I found Roger Morton's earlier posting of his letter to Gourmet
Magazine extremely informative but there were some details of
verification and access to sources that I thought needed
clarification to make them even more useful. As you can see below,
He responded in great detail and provided some extremely useful hot
links where his information can be verified and one can expand upon
it. I immediately sent him a note asking whether I could send it on
to you for posting and he very kindly gave his permission.
I strongly recommend posting it as it not only answers questions that
I have and have previously had but questions that I have been asked
by others. The URL for Glyphosate did not come up but I was able to
use the first part of it (
http://www.scorecard.org/chemical-profiles/ ) to get to the home
page of the EDF and from there it was a piece of cake.
At 12:34 PM 17/9/00 -0500, you wrote:
>Your letter to Gourmet Magazine was great. Thanks for posting it. You have
>provided us with some great ammunition. However, please allow me to ask as
>few questions so that I can use it accurately.
>1) Organic Materials Review Institute's GenericList - What is this? Who
>sponsors and publishes it? Is it an officiail publication of the OTA or an
>official set of regulations by the U.S. Government? I tried the Library
>catalog but couldn't locate it. Under what name etc. does one look this up?
There web page is at http://www.omri.org/
I have not actually seen the document bu this is a direct quote from Cindy
Douglas (email@example.com) from the Organic Materials Review Institute in
a posting to mailing list:
"Under "copper products" in the Organic Materials Review Institute's
GenericList for materials used in organic crop production it states:
"Regulated--Copper products--These include copper compounds that are exempt
from tolerance by the EPA: Bordeaux mix, copper hydroxide, copper sulfates,
copper-zinc chromate, copper oxychloride and copper oxides. These may be
used as algicides, bactericides, or fungicides. Shall be used in a manner
that prevents excessive copper accumulation in the soil. Build up of copper
in soil may prohibit future use. Use with caution. No visible residue is
allowed on harvested crop." Organic Standards are not simply based on
whether or not a particular compound comes from a plant source.
Furthermore, the standards were set up with the context that a 3rd party
(i.e. a certifying agency) must monitor some farming practices. "
The web site at http://www.omri.org/ explains how to purchase the document
>2) "The Environmental Defence fund rates as `More hazardous than most
>chemicals in 7 out of 9 ranking systems.' or chemical B which they rate as
>`Less hazardous than most chemicals in 6 ranking systems'." Are these
>rankings to be found on a website or does the EDF publish them some place?
Yes - this data is freely available on the web.
(I note it now states for Glyphosate "Less hazardous than most chemicals in
6 ranking systems. "
>3) Where does one find thelist of toxic chemicals, such as Bordeaux mixture
>that are used in organic agriculture? Are there any studies on the toxicity
>of other chemicals - rotenone or ryania etc. used in organic agriculture?
If you could get hold of the documents refered to on the
http://www.omri.org/ web page I am sure this would contain the info you
are after. The problem is that there are different certifying bodies in the
one country so one lots organic food may be different from another.
However, I think the USDA or FDA passed some legislation governing organic
production in the USA recently so if might be worth finding out what is
allowable under those regulations.
In Australia there is the biodynamic farming organisation and they have a
list of allowable chemicals at
Materials Saftey Data Sheets for thousands of chemicals are freely
available from the SigmaAldrich web site.
Search for Rotenone and ask for the MSDS. You need to be registered with
the site to get this but it is free.
This is an excerpt from the MSDS for rotenone:
SECTION 3. - - - - - - - - - - HAZARDS IDENTIFICATION - - - - - - - - -
LABEL PRECAUTIONARY STATEMENTS
TOXIC IF SWALLOWED.
POSSIBLE RISK OF HARM TO THE UNBORN CHILD.
POSSIBLE RISK OF IMPAIRED FERTILITY.
IRRITATING TO EYES, RESPIRATORY SYSTEM AND SKIN.
SECTION 11. - - - - - - - - - TOXICOLOGICAL INFORMATION - - - - - - - -
TOXIC IF SWALLOWED.
MAY BE HARMFUL IF ABSORBED THROUGH THE SKIN.
MAY BE HARMFUL IF INHALED.
CAUSES EYE AND SKIN IRRITATION.
MATERIAL IS IRRITATING TO MUCOUS MEMBRANES AND UPPER
EXPOSURE CAN CAUSE:
STOMACH PAINS, VOMITING, DIARRHEA.
POSSIBLE RISK OF CONGENITAL MALFORMATION IN THE
OVEREXPOSURE MAY CAUSE REPRODUCTIVE DISORDER(S)
BASED ON TESTS WITH
THIS PRODUCT IS OR CONTAINS A COMPONENT THAT IS
NOT CLASSIFIABLE AS
TO ITS CARCINOGENICITY BASED ON ITS IARC, ACGIH,
NTP OR EPA
FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM
TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE, THE CHEMICAL,
TOXICOLOGICAL PROPERTIES HAVE NOT BEEN THOROUGHLY
SECTION 12. - - - - - - - - - ECOLOGICAL INFORMATION - - - - - - - - - -
DATA NOT YET AVAILABLE.
>4) A few weeks ago on Agnet, there was a posting (which I neclected to
>save) on various organic agriculture pracitices that were allowed in the UK
>- usin acid and flaming the field before planting for example - which the
>scientist being quoted argued were more harmful than conventional
>agriculture. Do you know of any source or set of sources on "organic"
>agriculture that are critical of the human and environmental safety of its
>practices? As an economist, I read far more about its costs and lower yields.
I don't have such information at my finger tips. However, one question I
would like the advocates of organic farming have answer is: what they
propose to do about the methane emissions from all the cows they need to
produce all the organic fertiliser that will be required to feed the
population when we all switch to the enviromentaly friendly organic version
of farming? Methane absorbs 25 times more infra-red radiation as carbon
dioxide. (http://icp.giss.nasa.gov/research/methane/greenhouse.html) and is
thus a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Cows are a major
source of methane in the greenhouse gas equation as it is. According to a
press release (Ref 2000/235) from CSIRO Livestock Industries
"Globally, agriculture accounts for half the methane liberated as a result
of human activity, and domestic ruminants produce two thirds of this.
Australia's 140 million sheep and cattle produce one seventh of the
nation's total greenhouse emissions"
So increasing organic farming must make this problem worse. Unless we can
use some technology to reduce cows methane emisions. There is a chance we
could develop such a technology. However, it is highly likely that this
technology would involve genetic engineering and so is not a valid solution
by so called "organic standards".
BTW this is all off the record. I can't and don't speak for CSIRO.
PS - Do you have anything to do with Gormet Magazine?
Opinons expressed in this posting are personal and do not reflect the
position of my employer
Thomas R. DeGregori, Ph.D.
Professor of Economics
Department of Economics
University of Houston
Houston, Texas 77204-5882
Ph. 001 - 1 - 713 743-3838
Fax 001 - 1 - 713 743-3798
Web homepage http://www.uh.edu/~trdegreg