Organic Is Just Another Word For “Old-Fashioned”.

March 24, 2009

Using the term “organic” to market everything from food to personal products to clothing is a relatively new use of the word. According to Wikipedia, “In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (written in 1939, but published in 1940), out of his conception of “the farm as organism”, to describe a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming — in contrast to what he called chemical farming, which relied on “imported fertility” and “cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole”. What started as a reference to a farm being a living organism has become a catch-all for almost everything that someone might want to “green up”. I am as guilty as the next person for using the term quite a bit, both here on the site and in real life, but a few weeks ago it struck me that in terms of our food, the word “organic” is just another word for “old-fashioned”. In the past, our food was grown the natural way – in the ground, on small farms, with no toxins or fertilizers stronger than compost. There were no companies like Monsanto or Cargill to make Frankenstein seeds in a lab somewhere or to make such dangerous pesticides. Food was “organic” in the truest sense of the word – part of a living organism controlled and monitored mainly by nature.

Food grown on a farm used to be good for us, before we had to start choosing between “conventionally” or “organically” grown in the grocery store. Farmers (or homeowners, really) took great care to grow food in a natural way, using seeds passed down from generation to generation and using their families’ compost to fertilize the soil. We didn’t need to worry about DDT or GMO foods – seeds were planted, crops were picked, and food was eaten. This was “organic” throughout history until the 20th century came along thinking that it could improve on nature. Sadly, it cannot without the addition of toxic chemicals, modified seeds, hulking machines, and giant corporations pulling the strings. Take Monsanto, for instance. Here is a company that has designed their own genetically modified seeds that are sold to farmers. These seeds are not only designed to be resistant to, wait for it, the company’s own pesticide, but also to only last for one season. Want to grow that crop next year? Gotta buy more seeds, as they are created to only germinate once. And on top of that, (for the seeds that they make that do germinate more than once), a person could get sued if the seed flies through the air and happens to grow on the property of someone who didn’t pay for the seed, as in the case of Monsanto vs Schmesier. Scary, no?

I guess my point is that organic should just be the way it is. I personally don’t like knowing that I eat food that basically engineered in a lab, designed to be controlled by a huge corporation, and covered with toxins. I would like my food to be “old-fashioned” in this sense, so I could possibly know where it came from, who grew it, what it is made out of, and why it’s good for me. This is the reason we try to buy as much local produce as possible, even though it’s not possible to buy all of it here in Northern New Mexico as the climate is not ideal for growing food. But we do our best with the resources we have available. However, it’s too bad I have to choose between organic and conventional at all, because while they may have been synonymous in the past they most certainly are not today.

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About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (12)

  1. Adam Shake says:

    I’m thinking that we should substitute the word “Organic” with “Classic.” Kind of like Coke did.

    “Classic Apples” and “Classic Milk” Hmmm, I’m thinking I like it. -laugh

  2. David says:

    I am all for that Adam!

  3. david says:

    I agree Matt – but those products were not made in a lab by guys wearing white coats. That’s what scares me the most.

  4. david says:

    I will take neither LOL

  5. Matt SF says:

    I think it’s important to remember that many of the foods we eat everyday (bananas, carrots, corn) were all genetically selected for their “natural mutations” over the millennia.

    If you take a look at an ancient banana plant, farmers selected and crossbred (without lab based genetic engineering) their plants for maximum yields and beneficial mutations Not to mention, you wouldn’t be capable of eating an “old fashioned” banana without choking on the hundreds of seeds that the original banana fruit tree contains. Similarly, old fashioned maize had a few tiny kernels and carrots weren’t originally orange.

    While I still remain cautious of GMO foods, it’s important to remember that edible plant cultivation and animal husbandry practices did essentially the same thing as genetic engineers do now.

  6. Matt SF says:

    Of course, it is scary since you’re manipulating the food supply. However, I used to be one of the guys wearing white lab coats. The regulations are massive and genetic engineers are about as sinister as a box full of kittens.

    Most of the work (at least when I was an academic) was pushing for vaccine delivery through a tomato or insulin via goat’s milk. Now we’ve got Monsanto and using “suicide genes” under the guise of genetic transmission security but it’s really a huge cash cow.

    Personally, I’ll take frankenfoods over pesticides any day.

  7. charles says:

    I totally agree. That’s why we need to support and spread the word on organic farmers trying to make it in a conglomerated highly corporate agribusiness world. Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:

    http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/episode_112/seeds.htm

  8. Hippy Gourmet says:

    That’s the sole purpose of our PBS TV show – to promote local organic bio-dynamic farms everywhere we travel around the world, and educate the public about the importance of all things sustainable and organic.

    You can watch many of our segments on YouTube:
    http://www.youtube.com/HippyGourmet

  9. David says:

    Cool, thanks for letting us know!

  10. Jenni says:

    I am for organic. It is what most of us grew up with. I know people who have gardens, and other who plan to have them. All glad they can have them, and I have been looking forward to helping my boyfriend with his. And we take our farmers market for granted, as part of our rights. Yet there is something being pushed through congress that will change even that. It has such gall, being the wife who is in congress put it in, and her husband works for Monsanto…conflict of interest doesn’t seem to come to her mind at all. One of the groups that is following these are at http://www.opednews.com/articles/Goodbye-farmers-markets-C-by-Linn-Cohen-Cole-090303-287.html I know Congress passed in that we have to chip all our farming animals. Now to register what we are growing in our backyards. They don’t seem to think we have some common rights to our land, to our health.
    We ingest everything that is put into what we eat. Sometimes I don’t want to know, cause I would be so grossed out, I might become close to a vegan. Nothing against them, it just isn’t me.

  11. sage mcgreen says:

    I’m late commenting on this post.
    I didn’t get the old fashion memo.
    Old fashion is a term that I embrace. Old fashion it’s not just about farming, it’s a term that can re-establish VALUE in most of our choices. Old fashion sets a standard separate from profit margins and/or political agendas. Old Fashion is a mindset, pure, wholesome, undeniable goodness. And yes I agree input = output, so old fashion input = high quality output.
    Thanks for sharing this great old fashion insight!

  12. Sandra says:

    This is exactly how I frame it to my parents and in-laws. I’m going to send this article to them. The in-laws still think we waste money on fancy new fangled food.