Unclear on the concept: ‘Organic food could help save the world from global warming’

Some blowback about last weeks announcement that Stanford researchers find little difference between organically farmed food and commercially grown food leave a bit to be desired in the logic department. From the Times of India: 

“More significantly, organic could help save the world from global warming. It saves 40 per cent of water used in conventional farming and uses non-conventional energy sources,” says Patel, claiming that he did not have to use water pump for as long as 25 days when it did not rain at all this monsoon. “In summers, I don’t need to irrigate my farms for almost 30-35 days. Head of the department of civil engineering in MSU A S Patel says if every village of average 100 acre size could shift to organic, the water saved would take care of the village’s domestic needs for the next 20 years!

The entire article is here.

Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.

About these ads

91 thoughts on “Unclear on the concept: ‘Organic food could help save the world from global warming’

  1. “Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.”

    This won’t work because low flow toilets have to be flushed twice to be effective in their primary function.

  2. Good to see the Indians have identified that water is strongest factor in global warming not CO2. Just waiting for the all the other scientists to catch up.

  3. Anyone who thinks Organic Faming does not use quantities of pesticides is sadly misinformed.
    Organic produce is Expensive. So you pay more for similar vitamin levels as non organic produce. Big question is how do you know you actually have Organic produce? I know farmers that are the countryside equivalent of second hand car shysters. Grow your own tastes better because it is really fresh and barely oxidised.

    http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~lhom/organictext.html

    How it solves the myth that is AGW escapes me.

  4. Apparently they have a real problem in Germany too. This too joins the long list of unintended consequences for “virtuous actions”. From that normally Green oriented publication Der Spiegel

    ———-

    Part 3: Water

    Showerhead technology has undergone rapid development in recent years. Less water, more air, says the European Union’s environmental design guideline. Gone are the days when it was enough for a showerhead to simply distribute water. Today an aerosol is generated through a complicated process in the interior of the showerhead. The moisture content in the resulting air-water mixture is so low and the air content so high that taking a shower feels more like getting blow-dried.

    The government is even teaching our smallest citizens how important it is to treat precious water responsibly. The Environment Ministry’s children’s website admonishes them to “Think about how you can save water! Taking a shower is better for the environment than taking a bath. Turn off the water when you’re soaping yourself. Never let the water run when you’re not using it. And maybe you can spend less time in the shower, too.”

    This is all very well and good, but there’s only one problem: It stinks. Our street is filled with the stench of decay. It’s especially bad in the summer, when half of Berlin is under a cloud of gas.

    A “Competency Center” established by the Berlin Water Authority recently published a list of the neighborhoods where the problem is especially egregious. Ironically, the upscale Gendarmenmarkt square tops the list. Pariser Platz, at the Brandenburg Gate, smells like a diaper pail. It isn’t just a problem in Berlin. Entire neighborhoods are also affected in Hamburg, the northeastern city of Rostock and the western Ruhr region.

    Our consumption has declined so much that there is not enough water going through the pipes to wash away fecal matter, urine and food waste, causing blockages. The inert brown sludge sloshes back and forth in the pipes, which are now much too big, releasing its full aroma.

    The water authorities are trying to offset the stench with odor filters and perfumed gels that come in lavender, citrus and spruce scents. But toxic heavy metals like copper, nickel and lead are also accumulating in the sewage system. Sulfuric acid is corroding the pipes, causing steel to rust and concrete to crumble. It’s a problem that no amount of deodorant can solve.

    The waterworks must now periodically flush their pipes and conduits. The water we save with our low-flow toilets is simply being pumped directly through hoses into the sewage system below. On some days, an additional half a million cubic meters of tap water is run through the Berlin drainage system to ensure what officials call the “necessary flow rate.”

    Germany has a lot of water. It has many rivers and lakes. The amount of rain that falls from the skies over Germany is five times as much as the entire water requirements of the entire population and industry. Less than 3 percent of the country’s water reserves would be enough to supply all households.

    The obvious solution to our pipeline problems would be to use more water again. But that’s not how the Germans work. People who have been urged for so long to use as little water as possible when taking a shower don’t just toss their habits overboard. The conservation appeals have created deep imprints in our psyche.

    —————————————-
    see

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/germany-s-environmental-protection-policies-fail-to-achieve-goals-a-821396-4.html

  5. They are very unclear on the concept. Organic crop yields are about 25% lower, on average, than conventional. That means that to feed the same people, you need 25% more land, plus 25% more fuel to seed, plow and harvest.

  6. Truthseeker says:
    September 10, 2012 at 3:38 am

    “Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.”

    This won’t work because low flow toilets have to be flushed twice to be effective in their primary function.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Ah, but if cisterns returned to near the ceiling as they used to be they could just work as well as low suite toilets on full flow.
    As I am on tank water (and now alone in the house) it could be an experiment I can do at home !

  7. “Organic” also means less production. Modern, western agriculture is perfectly feasible and “sustainable”. It’s working, it’s been working for decades.

    This Patel fellow’s approach is exactly not that. It’s not working, it’s not feasible, it’s not “sustainable. Yes, village could do that. And? What about cities? Vienna here has 1.5 million inhabitants. How are we going to feed them with “organic” only? We can’t, simple as that.

  8. “Everyone agrees that organic food tastes much better”
    Reminds me of one of the experiments conducted in the TV show “Penn & Teller’s Bullshit!”. They cut a banana in half, claimed one half was organically grown and conducted a blind test. Quite a few said the “organically grown banana” was much tastier.

    Still… Being able to grow crops without pesticides is a good thing. Hopefully the bugs that eat the pests make a comeback too.

  9. So, I’m to understand that if I take a flat of tomatoes and grow half of them organically and half in(?)organically, the plants in the organic half of the flat will require less water. My well-mulched and well-composted garden soil may retain more moisture, but I’d guess the plant moisture requirements are essentially the same per unit tomato yield. The fallacy of believing that you can easily expand garden plot growing methods to feed very large populations seems prevalent here.

    I am an organic chemist and have never gotten accustomed to the term “organic” as applied to food. One has chemical compounds mainly consisting of C, H and O and the other doesn’t?

  10. Unfortunately, you get enough people living in cities who have no idea how farming works, reading the above crap, and they will approve legislation to reduce water on farms and then have no food.

  11. @edmh “The inert brown sludge”

    hardly inert !! something must be reacting to release all the aromatics. ;-)

  12. They may be using less water, but if dryland farming in India is anything like dryland farming here on the Great Plains, they’re also getting far lower yields. However, it just may be different over there, considering the things [snip . . yup, over the line . . kbmod]) tell us about the way Himalayan Glaciers work.

  13. There is nothing wrong with recycling water via treatment plants as wee do in the UK. They say that Londoners drink water that has been recycle 4-5 times on its journey down old father Thames! As for Organic farming as opposed to Modern Farming, as Numberwatch states accurately in its Vocabulary section, the former is farming with impure chemicals whereas the latter is farming with pure chemicals!!! The OF food taste no better, & what they put on it as pesticides one dare not contemplate, & it has been demonstrated that there is much carcinogenic potential in each process, not that I am worried about a 1 in 10,000th chance or even less of such an event!

  14. ‘Organic food could help save the world from global warming’

    Of course it will, because it would reduce the world’s population by a third.

  15. Organic food often takes more inputs and passes over the field (burning fossil fuel) because the chemicals and transgenes work better to control weeds and insects.

  16. Well if we look here:

    http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0426-hance_organicvsindustrial.html

    which references :
    Verena Seufert, Navin Ramankutt, and Jonathan A. Foley. Comparing the yields of organic and conventional agriculture. Nature. 2012. doi:10.1038/nature11069.

    we get :

    “After weeding out problematic research on organic versus conventional agricultural, researchers with the University of Minnesota and McGill University looked at 66 studies on 34 different crops. They found that conventional farming currently beats organic agriculture in yields by 25 percent. However, that simple statistic does not capture the full picture: yields varied widely between types of crops and growing methods.

    “For some crops, like many fruits and some legumes (e.g., chickpeas or beans), organic farms nearly match the yield performance of their conventional counterparts, co-author Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment, explained to mongabay.com. For example, when looking at rain-fed legumes, the study found that organic yields were only 5 percent behind conventional, and organic fruits were just 3 percent behind.

    “But for other crops, like our major cereals and grains, the conventional farms currently have a big yield advantage,” Foley continues, “and that’s a big problem, since grains are a fundamental building block of the human diet.”

    This didn’t meant there wasn’t room for improvement in many organic food systems. For example, the authors write that when nitrogen was added to organic fields, yields rose significantly. They note that depending on manure and compost for nitrogen in organic farming simply proved too “slow” for some crops. A lack of phosphorous in certain soils may also hamper organic production in some cases.

    “More work is needed, and fortunately, I think it might be possible to make big gains in yield with organic-style approaches,” says Foley, who emphasizes that none of the study’s three authors are “anti-organic,” but all are “big fans of organic food in our households.”

    Still, Foley says as a scientist they have a duty to follow the data, and “the science shows us that organic has much work to do to compete with the yields of conventional grains.”

    Read more: http://news.mongabay.com/2012/0426-hance_organicvsindustrial.html#ixzz264DNa0Dt

    So the Soil Association isn’t going to save the planet just yet…..

  17. Truthseeker says:
    September 10, 2012 at 3:38 am
    “This won’t work because low flow toilets have to be flushed twice to be effective in their primary function.”

    In addition, for those having a septic system, it is not advisable to use a low flow toilet at the farthest point from the septic tank. Lack of flushing power may not push all the waste into the tank and could leave enough in the pipe lines to eventually cause a problem.

  18. Return the land used for biofuel production to food production and that would help considerably. I wouldn’t bother with ‘organic food’ as it costs more and crops less. As so called AGW is a faith and not a fact it has no relevance in the real world. Only to money grabbing politico-scientists and their sycophants.

  19. I have no idea what you people put in those low flow toilets, but I have two of them, live on a septic system and in over 7 years have only had them clog less than half a dozen times. I do not flush them twice each time and they get plenty of use. It seems a complaint that people just repeat without thinking about it or I have some magical method of making them work?
    Be careful what you predict here! It will show up in a week in some global publication. You can probably never suggest anything too crazy that someone will not latch onto it.

  20. Yet another solution to a non-problem…

    (PS – so why are organic foods twice as expensive in the stores versus non-organic if they take less water to grow?)

  21. “In 2008, the National Agricultural Statistics Service of USDA conducted a detailed survey of Organic agriculture in the US. Participation rates were high with Organic growers, so the data is quite reliable. What it showed was probably surprising to many. After at least three decades of “rapid growth,” Organic now accounts for 0.52% of harvested US cropland.”

    http://www.biofortified.org/2011/02/todays-organic-yesterdays-yields/

    As noted in the link, organic soybean yields are 34% less than the national conventional-agriculture average typically. Those for corn are 29% less.

    “Organic wheat production is equivalent to that [of conventional agriculture] from even earlier eras – [like] 57 years [ago] for Winter Wheat and 58 years for Spring Wheat on a national basis.”

    Whether organic or conventional, individual farm yields vary by a large percentage dependent on many factors, so there is a bunch of intentionally misleading articles published comparing such as a record top organic farm to the average conventional farm (or other tricks) rather than comparing averages to averages like the figures noted above.

    Fundamentally, going backwards in advancement like no longer using modern synthetic fertilizers (limiting nitrogen fixation to that from “natural” sources like manure and bacteria alone) results in lesser yields, in more land area required per unit of food production.

    Presently organic farming is a minuscule fraction of total food production in industrialized countries due to its extra cost and inefficiency (i.e. the 0.52% of U.S. cropland figure). However, if the world went backwards in agricultural yields by switching to organic farming everywhere, vastly less land could be spared for nature — amounting to an enormous environmental catastrophe dwarfing imaginary global warming harm. As usual, many activists are more fundamentally anti-industrial than they are really are anything else.

    If anything, those yield differences may be a practical understatement considering the enormous cost difference seen retail between regular and organic foods. (For instance, if I recall correctly, when I’ve seen organic potatoes in supermarkets, they cost multiple times as much as regular ones).

  22. Re: Les Johnson

    Organic crop yields are about 25% lower, on average, than conventional. That means that to feed the same people, you need 25% more land, plus 25% more fuel to seed, plow and harvest.

    You are making a common mistake with your calculation.
    If your target is 100 units and you are only producing 75 units (25% less) then you need to increase 75 by 25 which means the percentage is: 100*25/75 = 33%
    So you need 33% more land and fuel.

  23. Yield isn’t the only parameter of interest when comparing organic with chemical farming. The continuing health of the soil and its microbial content, and the presence of trace elements in soil and crop are also important to the nutritional qualities of the resulting harvest. Vandana Shiva includes (second para from the end) some comparisons here , for example:

    “On an average, organic food has been found to have 21 per cent more iron, 14 per cent more phosphorous, 78 per cent more chromium, 390 per cent more selenium, 63 per cent more calcium, 70 per cent more boron, 138 per cent more magnesium, 27 per cent more vitamin C and 10-50 per cent more vitamin E and beta-carotene.”

    So, do we opt for eating (and wasting) smaller quantities of more nutritious food, or greater quantities of nutritionally deficient junk ‘food’? Rich, fertile soil, or soil with its minerals washed out by years of NPK and rendered sterile by Bt-containing GM crops? “Sustainability” in its original sense, or in its UN / corporate sense? I know what I think, and it isn’t much influenced by Big Agribusiness-backed studies dissing organic.

  24. ..”when it did not rain at all this monsoon“..

    How is that even possible? I can’t understand how organic farming could save anything, it’s too slow and fruitless – and largely bullshit. Seems yet another village is missing an idiot.

  25. “Low flow toilets”, shower heads etc. It is one thing to mandate these relatively simple devices, quite another to dig up all the underground reticulated sewer lines and/or start installing pressurised rising mains and more pump stations.
    Gets worse if “grey” water is allowed to be taken out. In relatively flat places, sewer lines are at minimum gradient based on the “old” flow characteristics, eg big whoosh from the flush etc.
    “They say that Londoners drink water that has been recycle 4-5 times on its journey down old father Thames”
    When I was drinking the stuff 40 years ago it was said to be 7 times. I was aware of several places where the intake was only a few miles downstream of an outflow. 7 was the “magic” number of course. Thames starts at Seven Springs, various cities built on 7 hills. (It was heresy to attempt to verify the count.)
    “Everyone agrees that organic food tastes much better”. I recall a friend, big fan of organic food, observing that factory farmed and hydroponic, picked and consumed fresh, was better than organic that was three days old.
    As with the “alternative energy” creed, micro-scale can sometimes work, macro-scale doesn’t. Same with water, except that mandating rainwater collection in dense urban situations is no substitute for massive containments and gravity flow.

  26. Low flow toilets can be ok for many people BUT there was absolutely no reason for congress to pass a law mandating them. In a few areas in the U.S. where water is scarce, higher prices would have led to the increasing use of low water devices. If a local government with high voter support voted to mandate them or tax high water toilets OR tax water use above a certain level, this is more defensible than having congress mandate even for places with too much water. :)

    The Kohler toilets have a cool feature where if you do not depress the handle all the way, it only uses half of the water to flush which works great for urine. And they have a bigger opening and work fine for bigger jobs with a full flush MOST of the time. But good designs that save money will be adapted over time anyway, particularly in places where water is expensive. This is called the free market. A good example of how the free market DOES NOT encourage over consumption and does have SOME responsiveness to environmental concerns. (If you are familiar with Lewandowski’s survey).

    It makes very little sense that you could use 25-40% less water with organic foods. If your yields are 25% less and the grains are smaller, etc. then you might use 25% less water but you have 25% less food as well. Through conventional breeding and genetically modified foods, you can come up with strains that need less water, but anyone can use those. The only way you could use less water in a meaningful way is if you have small plots and individual attention to each plant so that they get JUST the right amount of water. But to do this on a large scale you need to go back to less mechanized farming and use more people which costs money. So you are raising food prices, both because of lower yields with organic (grains at any rate) AND due to higher manpower needs. This may fit the agenda of those (following Ehrlich) who want to see the human population plunge by a factor of two or more and want to see THEIR utopian image of us all living in a simpler world with only small farms and communes and citizen’s committees forced on everyone else, but in the real world, it is not a viable solution.

  27. I suspect you will see water featured more prominently as the favored ‘save-the-planet- meme. The crowd that was hoping to cash in on CAGW is bright enough to see that fading into the sunset and are shifting their focus to water related issues. One of the aspects of the proposed free trade deal between Canada and Europe that seems to get no press is the fact that our water would be considered a product to be regulated and monetized by supra national political entities – and guess who they might be. Who knows… maybe Gleick will have his day in the sun after all.

  28. I also meant to add that organic farming is fine as long as it is not mandated or given subsidies or tax breaks to mask its true costs. If it is really as great as its advocates say then more people will buy it because it tastes so good. And more people will use it because it is so much cheaper and saves water, pesticides, fertilizer, etc.

    And then it will naturally become more and more prevalent. Particularly for legumes and fruits if the link above is accurate. The main problem in most countries is you have people who want to puse the political system to force their views on others. The politicians only want to get elected and reward their cronies, so in addition to having things that won’t work as well anyway get put in place, you also have the extra waste due to cronyism, subsidies, paybacks, etc from the politicization of a policy or behavior. Along with this comes the undeserved getting rich, often the rich getting richer. So the same people that say they are so concerned with the poor are putting in place policies that make food, energy, housing more expensive and increase the difference between the haves and have nots. In a free market, the consumer/citizen is king and costs tend to go down. In a politicized system, those with connections make out like bandits. But people like to think in terms of slogans, sound bites, and good intentions. They never go back and look and see if the policies they supported had any unforeseen consequences. Their policies all sound like they are nice and noble and apparently that’s all that counts.

  29. It is a part of the progressive strategy to influence the efficiency of our society in ways that support their goals. When it comes to consumption, progressives want us to be as efficient as possible – buy only the best stuff, buy only what you need, keep it in good shape, and use it till it wears out, if not longer. And then recycle it.

    Regarding production, however, they have a different plan. Make production as inefficient as possible, by including all sorts of extra rules about how things must be produced, use union labor with its attendent rules and inefficiencies, use diffuse sources of power that are expensive (wind and solar), shut down exploration for new sources of materials so that you must use recycled materials, and separate out all of the separate elements you need, rather than going to sources still in the ground. All this raises prices, which is consistent with lowering consumption.

    Organic food production attacks the fuel supply that people need to live, and ultimately gets people used to living with less, at a higher price.

    Gradually, the society loses its ability to make stuff, and descends into a state of dependency on other societies that have not followed this path. And that is where progressives want societies to go – into dependency, so that the people can be more easily controlled.

    It is all about control.

  30. The traditional term “organic” is somewhat of a problem. However, the issue is not “yield” but that ever-lovin’ conservative term “choice”. Industrial farming is essential, but so is “organic” so long as there is some meaningful regulation. Some organic food tastes better than industrial, and the other way ’round. I have never seen the claims for “more nutritious” as applied to organic produce ever prove out upon testing. But what’s wrong with free choice, along with all kinds of debunking outrageous claims!?! In California I see plenty of envy of those who shop at Whole Foods. However, Trader Joe’s is only excellent for some things, just like Whole Foods is or Ralph’s or Albertson’s, etc. Furthermore “whole” grains are more nutritious for most people.

    Organic produce is more likely to be local; it’s produced without the normal pesticides, of which residues do remain on the produce (even if tested as not harmful); the income from organic farming encourages development of this different kind of farming; it enhances diversity (oh, I don’t like that word) of farming methods and plant varieties. If there is a blight destroying some variety of a crop, organic farming might protect that crop because of different methods or because a different variety, not conducive to industrial farming methods, was planted. Water savings were probably due to lots of “compost” in the soil and “mulch”, a good thing, but labor intensive and therefore more expensive. I also can see real importance in having foods produced without pesticides for infants and young children. People who have a visceral hatred of “organic” foods should first chill out, then test claims for its virtues, and finally permit the (free) market to work. Such “nannies”, even on WUWT!

    As to the topic of the post: That Times of India article was all over the place — probably the usual science-savy writer. If any kind of farming could enhance warming of Earth, that seems to be a good thing as we move away from the (currently sleepy) sun during our eliptical orbit.

  31. “On an average, organic food has been found to have 21 per cent more iron, 14 per cent more phosphorous, 78 per cent more chromium, 390 per cent more selenium, 63 per cent more calcium, 70 per cent more boron, 138 per cent more magnesium…..”

    But! IRON?! PHOSPHOROUS?! CHROMIUM?! BORON?!

    Those are all poison! I want PURE organic food!!!!111!

    /sarc

  32. It’s worth mentioning ‘grey water’ myths while we’re on the subject. This is the theory that using waste water (apart from toilet water) for gardens etc is the way of the future. Trouble is, the cost of building and maintaining duplicate water systems is ruinous. Also, without filtering, a lot of ‘grey water’ is not very good for plants.

    BTW, after having (forcibly) had a dual flush toilet installed a couple of years ago, the pipes clogged for the first time in decades. The plumber said that there was not enough water going through to keep things moving. I now have two buttons on my loo, but use only the full flush option.

    These people really think that water is a limited and finite resource. It’s depressing, to say the least.

  33. Anecdotal experience is the stuff belief is made of. One strong hurricane and you have AGW believers. One year using less water and you have AGW believers. Oysters won’t seed in the ocean for some reason and you have AGW believers.

    It is in the rose-colored-glasses-off cold conditions of double blind studies that you discover that anecdotal experiences absolutely do not predict significant findings when considering data sufficient to cover the number of possible variables.

  34. Reality check says:
    September 10, 2012 at 5:41 am
    “I have no idea what you people put in those low flow toilets, but I have two of them, live on a septic system and in over 7 years have only had them clog less than half a dozen times”

    Didn’t see the /sarc tag. But bragging about less than half a dozen clogs in 7 years is obviously be sarcastic. (You shouldn’t have any clogs in 7 years, and yes I am on septic)

  35. Reality check says:
    September 10, 2012 at 5:41 am

    I have no idea what you people put in those low flow toilets, but I have two of them, live on a septic system and in over 7 years have only had them clog less than half a dozen times. I do not flush them twice each time and they get plenty of use. It seems a complaint that people just repeat without thinking about it or I have some magical method of making them work?
    —————————————————————————–
    If you think that having your sewage pipes clog every 18 months or so is acceptable, fine. Well done, you, for saving the environment, or whatever middle class fantasy you subscribe to. In the First world, however, we expect our plumbing to work properly for a lot longer – and many people can’t afford to call in plumbers all the time.

    Call me crazy, but how about flushing enough water through these systems so that they work as designed? Oh sorry, oh noes, water is a depleting resource …

  36. @Alan the Brit
    “There is nothing wrong with recycling water via treatment plants as wee do in the UK.”
    Freudian slip?

  37. … “Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.” …

    The scientific consensus changes. Once upon a time Sheryl Crow had the solution to saving the world: “I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.”

  38. Significantly, there is no statement about what specific crop(s) are being grown by A S Patel on his organic farm. Some crops use less water. Nothing is said about how hot or not hot the temperatures were when his crop goes 25+ days without irrigation.

    I bet anyone that Patel is not growing tomatoes.

  39. Believe it or not, commercial farmers don’t like using herbicides and pesticides. These things cost money. If yields and quality could be maintained without them, the farmers would be only too happy to oblige.

    Farming has changed substantially in the last 5 decades. Previously you did a soil nutrient analysis and dumped the appropriate quantity of calcium, phosphorus and nitrates on the land, using lots of diesel in the process. But all these inputs have become expensive, so farmers have had to work at creating and maintaining healthy soil instead. Many low till and no till farming methods come from “organic” farming.

    Regarding water shortages, wiki answers says there are 343 billion billion gallons of water in the oceans. That works out at 49 billion gallons for every person on earth. Perhaps if the carbonophobics stopped wasting money on windmills and spent some of it on researching cost-effective and eco-friendly desalination, we wouldn’t be facing a water crisis.

  40. Les Johnson says:
    September 10, 2012 at 4:08 am

    “Organic crop yields are about 25% lower, on average, than conventional. That means that to feed the same people, you need 25% more land …” etc.

    Someone has already pointed out the error here, but here’s another similar point, about food waste. In UK this is often quoted – rather conveniently imho, as 33%. Eliminating this wastage entirely would be equivalent to raising yields by 50% yet plant breeders labour to rachet up yields by a few percentage points for a breeding cycle. I would shoot for the easier target, using existing varieties and husbandry – if I were in charge.

  41. It seems I need to clarify my statement. I was not being sarcastic. I did not have a clogged sewage system (the only problem I ever had with my septic was too MUCH water from leaking toilets and the leach field got soggy. Unpleasant, but easily remedied by new toilets. The toilets that leaked were over 20 years old.) When I say “clogged”, I mean I need a couple of pushes with a plunger to clear the line. I do often dump a five gallon bucket of water after this to make sure the lines are clear (less than once a year). Assuming the toilet is flushed 10 times a day, 365 days a year for 3650 flushes per year times 7 years, 6 flushes that required some help seems reasonable. If you have a plumbing device that NEVER misses a flush, please share. We all want a mechanical device that functions 100% of the time, though I was always told that this was a pipe dream (/sarc). As for my septic system, it has been pumped only twice in 30 years. TV ads all say periodic pumping is necessary. The second time is was done was after the toilet leak problem and was just to clear everything out and start over. That was over 10 years ago. Again, who out there thinks that a septic system never needs pumping or never fails???
    Oh, the added advantage to a low flush toilet is when the electricity goes out and you have no water (because your well pump isn’t solar–see, I’m not totally nuts) you need less water sitting in bottles to be able to flush the toilet.
    I did NOT buy the toilets to save the planet. I bought them to replace the leaky ones and this was what was available. I do not think they should have been mandated. Please don’t ascribe more to this than what I wrote. I do fine with my toilets, which get as much usage as basically all home toilets do, and I am just noting that I don’t know why some people have such problem with them. It’s something I am puzzles by. If you have problems, then I am sorry for your situation. I just am not having any similar experience with the low-flush toilets. I did not mean to rile all of you up.

  42. Speaking of blowback, you should have caught the blowing that resulted from NPR ‘s coverage of the Stanford study. I missed the original report, but the next day NPR was falling all over itself trying to “balance” the message out and reassure the large number of unhappy listener’s that the research report didn’t really say that there is no decernable health benefits from eating organic foods. What they meant to say was that scientists just haven’t had enough time yet to find those benefits. And besides, people eat organic foods for reasons other than health, like saving the planet.

    I have nothing against organic food. I just find it rather funny how some people make such a big deal of it, considering that the term organic is so broad and for most people so poorly understood. As one listener to the NPR report pointed out, organic does not mean pesticide free, simply that the pesticides applied were not synthetic, but “natural”.

  43. Reality Check, Tom in F. & johanna

    Seems we have gone from organic food to organic waste. As is said frequently – “S— happens!”

    It was not clear to me that the clogs mentioned (number approximate but fewer than 6) were in the bowl or in the lines. Like Tom, I am on septic (meaning being out in the rural area) and a clogged line or inflow to the tank is unacceptable. However, a clog at the bowl end is an inconvenience, easily rectified. After a couple of bowl-clogs, I have assisted the low-flow with a well timed addition of extra water. This high-flow strategy (also a pain in the posterior) doesn’t save water or the world. It is calming, however, to see the flush toilet actually flush.

  44. Imagine how much water they’d save if they irrigated their organic crops with flushed water from low flow organic toilets. The water savings would be so enormous that it might even cancel out global warming completely… possibly even triggering global cooling, like a negative tipping point… or something… I guess.

  45. TerryS. Yes, you are correct. A 25% reduction in yield, means that 33% more land and fuel needs to used to get the same yield.

    Good catch.

  46. Truthseeker said:
    September 10, 2012 at 3:38 am
    …This won’t work because low flow toilets have to be flushed twice to be effective in their primary function.
    ——————————-
    Primary? You may be thinking of their number two function.

  47. Steve C says: “…The continuing health of the soil and its microbial content, and the presence of trace elements in soil and crop are also important to the nutritional qualities of the resulting harvest. Vandana Shiva includes … some comparisons…:

    “On an average, organic food has been found to have 21 per cent more iron, 14 per cent more phosphorous, 78 per cent more chromium, 390 per cent more selenium…”

    Eat up. “Collings (1955) noted that … arsenic, barium, chromium, flourine [sic], lead, molybdenum, selenium, and thallium have been shown to be toxic to plants or animals at relatively low concentrations.” (p. 163)

    ‘Organic’ is an anagram for “rig a con.”

  48. Yes, organic food can help save the world from global warming because

    1) Global warming is man-made
    2) Organic farming is less resource intensive
    3) Organic farming can’t raise enough food to feed everyone, therefore
    4) People will die
    5) No more people, no more global warming.

  49. Reality check says: “It seems I need to clarify my statement. I was not being sarcastic … When I say “clogged”, I mean I need a couple of pushes with a plunger to clear the line. I do often dump a five gallon bucket of water after this to make sure the lines are clear (less than once a year)…”

    Thanks for the clarification, RC. Your case is anecdotal and apparently based on a fairly good system. Not all sewer pipes (would you believe it?) are well-designed and well-installed. A friend voluntarily put in a low flush toilet, believing the green propaganda. And he did save about $100 or so on his water bills over a long period. Unfortunately, during that period, the sewer pipe clogged repeatedly, quite likely as a result of insufficient flush water for his particular piping configuration, at a cost of several hundred dollars.

  50. jorgekafkazar: That makes sense. It’s a combination of factors and my system does well with the toilets. I have also been told that the type of toilet paper used can have an effect, as can whether or not the system has the proper slope. I suppose it’s like most things in life–there are a combination of factors. Thank you for the response.

  51. Actually, the water leaks out the ozone hole! (/sarc)

    It seems climate change people are trying any angle they can in a desperate attempt to win followers. Expect more outrageous claims.

  52. And organic farming will also result in 2 billion people starving to death, because rheir yeilds are so low. Is that the intent?

  53. if every village of average 100 acre size could shift to organic, the water saved would take care of the village’s domestic needs for the next 20 years!

    Did they examine what the effects will be of the resulting floods downstream due to using 95% less water? Or did the downstream areas not flood before modern farming was begun?

  54. Steve C says:
    September 10, 2012 at 5:57 am
    Yield isn’t the only parameter of interest when comparing organic with chemical farming. The continuing health of the soil and its microbial content, and the presence of trace elements in soil and crop are also important to the nutritional qualities of the resulting harvest. Vandana Shiva includes (second para from the end) some comparisons here , for example:

    “On an average, organic food has been found to have 21 per cent more iron, 14 per cent more phosphorous, 78 per cent more chromium, 390 per cent more selenium, 63 per cent more calcium, 70 per cent more boron, 138 per cent more magnesium, 27 per cent more vitamin C and 10-50 per cent more vitamin E and beta-carotene.”

    I would take EVERYTHING uttered or written by Vandan Shiva with a HUGE grain of (in)organic salt. She is a known anti-GM radical who plays very fast and loose with the facts.

  55. Reality check says:
    September 10, 2012 at 9:20 am
    “It seems I need to clarify my statement…. When I say “clogged”, I mean I need a couple of pushes with a plunger to clear the line. I do often dump a five gallon bucket of water after this to make sure the lines are clear (less than once a year).”

    OK, but that was the point in my original post which was not to use low flow toilets at the farthest point from your tank, that way there be no need for an occasional extra flushing with a five gallon bucket of water to be sure the line is clear..
    Of course we all have heard the slogan:
    If it’s yellow, let it mellow.
    If it’s brown, flush it down.

  56. I know a fellow who works for a water treatment plant at a city in the Tulsa viewing area. I specifically asked him if his job was made easier or harder by the prevalence of low-flow toilets. He said it makes his job harder.

    One more thing that came to mind while reading this discussion: Someone published two aerial photos of Las Vegas, taken 10 years apart. The earlier photo had a much smaller green footprint on the landscape than the later photo did. It surprised me, because we keep hearing how little water there is, and how we have to conserve it, etc. Be that as it may, I came away with the idea that having a growing population is not necessarily a recipe for devastation of the landscape.

    On the other hand, if an area previously had a thriving population, and then that population was decimated, can allow that area to descend into unlivable wilderness, even desert.

  57. India agriculture mostly relies on monsoons. The northwest India river Indus basin (Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan = 212 million people) has less ground water despite Himalayan feed-in than during the start of “green revolution” (satellite based ground water estimate http://www.geology.ohio-state.edu/~alsdorf/es121/References/Rodell_etal_Nature2009_IndiaGroundwater.pdf) . The southern India Penner basin (home to 10.9 million) has only monsoon rains to rely on.
    If small farmers ever had enough spare money they would be able to switch from furrow irrigation to spray (+/- 30% more water saved) or drip (50+% more water saved). Writer is talking about villages of 100 acres & apparently not individual plots of 100 acres, so systematic up to date irrigation is improbable. Current apex of technology is irrigation sensors can even send Israeli grower’s cell phone a message of plants’ water needs.
    For those villages with motorized or even manual irrigation pumps any reduction in crop water means less input cost (manual pumping uses up food as calories, and is especially tiring drawn from deep source). Indian writer’s farming target group may get a worthwhile practical financial trade off despite less crop yield than from other agriculture practices. More to the point is writer’s emphasis that more resources can then be directed to human water needs.
    “Organic” in USA is a legally defined certification category so probably we should transpose the broader appellation of “natural method” agriculture for western readers. A lot of sensible work is done in India with so called agricultural “appropriate technology” & writer is due credit for showing his water strategy. Rural poor outside of the USA deal with different parameters – even a discarded 5 gallon bucket is still a great find to some I know. More to the point is writer’s emphasis that more resources can then be directed to human water needs – it’s a culturally compassionate factor.

  58. Anthony says: “Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.”

    Nope, they make it worse. The higher concentration of organic matter in the raw sewage flow will increase the total suspended solids (TSS) residence time in sewers & intercepters, allowing for more anaerobic digestion en route to the sewage plant. End result is more biomethane escaping out of the sewers, destroying the planet.

    Not sure about Willis’ Burning Man porta-potties however, those could cut either way….if it is hot & dry, I suppose the poop (technical term) could be discharged onto the alkaline bed to dry & blow away as dust. No methane flux. Best done after everyone leaves, however. I’m sure it would take environmental permits.

    Alternatively, the Burning Man poop could have been anaerobically digested & the biomethane used as fuel in the “art cars”. That would have reduced the carbon footprint of the event.

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/09/09/the-playa-willis-excellent-adventure/

  59. I received a notice in the mail from our local water distributer in Alameda county California, warning that excessive use of water has been observed and using over base line water limits will cost more.
    All I did was put in a very small garden, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis (any one want some zucchinis?) yellow squash and other things.
    It’s irrigated with a drip watering system, very efficient watering means.

    On the note of low volume flush toilets I made one.
    I used a brick, put it in the toilet, it worked great… really cut the water usage down…
    However the toilet paper kept getting stuck on the brick!
    /Sarc..

    Cheers

  60. Silver Ralph: “And organic farming will also result in 2 billion people starving to death, because rheir yeilds are so low. Is that the intent?”
    I hate to say it but they really don’t care about these nameless and faceless victims of their religion; in fact, it’s the opposite: it will lower the population of those considered a burden on the Earth and at the same time they get to feel good about themselves and the possibility of living 2-4 years longer (if you even believe the organic mantra propaganda). It all works together.

  61. Tom in Florida: My sewer lines run from each end of the home to a central point were my kitchen sink is, then down a pipe to the septic tank. I always thought this was odd, but perhaps it’s a really good design. Interesting…. :)

  62. Some personal reflections.

    Organic, while a belief system to many, is actually a marketing term. The original idea was to build a case for small farmers to sell locally grown produce/meat at higher prices. The basis for the higher price is that it costs more for small growers because they’re operating small scale. If one searches USDA and the local cooperatives archives you can still find the original powerpoints used to sell the small farmers on the idea.

    Yeah, over time there are some certifications required to label food ‘organic’. Still, it’s a marketing term. http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/249063/aib777_1_.pdf.

    Consider the term organic. When used with food, most people immediately jump to a conclusion hand farmed in thinking. If one checks the fine print of certifications, (from the above PDF link):

    “…The labeling requirements under the national standards apply to raw, fresh, and processed products that contain organic ingredients and are based on the percentage of organic ingredients in a product. Agricultural products labeled “100 percent organic” must contain (excluding water and salt) only organically produced ingredients…”

    Mention organic to a chemist and they immediately think organic chemistry. So long as the ingredients are organic, that is occurring naturally in nature the food can contain them and be called organic.

    In the the last decade, big business has discovered the world of higher priced organic food. That organic section at the local mart? Guess where that food came from, and I sincerely doubt that local produce supplied most of it. I also sincerely doubt that it is terribly fresh.

    Fifteen years ago, half to three quarters of our local farmers market were booths put up by farmers as they sought better prices for the food stuffs they supply for pennies to the commercial buyers. Now, I hope to see a van or booth that I know is a local farmer. All of the others are manned by people who buy it by the crate from a vendor / commercial exchange. Usually they’ll tell you anything you want to hear. From the same PDF as linked above.

    “…These regulations require that organic growers and handlers (including food processors) be certified by a State or private agency accredited under the uniform standards developed by USDA, unless the farmers and handlers sell less than $5,000 a year in organic agricultural products. Retail food establishments that sell organically produced agricultural products but do not process them are also exempt from certification…”

    You want traditional organically raised food? Raise it yourself. Otherwise, accept that you are getting what the market has at the price you can bear. If someone claims that organic food tastes better, google “Penn and Teller”, “organic banana” and snicker quietly. If someone is serious about their claim, a little investigating will often show they’re comparing apples to lettuce or some other mismatch. All tomatos, apples, lettuce, etc, etc, types do not taste the same! even if you grew them side by side (e.g. heirloom pasta tomato versus any winter type daylength independent tomato variety) at the same time of year.

    Ruminations from a former organic strawberry and tomato grower/vendor…

  63. Power Grab says:
    September 10, 2012 at 11:24 am
    I know a fellow who works for a water treatment plant at a city in the Tulsa viewing area. I specifically asked him if his job was made easier or harder by the prevalence of low-flow toilets. He said it makes his job harder.
    ============================================================
    I assume you mean a wastewater plant, not a water plant. Big difference between “new” and “used” water. 8-)
    I’ve worked in both. Water is vital to the treatment of wastewater. There are many different designs but basically they all “condense” miles of a water way into a small area. They do that by concentrating bacteria and what the bacteria feed on into that small area. Once the bacteria break down the complex orgainics into simple compounds, the water is discharged. The downstream water plant will then further treat the water to make it safe and economical for human use and consumption.
    It takes energy for both types of plants to do their job. If the CAGW crowd keeps driving up the cost of energy and you can delete “economical” from the system.

  64. Well, if you leave out other variables and narrowly focus on just on thing of course you’ll come up with a result that doesn’t pass the sniff test. Organic farming methods yield LESS crop per acre and as a result require MORE land to cultivate meaning greater disruption to the environment, and MORE fuel to run the harvesting equipment since they have to travel GREATER distances.

    Organic crop yield is generally 80% of conventional farming, depending on the individual plant species. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X1100182X

    Use your critical thinking skills, if you have to farm 20% more land, you expect to use 20% more fuel to harvest it and 20% more fuel to plant it. Organic farming requires more energy to plant and harvest period because you can’t undo the basic math without being intentionally obtuse.

  65. Reality check says:
    September 10, 2012 at 12:52 pm
    “Tom in Florida: My sewer lines run from each end of the home to a central point were my kitchen sink is, then down a pipe to the septic tank. I always thought this was odd, but perhaps it’s a really good design. Interesting…. :)”

    Sounds like a very good design although I do not know if that is unusual or just normal. A final note, whenever you have your tank pumped always flush the toilets while the cover is off the tank so you can hear if the water is making it all the way there. Tree roots can make their way under the pipe from the house to the tank and lift it enough to cause a slow drain or prevent flow entirely.

  66. “Personally, I prefer the tangy taste of malathion on my fruits and veggies. ☺

    Beats biting into a wormy apple.”

    What’s worse than finding a maggot in your apple…

    Finding half a maggot…..

  67. > [i] Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.[/i]

    Shouldn’t that be “save the world from global flooding”?

  68. So if organic farming is 40% more water efficient, then certainly there were never any pre-industrial droughts which impacted agriculture, right?

    What a truly bizarre claim.

  69. Anthony Watts wrote:
    Some blowback about last weeks announcement that Stanford researchers find little difference between organically farmed food and commercially grown food leave a bit to be desired in the logic department.

    Actually I don’t think most people would have seen that article, so here is a link:

    http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/september/organic.html

    Excerpt:

    “For their study, the researchers sifted through thousands of papers and identified 237 of the most relevant to analyze. Those included 17 studies (six of which were randomized clinical trials) of populations consuming organic and conventional diets, and 223 studies that compared either the nutrient levels or the bacterial, fungal or pesticide contamination of various products (fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk, poultry, and eggs) grown organically and conventionally. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes of people consuming organic versus conventionally produced food; the duration of the studies involving human subjects ranged from two days to two years.

    After analyzing the data, the researchers found little significant difference in health benefits between organic and conventional foods. No consistent differences were seen in the vitamin content of organic products, and only one nutrient — phosphorus — was significantly higher in organic versus conventionally grown produce (and the researchers note that because few people have phosphorous deficiency, this has little clinical significance). There was also no difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk, though evidence from a limited number of studies suggested that organic milk may contain significantly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

    The researchers were also unable to identify specific fruits and vegetables for which organic appeared the consistently healthier choice, despite running what Bravata called “tons of analyses.”

    “Some believe that organic food is always healthier and more nutritious,” said Smith-Spangler, who is also an instructor of medicine at the School of Medicine. “We were a little surprised that we didn’t find that.”

    The review yielded scant evidence that conventional foods posed greater health risks than organic products. While researchers found that organic produce had a 30 percent lower risk of pesticide contamination than conventional fruits and vegetables, organic foods are not necessarily 100 percent free of pesticides. What’s more, as the researchers noted, the pesticide levels of all foods generally fell within the allowable safety limits. Two studies of children consuming organic and conventional diets did find lower levels of pesticide residues in the urine of children on organic diets, though the significance of these findings on child health is unclear. Additionally, organic chicken and pork appeared to reduce exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but the clinical significance of this is also unclear.”

    The above contrasts to the claim that organic food has significantly more vitamins, on average anyway. Vitamin content can vary between different sources even if both foods are “organic” or both are conventional, but the preceding study ought to be more or less representative of the averages.

    Because organic foods tend to be far higher priced in general, a luxury product in the market in that sense, sometimes growers pay more attention to using tasty varieties (potentially at the expense of yield) or to micronutrients which can impact taste. Neither, though, requires the ideological package of “organic farming”; there is nothing that prevents, for example, adding both NPK fertilizer and particular micronutrients if helpful.

  70. @Reality

    Thanks for your contributions. Much ado about nothing.

    I have two low-flush toilets. One bowl-clogs repeatedly and we are used to it. The solution it to let it simmer for a while. Then flush again. The other has never had a problem. Clearly they are unequal. I see there is now on the side of the box a ‘diameter’ reported (for example 60mm) and this is no doubt a response to customer complaints with the designs being modified to suit.

    The volume of the flush can be adjusted on modern low flush toilets and should be set to the suitable flow needed to work properly. In other words it is not necessarily a ‘low flush’ if you choose it not to be. The ‘dual flush’ is where the big savings come from. The volume for the 1/2 and full flush are separately adjustable on some systems. Look in the back for the float valve adjusting mechanism – a threaded vertical rod made of plastic. One stop sets the total height and the other sets the volume to be dropped during a 1/2 flush.

  71. To those above who claim organic food is healthier, it isn’t. http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685…To those who claim it’s more sustainable, it isn’t: if organic crop has X amount of some nutrient and the industrial crop contains Y of the nutrient ( X > Y), then more (X – Y > 0) of the nutrient has to be returned as fertilizer to the soil to maintain its nutrient level as the yield is carried off to market and lost.

  72. Hi guidoLM,
    Organic described as a natural growing method deliberately adds in extras to the soil other than crop residue. If water/insects cooperated the history of farming is one of sustainable food production – which is different than urban populations’ need for food.
    I know many who can not afford to buy fertilizer and others who can not afford timely insecticide/fungicide. Even many who get products can’t afford a back pack sprayer & in season mine is usually on loan with farmers fetching it one from the other throughout the day.

  73. Well I don’t eat organic foods anyway, as they have carbon in them which the US Supreme Court says is poisonous.

  74. Truthseeker says:
    September 10, 2012 at 3:38 am

    “Next there will be claims that low flow toilets will save the world from global warming because they use half the water of regular toilets.”

    This won’t work because low flow toilets have to be flushed twice to be effective in their primary function.

    Three times for solids, once for liquids.

  75. @Truthseeker:

    Get a large plastic pitcher. Leave it in the bathtub. Upon entering the “little room”, turn on the shower faucet. Do your business (turning off the tub faucet when convenient) Commence flush.

    About 1/2 way through when the “deposit” is trying to make up its mind – stay or go, stay or go… dump the pitcher in in a smooth medium fast rate. (I find slightly offset from the center is best).

    You will “flush with pride” in one go. Oh, leaving the shower / tub faucet running during the flush and a bit after will assist “the do” in making it all the way to the street, avoiding the “accumulation of do” in your feed line that otherwise results and eventually leads to a giant clog in the pipe that was designed to have 5 gallons “move the do” and now plugs up instead.

    It’s not just getting it out of the bowl and into the pipe that matters, it’s getting it to the big pipe in the street without time to set up and make a clog, too. ( I learned this the hard way… no more issues since adopting this process post, um, plunging and flushing and chemical treatment and…)

    So get yourself a nice big pitcher and keep it in the the little room…

  76. Well, I’ll take a Missouri position on the notion that organically grown plants require less water intrinsically.
    Of course if fertilizer of any kind, whether cow dung or factory made, is not used growth rate will likely be slower thus less water needed. Or if a less productive variety of the plants is used, lower growth rate may mean less water used. Either way = less food.

    Organic growers want to change the plants to better resist insects without affecting nutrition, which is the need in poor countries – not taste. One effort in the US resulted in some of the undesirable components bred out of potatoes centuries ago.

    There is a risk from uninformed people trying new things. For example, some people might think that manure is a good fertilizer but not think about what is in manure – such as e-coli – and how to neutralize the bad stuff. (It is done, not hard but takes time and knowledge.)

    And if you are in a particular situation, such as poor farmers in central Africa, choice of crop types is important because water is scarce or expensive. There are many grains in the world, some may be useful in such circumstances though it is much less likely that they have been developed by breeding to give very good yields.

    I too would want to know what crop the guy in India was growing, and what stage of growth it was at during the 25 days (noting that the corn crop in IA is poor this year because rains did not come at the right time).

    As for risk of blight and such, methods developed in the early 20th century help change crops to resist things like “rust” which was a problem with wheat.

Comments are closed.