Archive for February, 2007

All Things Organic Conference

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Last May, I attended the All Things Organic Trade show in Chicago. Besides a world class trade show and a very interesting Keynote address by Steve Levitt, author of,
Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything“, there were some excellent meeting sessions. One of these sessions was called “The Organic Legacy: Creating a better world for our children.” Speakers were Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., Chief Scientist, The Organic Center, and Alan Greene, M.D. Founder and CEO,

Some of the highlights of this session were:

  • The wealthiest, highest educated segment of the American population is less healthy than the poorest segment in England.
  • Sperm counts in the U.S. have dropped by 2/3 from 1934 to 2006. The steepest drop occurring in agricultural regions.
  • Our genetic make-up can be altered by things we do during our life. This is called epigenetics. In a study of identical twins, it was found that they had 50 times the variance in genetic make-up as adults than they had as children. These changes can be passed on to their children. For more on epigenetics see Epigenetics: A web tour
  • There has been a startling drop in population levels of amphibians during the last several decades.

All of these facts can be significantly attributed to increased pesticide use in the growing of food crops.

If you find this interesting and would like to attend the 2007 show, here is a link:

All Things Organic 2007 Expo

Apollo Alliance

Monday, February 19th, 2007

Anyone interested in organics and the Green Movement, probably has a keen interest in renewable energy. Those who have not yet heard of the Apollo Alliance may be surprised. This is a non-profit organization devoted to spending the time and money to make the nation energy independent using clean, renewable sources. Similar to JFK’s call for the nation in 1961 to put a man on the moon within a decade, this organization calls for the U.S. to be energy independent within a decade. When JFK challenged the nation, pundits decried it as a waste of money and resources. Little did they foresee that it would lead to the information age and the high tech boom that has driven our economy for decades. For more about the Apollo Alliance visit their website at:

Apollo Alliance

The Apollo Alliance has a 10 Point Plan for Good Jobs and Energy Independence that is one of the best common sense proposals on energy yet. The full plan is in the following link:

10 Point Plan

Everyone who cares about our planet and the future of this country should support this organization. If you have the resources and would like to donate follow this link:

Donate to the Apollo Alliance

Frozen Organic Research

Thursday, February 15th, 2007

The following table was compiled from a series of visits to grocery stores in the Chicago and Philadelphia suburbs in January and February, 2007.

Store Frozen Organic Data

A few interesting things to note:

1. Most of the brands source a significant portion of their assortment from China. Notable exceptions are the O brand at Safeway, although they do source from Mexico, and the Sunrich brand which is highlighted with “Grown in the USA.”

2. Another thing to note is that the chains specializing in organics (Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Wegmans) generally charge less for organics than the mainstream super markets like Safeway.

3. Finally, vegetables that are grown both in the U.S. and in China, such as Edamame in Wegmans, do not charge a premium for U.S. production.

Frozen Organic Vegetables – FROM CHINA?!?

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

About a year ago, a friend of mine convinced me of the merits of eating organic. Now that winter has arrived and there is less fresh produce to choose from, I have been eating frozen organic vegetables. Some of the reasons organic vegetables are better than traditionally grown vegetables are:.

1. No pesticides used in production.

2. No artificial fertilizers used in production.

3. No genetically modified varieties.

The products I purchased were certified by the USDA and carried the Certified Organic label. I look at organic products as being more than just chemical-free. Like many people, I view organics as part of a green lifestyle. The green lifestyle includes the whole process of growing and getting products to market as well as eating natural.

Imagine my surprise then, when after several months of eating organic, I read the labels and saw that many of the vegetables I was eating were labeled “product of China.” I have nothing against China. But the idea that vegetables could be grown organically in China, processed, packaged and frozen and then shipped to the U.S. and sold at a price for less than a farmer here could produce them astonished me. After all, we are the bread basket of the world. What’s wrong with this picture?

Well, there are a few things that don’t quite pass the smell test.

1. According to Peter Navarro in The Coming China Wars: Where They Will Be Fought and How They Can Be Won, 70% of the freshwater in China is too polluted due to continued use of pesticides and chemical dumping that it cannot safely be used for irrigation. Perhaps organic vegetables are grown without pesticides in China, but I suspect they are not chemical free.

2. In order to be certified organic, the soil used must lie fallow for a number of years. I have trouble believing that any land in China has lain fallow.

3. Even if the vegetables are grown organically, they have to be frozen in China and remain frozen for a boat ride across the Pacific Ocean in order to be safe.

I asked the frozen foods manager at the local Whole Foods Store why they buy frozen organic vegetables that are produced in China. His response was that it is the only way they can keep their prices down.

I believe him, but I don’t understand it. The only components that could possibly be cheaper in China than in the U.S. are labor and land cost. If land cost is less in a country with 1.3 billion people and much less arable land than in the U.S., something is seriously wrong. Since the government owns much of the farm land and the local bureacrats control it’s use, I suppose it could be due to their selling to the highest bidder. But it sounds like corruption to me. Labor is no doubt cheaper in China. However, farmers in the U.S. aren’t exactly making a fortune.

So, that leaves us with the question – Do we want to buy Frozen organic vegetables from China and support corrupt bureaucrats and virtual slave labor? Do we want to risk the chance that those vegetables thawed on the slow boat from China? Do we want to offset the benefits of organically grown with vegetables irrigated by polluted water? Do we want to offset the benefits to the earth of organics with the fossil fuels burned to transport them halfway around the world?

My next post will have a list of brands and stores carrying frozen organic vegetables and where they come from, along with comparative prices.