I recommend a fascinating article in Wednesday’s Food Section of the Washington Post this week: “Organic standards fight over synthetics shows there’s room for a third system,” starting with the news that proposed broadening of organic standards brought out the protesters at a recent meeting, and the police had to be called. (And people wonder what’s to rant about in the world of gardening? Oh, brother.) Experts are quoted:
“The most sustainable, responsible system is a hybrid system.”
“Natural does not equal safe, or safer.”
And author/farmer Tamar Haspel says “Every toxicologist or environmental scientist I’ve ever spoken with says that the idea that natural substances are inherently better for planet or people than synthetic ones is simply false.”
And Whole Foods is working toward a broader and more flexible standard than simply organic.
Whole Foods is looking for another way. This fall, the company will roll out a system that classifies produce as good, better or best, depending on criteria ranging from those that the organic standard addresses specifically, like soil health, to those that the standard has nothing to say about, like farmworker welfare, pollinator protection, biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions.
Sounds good to me.
And in the world of home gardeners, This Old House Magazine asked the very expert Dr. Jeff Gillman to educate readers about “bad gardening advice” in his article 10 Gardening Myths Busted. Gillman naturally includes this persistent myth that “Organic Pesticides are Safer than Synthethic Ones,” recommending that “If you must use a pesticide, base your selection on how dangerous the active ingredients are, and how effective.”
Abandoning overly simplistic, black-white distinctions and asking gardeners to do some homework? Sounds great, but I worry that it may be asking a lot. Me, I skip the research and the careful reading of labels and just grow plants that need no pesticides, period. For gardens that that are “ornamental” like mine, it’s very do-able.