Organic versus Conventional Food

Organic food has more vitality than conventionally produced food. Vitality is an expression of the life forces present in all living organisms. The source behind all schools of organic farming is the new science of life which - when properly implemented - enables organic growers to produce food of superior vitality. On the other side we have the conventional method which needs chemical ‘shields’ to protect the living organisms from forces of nature which want to destroy the weakest ones as a part of the process of natural selection.

Modern Agriculture: The Vicious Circle of Decreasing Life

Modern industrial agriculture is the offspring of scientific thinking and chemical engineering. The materialistic, reductionist, and mechanistic approach of modern science is very useful in the advancement of modern technology that is using the substances from the mineral kingdom, but it has its limits and serious drawbacks when applied in agriculture. [1] For here we are dealing with living organisms – microorganisms, plants and animals – and with natural food containing living forces.

For example, the use of artificial fertiliser increases the electric charge between the earth (negative pole) and the upper part of the plant (positive pole). This raises the electro-osmotic pressure and consequently plants suck up more water than usual. Thus artificial fertiliser does not increase plant growth by producing more cells – which is the normal way of growing – but it increases the cells because of the larger amount of water in them. [2] This can be noticed in the watery taste of conventionally grown fruit and vegetables. A further consequence of expanded cells are thinner cell walls which are more sensitive to environmental conditions and more vulnerable to outer impacts. This results in weaker, less vital plants.

Such artificially 'swollen' plants do not do very well in a natural environment where is necessary for the survival of each plant species that only the strongest and fittest can thrive. Plants grown in conventional fields need the help of synthetic herbicides, insecticides and other types of pesticides. These agrochemicals create a protective barrier against so-called 'weeds', 'harmful' insects and microorganisms, and other so-called 'parasites' which have the role in nature to remove and break down those plants which don't possess enough life forces to be capable to survive without such help.

Of course, with such an approach we create serious problems in the whole chain of food production. Such plants are fed to animals which need antibiotics to keep them 'healthy' and alive; in food processing they need food additives to make food 'palatable' and prevent its decay; and finally people who eat such food need medical drugs to keep them in 'good health'. But, the truth which many don't want to see is that these substances work as 'chemical shields' against the forces of natural selection which would otherwise destroy organisms which are too weak to survive in a natural environment.

There are two key sources behind the vicious circle of decreasing life in conventional food production:

In this light we can see the use of genetically modified organisms as the logical step in the development of such an approach. Genetic engineering tries to 'solve' problems which have been amassed by the same one-sided thinking, which treats the living organisms as types of 'food machines' – with the aim to produce food as cheaply and as quickly as possible. Because the problems in conventional food production cannot be effectively solved any more by the use of chemical engineering only, modern genetic science is offering help with its radical interventions into the basic structures of the living organisms. If those who promote genetic engineering prevail, the final result will be loss of suitable living forms for healthy life on earth.

Organic Agriculture: The Circle of Increasing Life

One of the most fundamental principles of organic farming and food processing is that only life stimulates life. This means that only soil which is teeming with life forces can produce strong plants, which in turn provide healthier food for animals and humans, which then contribute with their actions to the improvement of the quality of soil and other conditions that affect the food production. Here we have a circle of increasing vitality and health. For example, if we just look at the effect of earthworms – which have in organic farming a very important role – we notice that they help in the airing and fertilising of the soil. Their castings contain high amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, as well as other minerals and micronutrients necessary for the healthy growth of plants.

The circle of life presents an ideal picture. The most important aspect is that we are aware that all we do at any stage of food production is dependent on a multitude of factors, so we can never claim that further improvement is not possible. However, it is crucial that we move in the right direction – that is, in the direction of ever increasing vitality and food quality.

There are two key sources behind the circle of increasing vitality in organic food production:

In this context "it is particularly important that we nourish the plants themselves in the right way. Here you must consider the fact that the plants are something living. The plants are not minerals; they are something living. A plant comes to us out of the seed we put in the ground. The plant cannot flourish unless the soil itself is to some degree alive. And how do we make the soil alive? By manuring it properly! Yes, proper manuring is what will give us really good plant proteins.

It's no use thinking that one can make fertilizer simply by combining substances that are present in cow manure. One must see clearly that cow manure does not come out of a chemist's laboratory but out of a laboratory that is far more scientific – it comes from the far, far more scientific laboratory inside the cow. And for this reason cow manure is the stuff that not only makes the roots of plants strong, but that works up powerfully into the fruits and produces good, proper protein in the plants which makes man vigorous." [4] always when he eats good natural food.

Now we can understand why in organic farming so much importance is given to the enlivening of the soil. Behind this approach is a more or less conscious awareness that although "plants themselves could never be diseased in a primary sense, since they are produce of a healthy living world, they can suffer from diseased conditions in their environment, especially in the soil; the causes of so-called plant diseases should be sought there," [5] in the environmental impacts. Thus we can also understand why everything we do in each step has an effect on the level of living forces in the soil, plants and animals, and why it will all inevitably affect the final quality of food.

DIETARY CONCLUSIONS & PRACTICAL INSTRUCTIONS

By eating organic foods we avoid artificial chemical substances used in conventionally produced food (e.g. pesticides and food additives), including some other nasty things (e.g. food additives made from human hair [6] or insects). This alone is worth the extra money usually paid for organic food, but we must be aware that there are various grades of quality inside organically produced food itself.

Within each of these groups there are no two foods of the same quality. Good quality is dependent on many factors – such as microclimate, the quality of soil, the quality of seeds [9] – and methods and materials which are used or not used by farmers and gardeners. Unfortunately it needs to be admitted that basic standards for organic agriculture and food processing (i.e. The IFOAM Organic Standards) are not yet as they should be if the production of the best quality food were the top priority. For example, these standards are allowing the use of modern plant hybrids in spite of the fact that they were developed with the main aim to produce the highest quantities of uniformly shaped plant products. The members of the organic movement who are using these seeds are somehow forgetful that the vitality and health of plants is essentially dependent on the vitality and health of seeds!

This example shows that the most important impact on the final quality of food is made by the knowledge and skills of people involved in food production. For good quality we need more masters in the area of farming and food processing and time to learn new skills. And time to heal all barren land so that it can be fertile again, giving us crops full of life and vital forces.

See HOLISTIC FOOD ‘PYRAMID’ for practical quality guidelines.

NOTES

  1. These three aspects of modern science are exquisitely characterised by Fritjof Capra in the book The Turning Point (Flamingo, 1983).
  2. This is a summary of three basic factors which influence the soil and circulation of plant sap when we use artificial fertilizer. They are described in full in the book Biološko pridelovanje hrane (Organic Food Production) by Croatian author Pavao Krišković (Kmečki glas, Ljubljana, 1993). It is the only book known to me which describes the principle of electro-osmosis as the mechanism which enable movement of water (plant sap) from the roots to the branches of trees against the forces of gravity.
  3. The great majority of these agrochemicals can be made entirely or partially from hydrocarbons. Even in the group of food additives one can find synthetic dyes, preservatives, and sweeteners (saccharine) made from these substances.
  4. Rudolf Steiner, Dornach, 2.08.1924; combined quote from two translations (one from www.rsarchive.org)
  5. Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer, M.D., Appendix C from Agriculture by Rudolf Steiner (see note 11). In the quote the author recapitulate the explanation given to him in private conversation with Steiner.
  6. Human hair is collected from barber shops, cleaned and chopped. "This sort of hair is sold on to chemical companies which convert it into amino acids for use in food, medicines and many other products." Source: article in The Independent Magazine, 2001
  7. One of the main reasons why is Demeter food better than organic is that biodynamic farmers use special preparations for increasing the soil and plant vitality which are not used in other methods of organic farming.
  8. Some producers offer food products labelled ‘Natural’. But this word can mean many things, depending on the producer. It is usually used for products such as legumes, nuts, dry fruits, which haven’t been subjected to any further food processing and don't contain any additives. Of course, such products are more natural than other conventional food, but there is no guarantee that they have been grown organically. The label ‘Natural’ in principle cannot be trusted, the only exception being when we actually know the producer and his methods of food production.
  9. About great importance of open pollinated seeds for vitality of crops see www.open-pollinated-seeds.org.uk