voice off marketing tag lines, misinformation and clearly altered facts, and they do so without ever having investigated any evidence that the products they are selling was grown with any less environmental impact.

This lack of substantiated information goes for Organic Buyers also. (Who also are very defensive whenever anyone raises the most basic questions)

I personally will purchase the cheapest food I can find. And all basic foodstuffs are cheap. I read a recent post about a grocery list for a 1 week menu to feed four people for €40.00 a week. There is no way anyone could ever do that with organic foodstuffs.

Well, Organics are not what they´re all cracked up to be.
They're an expensive fad-food, marketed in a way that makes people more comfortable with themselves. Every ones doing it, and nobody really knows why.
But that doesn't mean you can't eat healthy!
Try these tips on healthier eating:

- Buy produce from local growers. The further away the grower, the more toxins + pollutants your food is in contact with.

- Grow your own produce. Even if you dont have room to grow potatoes and carrots, you can always find room in your kitchen for a couple of pots for herbs, shallots etc. (If you use natural, unprocessed soil that you yourself have dug up from a forest or mountain somewhere far from civilisation, and use no fertilisers additives or chemicals, this to me is the only way you will ever eat truly Organic food.) - And it will still cost you a tiny fraction of what you will spend on shop bought produce. If you want... you could sell off your "Organic" produce for insanely large amounts of money! (Oh, wait... they re already doing that...)

- Save money by not buying unjustifiably expensive organic produce. Use these saving to purchase exotic / different fruits and vegetables you have never tried before (Prickly pears, passion fruit, gooseberry's, guavas, etc). This variation in diet will bring you more benefits than anything organically grown.

- EAT MORE VEGGIES! I am not a vegetarian BUT, I really love vegetarian food. Its more easily digestible, tastes better and makes you feel better because of the nutrients you re ingesting. Also, by eating meat, you are only utilizing about 10% of the energy used to make the meat.

To sum things up: In this post, I am not bashing Organic Agriculture. I think the idea behind it is sound. I think alternative methods should always exist. We are human, and we have the capacity to develop new strategies, ideas and solutions.

I AM bashing organic growers for disseminating misinformation about the benefits of buying organic produce. I am bashing them for hiking up the prices.
I am also bashing organic buyers, for being ignorant to the point of not finding out information about what theyre buying, and spending 3 or 4 times more money, for produce invariably of lower quality.

Ah, so thats my little rant for today. :D

Feel much better....



British Studies Web Pages


Marginal Evolution:



Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Random Chat

ChanceChat is another way to connect randomly to people all over the world.
You can come on ChanceChat to chat instantly with interesting people, just input some of your information (like age and gender), and narrow your search for your chat partner, and if someone is on the system that matches your criteria, you will instantly be connected to that person.

Here's my first shot at this:

[23:36] Syndrome: Hi Maw!
[23:37] mawalien: hey
[23:37] mawalien: hows things?
[23:37] Syndrome: How are you? grin.gif
[23:37] mawalien: doing pretty good, thanks
[23:37] Syndrome: Things are good over here!
[23:37] mawalien: goodie
[23:37] Syndrome: And there?
[23:37] mawalien: wheres here?
[23:38] Syndrome: So where are you from?
[23:38] Syndrome: Florida, USA.
[23:38] mawalien: well, 27 degree weather, in lisbon portugal
[23:38] mawalien: where am i from?
[23:38] Syndrome: surprised.gif
[23:38] mawalien: malawi, central africa
[23:39] mawalien: 27 degreees celcius
[23:39] Syndrome: That's so interesting!
[23:39] Syndrome: I have to tell you, youre the first Malawilian (what do you call yourselves, hehe?) I've ever met!
[23:39] Syndrome: So nice to meet you!
[23:39] mawalien: grin.gifgrin.gif malawian
[23:39] mawalien: cheers
[23:40] Syndrome: Cheers! ;D
[23:40] mawalien: well... first floridian ive met alsotongue.gif
[23:40] Syndrome: So are you at home? An internet cafe?
[23:40] mawalien: home, on the porch, just stumbling a bit... thats how i found this page
[23:41] mawalien: tell me about florida...
[23:41] Syndrome: That is also how I found this page!
[23:41] mawalien: were you born there?
[23:41] Syndrome: Well, right now it is VERY hot and humid! I am sitting in my room. smile.gif
[23:41] Syndrome: Yes, I am 18 years old. Born and raised here in South Florida!
[23:42] mawalien: nice
[23:43] mawalien: have you travelled much?
[23:43] Syndrome: Have you ever been to America?
[23:43] Syndrome: Sadly, no. Not yet, but I plan to! Maybe Australia, or something grin.gif
[23:43] mawalien: nope... never been. dont know much about the states apart from the whole consumerism and bushism thingy
[23:44] Syndrome: Is English your first language?
[23:44] mawalien: have a couple of friends there, most went to school with me in malawi
[23:44] Syndrome: Very cool! You are my only African friend!
[23:45] Syndrome: So, do you speak other languages?
[23:45] mawalien: yeah. been in portugal since 1999, so i know portuguese.
[23:45] mawalien: smile.gif my pleasure.
[23:46] Syndrome: Wow! Everyone besides the US seems to be so multi-lingual!
[23:46] mawalien: well... bilingual... most people in portugal speak portuguese and english or french.
[23:46] Syndrome: I can only speak English and I know sign language.
[23:46] Syndrome: Would love to learn french
[23:46] mawalien: sign language. cool. did you need to learn it, or just wanted to learn it?
[23:47] Syndrome: It's very interesting. Wanted to. they had a 3 week course at my highschool!
[23:47] mawalien: all i've learnt about signing came from an applet in firefox with the basic letters
[23:48] Syndrome: Excuse my ignorance, but is it American Sign Language or another?
[23:48] mawalien: I guess it would be cool if more people knew how to sign. (silent conversations)
[23:48] Syndrome: I really enjoy it. smile.gif
[23:48] mawalien: well, it's a plugin for firefox, in iGoogle, so i would reckon it's american
[23:49] Syndrome: Ah, yes I've seen it!
[23:49] mawalien: although, untill you brought it up, i thought all signing was the same, regardless of the country
[23:49] mawalien: smile.gif i'll look into it sometime
[23:49] Syndrome: Ah, almost each country has it's own sign language.
[23:50] Syndrome: I hope you don't mind me asking, but what is your name? smile.gif
[23:50] mawalien: wow
[23:50] mawalien: my names marc
[23:51] mawalien: and yours?
[23:51] Syndrome: Jessica. Just a very boring American name. smile.gif
[23:52] mawalien: ah, i knew a jessica in malawi... jessica rue. her dad was a dentist. she was two years ahead of me in schoolsmile.gif
[23:53] mawalien: hung out with her brother a bunch
[23:53] mawalien: so, are you in varsity?
[23:53] Syndrome: What does varsity mean?
[23:53] mawalien: erm, college
[23:54] Syndrome: My last year of highschool!
[23:54] Syndrome: Next year!
[23:55] mawalien: have you decided what you'll be studying?
[23:55] Syndrome: Hmm..
[23:55] Syndrome: Not yet!
[23:55] mawalien: are your school years from september till june or january till october?
[23:56] Syndrome: Maybe actually sign language or something wtih computers
[23:56] Syndrome: What do you do?
[23:56] Syndrome: Sept til June.
[23:56] Syndrome: Well, August, actually.
[23:56] mawalien: i'm a systems administrator
[23:56] mawalien: ok, so it's like portugal toosmile.gif
[23:56] Syndrome: surprised.gif
[23:56] Syndrome: That sounds really cool.
[23:57] mawalien: yeah, well... it's basically just fiixing computers...
[23:57] Syndrome: Were you born in Portugal?
[23:57] Syndrome: Really cool! Do you program?
[23:58] mawalien: born in malawi... like i said in the beginning tounge.gif
[23:58] Syndrome: Wow! tongue.gif I bet it's more comlicated than that
[23:58] mawalien: ah, no... never got into the programming thing... i'm mainly hardware and networks
[23:59] Syndrome: I know a little hardware/networking myself. And some programming on the side, hehe.
[23:59] Syndrome: I took those courses in school. smile.gif
[23:59] mawalien: yeah, well, signing and computers sounds interesting too
[23:59] Syndrome: I'm a computer nerd girl. Hehe.
[00:00] mawalien: smile.gif it's always good to know a little about a lot of things
[00:00] mawalien: great... first computer nerd floridian i've met
[00:00] Syndrome: That is some good advice!
[00:00] Syndrome: Hehe. grin.gif
[00:01] mawalien: any plans for the weekend?
[00:01] Syndrome: Were you born in Portugal?
[00:01] mawalien: no, born in malawi, central africa
[00:01] mawalien: i think some messages arent getting through...
[00:01] Syndrome: Ah, I'm sure. Nothing interesting. Maybe go to the beach with friends and so on. smile.gif We have very nice beaches here. ;P
[00:02] Syndrome: So born in Malawi, went to portugal, and now back home? smile.gif
[00:02] mawalien: back home?
[00:02] Syndrome: Wow!
[00:02] mawalien: i'm still in portugal...
[00:03] Syndrome: Ah.. I understand now.
[00:03] Syndrome: Ah.. I understand now.
[00:03] mawalien: thats my plan exactly. beach... and rest...
[00:03] Syndrome: Do you miss home, or are you happy in Portugal?
[00:03] mawalien: happy here, but i always miss home
[00:03] Syndrome: I really love the ocean. smile.gif
[00:04] mawalien: last time i was back was in jan
[00:04] Syndrome: I hope you don't mind me asking, but how old are you? smile.gif
[00:04] mawalien: 29
[00:04] Syndrome: Very cool. Bet you didnt mind that
[00:04] mawalien: i dont mind at alltongue.gif
[00:05] mawalien: basically, malawi makes a living from agriculture and tourism
[00:06] mawalien: got a couple of friends that are still there, but theyre managinggrin.gif
[00:07] Syndrome: That's good, do they enjoy being there still?
[00:07] Syndrome: surprised.gif
[00:08] Syndrome: I looked at some pictures. Malawi looks beautiful!
[00:09] mawalien: its great. if you ever want to visit another country thats really different...
[00:09] Syndrome: Marc, it has been really interesting chatting with you! smile.gif But I must go, it is dinner time over here in Florida! sad.gif
[00:09] Syndrome: Thank you for company!
[00:09] mawalien: ok... thank you too. Cheers!
[00:10] Syndrome: Bye bye! grin.gif Enjoy the beach! wink.gif

Try it out

Lego Hawking

Shortest post ever

I've been using computers for so long, when I was a kid, my ip was 7.