Sludge in the Garden
supporter
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+14950) 12 years ago
Where is Carol Browner anyway?



Sludge in the Garden
by Mike Krumboltz


New homes are full of questions and possibilities. What color to paint the walls? How to arrange the furniture? What to plant in the garden? The Obama family must have asked a lot of those same questions when they moved into the White House. However, the first lady's dreams of growing an organic vegetable garden have been dragged down by a previous resident that refuses to leave: sludge.

Various sources within the Buzz are reporting that Michelle Obama's "organic" garden has been besieged by icky goo in the ground. As a result, the veggies aren't quite what the first lady had in mind. According to Daily Finance, the National Park Service tested the soil in the vegetable patch and found "highly elevated levels of lead" due to sewage used as fertilizer.

So the question is: Who to blame? While dumping sewage into the ground sounds like a crime worthy of Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons," the actual perpetrators were none other than the Clintons. Yep, back when Bill and Hillary were living it up in the White House, their gardening team used "sewage sludge for fertilizer." The fiends!

Sounds gross, but it's actually fairly common. However, it does mean that the highly touted "organic garden" will never "attain organic status." The certification process doesn't allow "the use of sludge as a fertilizer substitute." And there's another problem: If Malia and Sasha weren't into eating their veggies before, it's going to be that much harder to get 'em to eat 'em now.
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supporter
Posted by Bridgier (+9195) 12 years ago
Interesting: http://www.motherjones.co...use-garden

Didn't they use to fertilize the bowl out by the high school with sludge?
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supporter
Posted by Wendy Wilson (+6165) 12 years ago
Gross. I don't think any master gardener recommends fertilizing with untreated human waste. Isn't it illegal anyway?
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+14950) 12 years ago
I am aware of golf courses that use effluent as fertilizer. The company I used to work for was involved with a biosolids project up at Leadville, CO where they were composting all of the solids from the surrounding ski lodges and using it to mitigate tailings piles.

The truth is that nitrate is nitrate regardless of the source. The notion of "organic" is overrated.
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Posted by Bridgier (+9195) 12 years ago
Yes... but human effluent tends to have other "junk" in it beyond the poo itself... you did read the article I attached, right?
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Posted by Brian A. Reed (+6014) 12 years ago
Gross. I don't think any master gardener recommends fertilizing with untreated human waste. Isn't it illegal anyway?

I'm not saying it's appetizing, but it works for a large percentage of the human population of the world. Ever seen a rice paddy?

But I love how Richard couldn't help but post a "Blame Clinton" article.
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Posted by Gunnar Emilsson (+17328) 12 years ago
I don't see anywhere that says this was untreated sewer sludge. My guess is that it is treated, e.g., composted, which means it is just fine....just not organic.

Elevated lead levels of 93 parts per million.....where I work, we call that "cover soil".

Brian is correct....the Chinese have been applying untreated human waste on their fields for centuries....this is why the Chinese only eat cooked veggies, nothing fresh.
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supporter
Posted by Levi Forman (+3712) 12 years ago
Mrs. Obama can take comfort in the fact that organic food is not actually better for you than regular fruits and vegetables anyway:

Organic food has no health benefits, study finds
Times Online
http://www.timesonline.co...731910.ece

Organic food gives no health benefits to consumers, according to research for the Food Standards Agency published today.

Shoppers pay more for organic fruit, vegetables, chicken, beef and milk but the food gives no nutritional enhancement to people's diet...


Might as well just head down to the old Super Walmart
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Posted by Brian A. Reed (+6014) 12 years ago
I eat what tastes good and doesn't hurt my stomach (too much).

Life is short. Eat what you like.
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Posted by Wendy Wilson (+6165) 12 years ago
If you read the article, it's clear that the study only looked at nutritional value. It did not address the pesticide/herbicide issue at all. I try to buy organic when I can (and have an organic home garden) because of that issue and taste. I think most people who buy organic do so because they want fewer chemicals in their food.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3712) 12 years ago
Probably true, but shoppers should understand that there is no scientific data that chemicals in the rates that they are found in food is in any way detrimental to our health. You need to be aware when you make the decision to pay more for organic that you are doing so out of paranoia or perceived yuckyness of chemicals and not because there are any real health benefits or at least any that can be demonstrated through testing.
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Posted by Bob Netherton (+1893) 12 years ago
There's also the issue of those chemicals affecting the environment, not just the health issues.
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Posted by Donna Kingsley Coffeen (+398) 12 years ago
We avoid chemicals as much as possible. My husband has Parkinson's and best guess is that it is environmentally caused. Rates of these neurological disease are rising rapidly in younger and younger people. The neuros will tell you they think it is exposure to toxins that we don't even probably know are hurting us.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3712) 12 years ago
Which neuros? Can you provide a link to any information that led you to this belief?
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Posted by Matt Schmitz (+402) 12 years ago
I think the diagnostic techniques are just getting better, allowing many diseases to be diagnosed earlier in life. I certainly would not discount an environmental cause to this and other diseases. These days you can pee in a cup, or give a few drops of blood, and be saddled with any number of diseases in a matter of days. Even as little as 20 years ago, these diagnostic tools were not available for most diseases.
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Posted by Brian A. Reed (+6014) 12 years ago
I love it when people get up in arms about "chemicals" in food.

It's not some obscure bit of rocket surgery that EVERYTHING is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Salt is a chemical. Sugar is a chemical. The air you breathe is a chemical.

I guarantee you that a truly chemical-free diet will kill you long before any other regimen will. Life is impossible without chemicals.

I fully understand what most people mean when they categorize certain things as "chemicals." There are certainly a lot of chemicals out there that will do considerable harm to a person - and it is wise to avoid them. But a lot of people take it way too far.

Again - life is short (you're going to die regardless of what you eat). Eat what makes you happy.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3712) 12 years ago
The word 'organic' is pretty meaningless as well. All foods are organic. Inorganic food would not be digestible.

Many people don't realize that pesticides and fertilizer are still used in organic farming as long as it is a chemical that is found in nature. These pesticides are much less effective than synthetic chemicals, so much larger amounts must be used. Since organic food is fertilized with animal waste, you have a much larger chance of getting E. coli from organic food and it's just as important to wash it as other fruit/vegetables.

As far as the environment goes, consider the fact that organic food generally only produces half the yield per acre of modern farming methods. If we were to go to all organic farming, lots and lots of land that is not currently in agricultural production would have to be used to meet demand. I don't think that tearing up millions of acres of land that is now forest etc. would be considered good for the environment. If you oppose destruction of the rain forest and hunger around the world, you should oppose the organic movement.

[This message has been edited by Levi Forman (8/3/2009)]
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Posted by Wendy Wilson (+6165) 12 years ago
If you oppose destruction of the rain forest and hunger around the world, you should oppose the organic movement.

Really, Levi. Could I have a copy of the study that recommends that? The problem with world hunger is not lack of production. It is a distribution problem. And as far as the rain forest, do you know that the Brazilian rainforest is being eaten up by farmers planting corn? Not organic corn to be eaten, but corn to be used for ethanol. Pay attention.

Brian,

I'm not one of those ding-dongs who think if something is "natural" then it is better than something else. Arsenic is natural but I wouldn't want to ingest it.

But I also don't see anything wrong with wanting to reduce as much as possible the amount of manmade pesticides and herbicides from my food. I use manure in my home garden and that's about it. I suppose my yields are less than in a commercial garden but I don't mind. And most of my food is from traditionally farmed sources, mostly because it's cheaper and more available.

Again - life is short (you're going to die regardless of what you eat). Eat what makes you happy.

I do for the most part but I'm diabetic and while I'm not yet on insulin, I'm trying to stave that off as long as possible so that I keep my eyesight, heart health and feet. I'm not perfect at it but I try. If I ate only what made me happy, I suspect that I'd not be very happy for very long. You have little kids. Do you feed them only what makes them happy?
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Posted by Bridgier (+9195) 12 years ago
A good book on the subject of food: http://www.amazon.com/Omn...1594200823
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Posted by Brian A. Reed (+6014) 12 years ago
I do for the most part but I'm diabetic and while I'm not yet on insulin, I'm trying to stave that off as long as possible so that I keep my eyesight, heart health and feet. I'm not perfect at it but I try. If I ate only what made me happy, I suspect that I'd not be very happy for very long. You have little kids. Do you feed them only what makes them happy?

I didn't feel like including a caveat or a qualifier with everything I wrote, Wendy. I guess I felt that people would be able to read between the lines a little bit and use some common sense. Silly me.

I'll try again.

Eat what doesn't kill you, but realize that you're going to die regardless of what you eat. Eat what gives you the best balance between sustained life and sustained happiness. If your quality of life isn't improved by the food you eat, is it really worth it? If it will make you sick, avoid it. If it won't, enjoy it.

Now ... wasn't just easier for me to say, "Life is short. Eat what makes you happy?"

FYI: My kids do eat what makes them happy. But since I control their dietary choices, they're happy with the options they have. I don't give them the choice between a candy bar and vegetables. I give them their choice of vegetable. As a result, my 5-year-old loves tomatoes more than nearly any other food in the world.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3712) 12 years ago
Really, Levi. Could I have a copy of the study that recommends that? The problem with world hunger is not lack of production. It is a distribution problem. And as far as the rain forest, do you know that the Brazilian rainforest is being eaten up by farmers planting corn? Not organic corn to be eaten, but corn to be used for ethanol. Pay attention.

You are awfully smug for someone with very little information. First off, ethanol in Brazil is made from sugar cane, not corn, which is many times more efficient than corn. Growing corn for ethanol in a country that can produce sugar cane more efficiently than anywhere else int he world makes no sense. Regardless, corn-based ethanol is another topic.

The fact that there is not a shortage of food in the world right now is entirely due to the massive improvement in yields due to modern farming methods that the organic movement demonizes. Genetic modification of food crops promises continued increases in yield but is also stridently opposed by so-called environmentalists with little or no scientific basis for their objections. If you want to cause an instant global food shortage, I can think of no better way than for all farming to switch to organic. By insisting on organic food, you are contributing to lowering global food production during a time when population is growing quickly and per capita food consumption is rising even faster. The reason that it is not a problem currently is that organic farming is still a relatively small niche world wide. If it were to become mainstream, we would most certainly have problems.
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Posted by Brian A. Reed (+6014) 12 years ago
No kidding, Levi.

Seriously, why are you so grumpy lately, Wendy? It couldn't be because you miss my haiku, could it?
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Posted by Wendy Wilson (+6165) 12 years ago
Sorry, Brian. I think it's all the pesticides in my food.

Levi, I apologize for my mistake. I think I was thinking of something else. Actually, deforestation of the Amazon is mostly from cattle grazing, and in Brazil, soybeans. I'd still like a source citation for your position.
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Posted by Levi Forman (+3712) 12 years ago
What exactly? I've said a lot of stuff hehe.

Here's a couple articles

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4019

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi...303380.DTL

These are not scientific studies but I am confident that I can back up the things I have asserted in this thread if you are more specific about what you would like to see evidence of.

I first started reading about organic food a few years ago out of an interest in possibly producing some on our ranch. Living in California organic food was very popular and people were willing to pay a high premium for it. I spent a fair amount of time doing research and was unable to find anything scientific that showed any benefit health-wise to eating organic. Since then, multiple studies such as the one I linked in my first post in this thread have come out corroborating my findings. In addition, I have read a lot about the inefficiencies of organic farming and how much more grain is being consumed in places like China due to people becoming more wealthy and eating more meat and I am convinced that organic food is not only not helping, but is actually detrimental in the big picture.

While we're skewering sacred cows, I just heard a new skeptoid episode that blew my mind regarding locally grown produce. It defies what you would naturally think but I think he makes a pretty good case that in some (perhaps many) instances, fruit and vegetables shipped halfway around the globe can actually have a lower carbon footprint than some things that are locally grown. It gives an example where it was calculated that the CO2 emissions for Lamb raised in the UK was 4 times higher than lamb that was raised in New Zealand and shipped to the UK! The reason for this is that New Zealand is a so much better place to raise sheep that even considering shipping it 11,000 miles, it's more efficient to produce lamb for the UK in NZ than it is in the UK. Sounds wacky I know, but I thought it was fascinating to listen to:

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4162

I really recommend that skeptoid podcast. It's just 10 minutes long once a week and I find it very entertaining as well as educational. There is no left wing or right wing bias, his intention is to promote critical thinking and debunk popular myths which he does in most cases very effectively.
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Posted by Wendy Wilson (+6165) 12 years ago
I'll check it out, Levi.

[This message has been edited by Wendy Wilson (8/4/2009)]
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