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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

How some organically grown plants might actually not be vegan

I see a lot of vegans go a step further and set more dietary rules for themselves like for eg. How they are only going to eat locally grown food and how they are not going to buy from companies that hire cheap labor and exploit them and such. One resolve I commonly see in vegans is that many of them insist on buying only Organic food.
What exactly is organic food?
Organic food is food that is grown using Organic raw materials. Yes, the term organic is used quite differently is the world of chemistry and Biochemistry where It could actually even include petroleum and other products. Any compound that technically has Carbon and Hydrogen could be organic. Also, did you know that petroleum products are also actually derived from highly compressed plant or animal material over centuries and centuries?
Anyways,nowadays, when we say organic food, we actually don't mean it the Biochemistry and organic chemistry way. We mean it in a different way . The term 'Organic food' is essentially used to indicate that while growing the plants, no chemical fertilizers were used. Only non chemical manures were used. Non chemical manure is mostly derived from compost .

Why is NOT USING chemical fertilizers very important?
Chemical fertilizers are chemicals which can alter the pH of the soil (i.e, make it either more acidic or more basic) over the long run and sometimes make the soil worthless for future cultivation over years .

How does this happen?
Well, for one, You must remember that a lot of microorganisms live in the soil. These microbes are the ones that are responsible for breaking down large biological matter added to the soil to smaller easily absorbable nutrients.
Who absorbs these nutrients you ask?
Well, the plants do. Thus the lovely food chain continues.The plants use minerals from the soil and use the sunlight energy and with chlorophyll(the green pigment of plants) synthesize various compounds that enable the plants to grow. We as herbivores(yes , being a vegan myself now, I am sticking to the theory that we are herbivores and not carnivores.Read my previous entry for more details as to why I believe so) eat these plants and plant products.We grow big and live long and finally die. We are buried or cremated . The microbes then act on us and break us down into smaller particles which then are reused by the plants.
So yeah, coming back to the question of the organic food. Technically, any manure that is not a synthetic chemical qualifies as organic. Due to this misling definition, many farms which also have associated animal dairy farms not only use the animals fecal matter as organic manure, they sometimes use the slaughter house meat offal as manure too. It is documented that a lot of fish wastes in fillet manufacturing units are also ground up and used as certified organic manure.

Why is animal slaughter house offal and ground fish not safe as organic manure?
In the past few centuries ever since man started eating more and more animals as part of his regular diet, newer group of parasitic infections have started appearing in humans which previously  were only known to occur in animals.
You see, even hundred years ago, not that many people were eating squid or lobster on a regular basis as they are now.
Sure, some coastal communities used to eat them , but thanks to faster refrigerated transport means available now which is often called as the COLD CHAIN, A lot of supermarket shoppers have started consuming such sea animals at a larger AND faster and alarming rate . So yes, Now we have a whole new group of parasitic and non parasitic infections that have started appearing in human patients that were never commonly found in humans earlier , all thanks to this change in diet pattern where we are eating things we are NOT supposed to eat at all.
Coming to vegans and organic food, Vegans per say by their clever Dietary choice to avoid animals or animal products in their diet are smart enough to circumvent exposure to aforementioned parasitic infections and other such rarely occurring microbial infections as well. UNLESS, unless ,of course the vegetables they eat are somehow coming in contact with fish or meat of some sort like when
a/meat being placed next to or touching vegetables on stall shelves,
b/Same person handling both vegetables and meat at the supermarket without washing hands
c/tainted sewage water touching low branch vegetables in fields being irrigated with kitchen waste water/bathroom waste/sewage water)

How exactly can such cross contamination of vegan food with animal parasites occur?

yes, this is where organic farming figures. If you remember right, there have been far too many episodes of salmonella infection/e coli infections  due to contaminated tomatoes or contaminated pistachios and what not? Salmonella is supposed to be transmitted to humans only from animal products.E.coli by the very definition of its name comes from the intestines of animals (coli?) . The only way plant products can acquire salmonella is when they have been in contact with other contaminated animal products, be it contaminated eggs or contaminated cheese or what I suspect organic manure made from ground up fish or animal offal from meat curing plants or slaughter houses.

Therefore, I think it is time vegans think twice prior to being too keen on organic food. The organic food you purchase might not really be vegan after all, what with all the ground fish and meat offal that come  in close contact with your tomatoes that were hanging too low to have touched the soil. Ya know, think about it !
What is the solution to this?
For one, if you live in the suburbs, you could try composting your own organic wastes and then using that compost to feed your own lil kitchen garden.

Secondly, when buying locally, you can ask your grower if they use ground up animal offal as manure. I am sure your local grower will be happy to provide your this information if you sound really interested. Research your food before you eat that is all I am saying.

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