Saturday, January 2, 2010

My thoughts about organic food

Well, I've been thinking about it a little bit since I started shopping at an organic food store conveniently located nearby.

For centuries, farmers have struggled to find ways to improve their product and production. From new irrigation systems to new manures, chemicals that protect the plants to chemicals that make them grow bigger and tastier - one generation building on top of the knowledge of the previous generation. Genetic engineers, chemical engineers, all joined the task of making produce better; And here comes the organic food farmer with one thing to say to these people: "You guys screwed it up. It's better without any of the improvements you guys have been adding".

Huh? This sounds bit bizarre to me. After thinking about it for a while, I see two options: One is that organic food provides better tasting products but in lower volumes.
In this option, it is filling the hole of a needed, yet otherwise unavailable product since by this hypothesis it cannot be found in traditional farming.
According to this idea, traditional farmers focus on volume at the expense of quality, and the many improvements over the years add little to the taste but more to the longevity, size and volume of the produce.

The second option is that organic food is a result of philosophical ideas, the philosophy that views man as a parasite on earth, as an animal with one too many ambitions, an animals that thinks it knows better than nature what is good for it. According to this view, modern medicine does not heal, it destroys, technology does not improve man's life but makes man miserable and destroys the earth. Science, especially genetic engineering is a sin because it attempts to change the way nature is.
Organic food by this option is just another instance of this view: "Respect nature and be humble", "man can never and should never improve upon nature", which means to live like our ancestors did, in a cave, and never try to rise above that level.


Which one is it? If you have an opinion with some facts to back it up, please leave it in a comment.

13 comments:

  1. "Respect nature and be humble", "man can never and should never improve upon nature", which means to live like our ancestors did, in a cave, and never try to rise above that level."

    I am a strong subscriber of this view. That man, by virtue (or vice!) of his intelligence, is different from other animals and can improve upon nature... such thoughts are but psychotic delusions shared by the most of the humanity. Man's intelligence, in fact, should be called pseudo-intelligence. Intelligence means the ability to acquire new skills and knowledge and apply it. So, basically it's right to say that intelligence is that quality of the brain which it uses to bring some improvements in life. All the animals have intelligence in varied degrees. Honey bees have astonishing degree of intelligence with regards to how they make their living system, migrating birds travel from one end of the planet to the other and return without a compass... it's all intelligence of some sort. Only in human's case intelligence has crossed that point where it's no more making life better, but worsening it. Don't know if you can think beyond human life and human welfare... If you can, then you can see faraway effects of human (pseudo-)intelligence on entire planet and its ecosystem. All the miseries of human life are owing to intelligence. All the problems facing the planet are due to human intelligence. Watch documentary called The 11th Hour.

    Basically, man is the stupidest creature on this planet. Here, stupidity is not an opposite of intelligence, but intelligence used wrongly.

    In man's case, it's the element of greed which is overpowering man's intelligence. Hence, all the miseries.

    By the way, living in caves is in no way degrading. Life on this planet has no defined purpose as besides existing. That we have some purpose is, again, an illusion arising out of the human (pseudo-)intelligence. I would prefer living like other animals (in a natural way) a thousand times better than living in a meaningless world where my kind is good-for-nothing when looked on from a larger perspective.

    And if I must tell you, today human beings are the only creatures on this planet the extinction of which will benefit the planet rather than harming. Remember the food chain (and other concepts) thins we learned in school? Interdependency of the organisms? Humans are today so separated from that natural system that it's no more forming a part of it, but rather, destroying it. So, unlike in case of every other creature, humankind's existence, rather than extinction, is a threat to the whole.

    I am so shamed to be a human!

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  2. Oh wow, we are in disagreement about everything, where to begin?

    With the simple part first. Taking your definition of intelligence, creatures that act by instinct cannot be said to be intelligent because there is no process of learning involved, they're like a robot. Dogs, cats, dolphins etc' are capable of learning which is why they have intelligence, but insects or single cell organisms do not have it.

    Now if you put your emotions aside for a moment, I don't think you can disagree that man is the most intelligent species of all animals. Animals can, at best, count up to 5 or comprehend how to use tools. Man, on the other hand is way past that stage: we have math, medicine, a freaking cell phone - it takes tremendous amount of knowledge and thinking and intelligence to achieve such a feat. So putting emotions aside, I don't think this can be denied. Man is the most intelligent being.

    You said that man is responsible for all the misery... Well, I don't see you suffering surfing the web with your computer, sleeping in peace at night in your cozy bed rather than on a pile of leaves, not experiencing pain every hour of the day due to tooth aches (which without modern dentistry are what would we would have), a car that you can use to visit friends living hundreds of miles away, delicious ice cream, available 24/7 at your near 7/11. Could you explain how your life would be better without all these things? And if they would be better - why do you have them? Why not retire to Hawaii or some remote location and live in nature? Don't tell me that there is nowhere to be found of this sort because humans have infiltrated everything - it is not true. To give one example: New Papua Guinea jungle is not even explored yet. You could go live there.

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  3. Regarding Papua New Guinea: I saw a T.V. series called "Survivorman" (you can actually see the whole episode here for free: http://www.lesstroud.ca/survivorman/episodes.php#s3e6 ) where he spends a week in that jungle, sleeping in the mud, throwing up and suffering from diarrhea struggling to catch something to eat.
    The only moments of relief come from his use of intelligence (building a shelter and traps) and modern technology (using a plastic garbage bag to catch rain, canned food and some gadget to make fire). This guy loves nature and the only thing he has to say at the end is that he wish he were back home in civilization.

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  4. Correction: You can see part of the episode, not all of it.

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  5. I'd appreciate your thoughts about my post, if any, Darshan.

    Just in case a clarification is needed: My question about moving in to a remote location was not intended as an insult but as a genuine question/ challenge to your view.

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  6. No no, Ifat, I did not take it as an insult. I have faced this argument a thousand times whenever I have expressed the view which I did above. And I have a perfect explanation for view. I will write about that on my blog some time.

    I find your points flawed in more than one way -

    1. If we lived in caves we would be less happy than we are now. Wrong! It's just like saying when electricity was not invented people weren't able to feel happiness that we feel in airconditioned room...! Already being in comfort if you imagine life without those comforts then you find it inconvenient. But when the comfort is not invented at all, and is inconceievable, there's no question of inconvenience. People were always able to feel as confortable as they can feel today. When fire was invented the feel of comfort would not have been less than what you fett when man first drove a car.

    2. You are completely oblivious to the fact that all the comforts added to our lives today are taking high toll on natural rasources, as well as, entire planet's life system.On the other hand, we are not only getting used to all these comforts, but also getting genetically modified to live with those comforts. When the natural resources, on which those comforts ride, finish we will have no power live without it. The rate at which natural resources are being exhusted today is far greater than the rate of re-building of resources. This is no intelligence.

    3. The planet is naturally designed to accomodate only about a billion human beings. Until last 200-300 years the human population has never exceeded a billion. That's enough of an evidence (millions of years, you see) that nature intended human population to be about that much. But after the advent of medical inventions and all today our population is increasing by leaps and bounds. Can you believe, when Kennedy was elected as a president we had only half od the people on this planet then we have today! If you can not think beyond humanity then it's okay. But if you can, then that's certainly not admissible, when you also check on the facts about how many spicies have gone extinct because of ecer increasing human needs.

    And as for my not going to a forest and living there I want to tell you, I have some similar plans. As in I have already detached myself from this world. I am living here just like an observer, to do my research on existence. My soul is already is in peace with nature.

    Anyway... It's always nice to read your blog. Difference of opinions is precisely what develops a philosopher.

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  7. Darshan, I frankly find your ideas about progress monstrous. Not you, I don't know how you came to have such thoughts, but your ideas. Why do you hate progress? A thinking man with the vision and ability to invent something new that improves human life is admirable - something to look up to and be grateful for.

    But you take the comfort and then spit in the face of the one who gave it to you saying that if he never did you would not have known a better life and would be able to be happy with your previous state. Instead of being happy with the improved standard of living, you look down on it. I don't get it.

    Secondly about your first point: Do you realize the monstrous conclusion from what you are saying? Never try to become better. Never try to become happier or more comfortable, or anything better at all. If you keep yourself at whatever current level that you are, you will never miss a thing, so just stay in the mud!
    If this is what you post on your blog, consider the implications such a depressing view will have on young minds eager to discover the world: "Stay where you are, settle for less and never try to rise above your current level" it will destroy their lives!

    Life's only value is in achieving happiness, self esteem, enjoyment; it's an endless adventure to get more goals and better achievements, an exciting adventure. Giving up values and achievements means death, sadness and nihilism. Is this what you want to teach others?

    Regarding point number 2: Why should we care about natural resources apart from what they can give us humans? Should our lives be about humble service to mother earth, or should they be about our own happiness? Every fiber of our body wants life and happiness - why should we go against our own nature? Nature is here to be exploited, enjoyed and put in the service of man, be it in aesthetic value, furniture, drugs or food. Man's life is the standard of value - not "earth". Nature is only important as a tool for man's life, no more, and you are putting nature above human beings and that is bad.


    Point number 3: So what are you suggesting, to kill people by preventing life-saving treatments from them or not allowing them the joy of bringing children to the world?
    Besides that, the main problem is that throughout your viewpoint you see nature as above man. You see the well being of "earth" i.e. trees, animals, land whatever as more important than lives of people.
    Liking trees, finding nature peaceful - that's fine. Preferring trees to human lives - that is choosing the path of death - for yourself and for other people.

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  8. Thank you for explicitly saying following things:

    1.Life's only value is in achieving happiness, self esteem, enjoyment; it's an endless adventure to get more goals and better achievements.

    2. Why should we care about natural resources apart from what they can give us humans? (Wow!!)

    3. Should our lives be about humble service to mother earth, or should they be about our own happiness?

    4. Nature is only important as a tool for man's life, no more.

    I know you now :)

    You, indeed can not think beyond humanity. Also, you are totally ignorant in science.

    Your mentality is like those people who believe that nature grows cocaine then we must take it, because every fiber of human body desires it "once you have tasted it". According to you, keep taking cocaine for life, and being in that extreme pleasure, which will eventually kill you, is right thing to do, compared to giving up cocaine. Because giving it up is depressing!!

    Ha! Ha! Ha! Ignorance is bliss, but such bliss won't last forever. Knowledge alone, is real bliss. Anyway, thanks, Ifat.

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  9. How did you come to the conclusion that I am uneducated in science? I happen to have a degree in biomedical engineering; I know quite a bit about biology, chemistry, physics and human physiology.

    No, I do not think addictive drugs are a good idea. Your comparison is invalid because it takes on something harmful to ONESELF to make a case about something harmful (supposedly) to nature.
    Doing something damaging to oneself in the long term is not the same as cutting down a tree from a tree plantation, which is damaging for that particular tree but is beneficent both in the short term and in the long term for humans.

    You're using man's life as the standard to make your point, but it is not the standard you hold (yours is nature comes first).

    Can you explain to me logically why should a man choose nature over its own well being when all other animal doesn't? Other animals take advantage of nature the best they can, it's in their nature and instincts. You think that man should act just like animals, then why shouldn't we act, according to you, like all other animals do?

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  10. "Life's only value is in achieving happiness, self esteem, enjoyment; it's an endless adventure to get more goals and better achievements"

    You said "thank you for explicitly saying it".

    Well what have you been reading all this time? I talk about nothing but this all the time.

    Secondly - what is the problem with that? what do YOU think life should be about - and why?

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  11. Wow!! That's all I can say about the level of disconnection that your commenter has with reality! And what a dishonest prick with his ad-hominem attack, "you are totally ignorant in science", what science is he talking about? He probably refers to the science created by the superior bees and trees. He is ashamed to be human, but fortunately there is a cure, suicide. Anyway, I am not posting about him, I wanted to reply on the organic food question.

    I think organic food is objectively better than mass produced food, because it does taste better, and it's healthier. Organic meat has a higher proportion of the good fats (Omega 3), and it's free of the hormones that make cows grow bigger faster but have some negative consequences in humans. Some of the pesticides and fertilizers in mass produced vegetables are absorbed by the plant and we end up eating them. We did not evolve to eat pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, hormones, or large quantities of Omega 6 fats, so the closer we can get to the food our bodies evolved to eat the better off we are.

    However, not everybody can afford organic foods, it is a luxury item. We would need a lot more land to have grass fed cows and cage free chickens than mass production. Without fertilizers and pesticides land would yield a lot less crops, and farmers would have to use a lot more land to keep the same output. So in the lingo of the environmentalists, organic farming on a global scale would not be sustainable. The only way to achieve it would be through culling human population by mass starvation and death, or ironically enough, by using up all the areas that are currently wild and "pristine" and destroying the habitats of all the species the environmentalists so cherish.

    Now there are many people who advocate organic food for the wrong reasons, the environmentalists that hate human civilization and think that organic food is better because it is untouched by humanity. However those people are so disconnected from reality that they don't realize that it is the fact that their pristine areas still exist because civilization has allowed us to produce food with minimal resource usage.

    So I think organic food is to mass produced food, as a hand tailored suit is to a suit from Walmart. The hand tailored suit is better if you can afford it, but it is an expensive luxury item, and for the great majority of humanity it's not an option.

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  12. Thanks for the input, Francisco. I've learned from it.

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