Pundit’s Mailbag — Organics And Manure
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 19, 2006
A pointed letter responding to Jeff Hitchcock’s letter regarding organic production and the possibility that the land on which the tainted spinach was grown was, in fact, organically grown and marketed as conventional due to the three-year time passage required for the conversion of conventionally grown land to organic production:
The Pundit agrees that temperate language is very desirable in our industry debates. We all have to know how to disagree vigorously and then how to cooperate productively, and the use of pejorative words doesn’t serve that purpose.
At the same time, those weren’t the Pundit’s words, and we try to provide wide latitude for people to speak their minds, especially if they are willing to sign their names to their opinions.
On the substance, it does seem highly pertinent whether the land in question was, in fact, grown with organic methods. At this point, the investigation could not be harmed by the release of such information and so it is time for the government, Natural Selection Foods and the grower, himself, to speak to this point.
The issue of manure in agriculture is both substantive and a public relations issue.
Substantively, if we are going to use manure in agriculture, we have to change standards dramatically. It is not sufficient to prove that if everything is done perfectly, everything will be OK. We need a system that anticipates human error and sometimes malice.
An obvious thing: All composted manure ready to be used needs to be tested for generic E. coli by an independent third party. If any is found to survive, the manure is not ready for use. We should use generic E. coli as a marker for inadequate composting.
We think the whole notion of using manure in this day and age is somewhat barbaric, and the most effective consumer confidence building techniques are simple ones. So we would think the wisest course is for the industry to agree to ban the use of manure, composted or not, in commercial agriculture.