The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Buy & Bake Organic's picture

Buy & Bake Organic

Now let me preface this by saying that I am not an environmental, political or nutritional zealot.  I just try to be sensible and practical/moderate in all things.  So I'm not trolling for an argument here.  But recent news motivates me to address this online community of bread, baking and, importantly, wheat enthusiasts.

A US court has decided that it is likely enough that a plaintiff developed cancer from repeated and prolonged exposure to RoundUp herbicide to rule in favor of his suit against Monsanto/Bayer.  Mind you, this is a court, not the National Academy of Sciences, so the finding is a bit, well, American.  This, coupled with recent reports, echoed just the other day in a post right here on Fresh Loaf, of wheat farmers using RoundUp to kill off their crops for a 'clean' and uniform harvest, motivates my little pitch here.

I lived on a midwest farm for 20+ years before moving to California.  I used RoundUp to kill poison ivy and to keep the weeds down on the quarter-mile gravel lane connecting our rural road to our house.  I followed all the prescribed precautionary practices (gloves, mask etc) but always dreaded the chore.  Neighboring farmers hired contract applicators to spray RoundUp on their RoundUp-Ready soybeans every year.  I also have indirect professional connections with some of the guys at Monsanto who researched and developed RoundUp Ready crops.  So I know the stuff well.  It is a bloody awful chemical.   That wheat farmers would treat with RoundUp a crop destined for direct human consumption, so close to harvest, is almost as amazing and appalling as any regulatory agency, Canadian or American, signing off on such a practice.

At home, we buy exclusively organic fruit and veg for our household's strictly vegetarian cuisine (my wife has an inherited intolerance of meat and I just eat her way).  We buy organic not because we have ever thought it "healthier" than conventional.  The USDA organic standard is a compromise, after all.   No, we are both university biologists and it's more an environmental vote with our pocketbook not to support chemical agriculture and farming practices that disrespect land and life.  But now, in the case of wheat, there IS a case to be made for "organic is healthier" because non-organic grain products are likely to contain measurable quantities of glyphosate -- not exactly a health-promoting additive.

My simple plea here is for TFL's bread and baking enthusiasts to buy and bake organic, so as not to support these kinds of -- let's call it what it is -- sociopathic agricultural practices.

Humbly submitted,


David R's picture
David R

Even for those (many, it will have to be admitted; perhaps even most) times when organic is clearly not any healthier to eat, there's a bigger reason.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say "organic is healthy eating" is a distraction, and so often turns out false that I suspect it's a ruse planted by anti-organic groups.

Organic is not about healthy eating at all. It's about healthy farming. Farming that doesn't destroy the planet.

The micrograms of pesticide on your personal fruit, the parts per billion of glyphosate in your flour, are insignificant. There's no effect on your personal health, except for imaginary ones. The anti-organic lobbyists are right about that. It's easy, by regulations, to keep the bad stuff out of your house, and it's already been done, properly. BUT - none of that is important anyway.

It's not about us. It's not about human health. We've got human health covered nicely, thank you very much. Organic is farming practices that sustain the planet instead of destroying it. Organic is about the health of everything & everyone except humans! (It accidentally makes us healthier too, but not by taking that minuscule microgram of pesticide off the apple or the Roundup off the grain of wheat. It makes us healthier by allowing the earth to continue to support life.)

Have anti-organic lobbyists been correct in concluding that people are too stupid to grasp what organic farming is for? Have the anti-organic lobbyists who run the FDA really managed to pull the wool over Americans' eyes so that their fake organic approval process is taken as meaningful? I hope not.

"Clean eating" and "clean food" is absolute BS. All of us already eat 100% perfectly clean at all times. Rejecting clean food that comes from "dirty" (i.e. non-organic) farms, farms that don't sustain the planet - including rejecting food from the fake-organic factory farms with their pretty green labels - is harder to do, but it's what matters.'s picture

My point, more or less exactly, rather more zealously made.

Thank you David.


suave's picture

" I also have indirect professional connections with some of the guys at Monsanto who researched and developed RoundUp Ready crops.  So I know the stuff well."

I fail to see the connection here.'s picture

Just trying to legitimize my cred on the topic. The science of glyphosate and its target enzyme and the genetic engineering involved in rendering crops resistant to it all happened during my career in plant cell and molecular biology and was carried out by people in the rather limited field at the time. I heard the talks at meetings and watched  academic colleagues get lured into the corporate ag chem/tech embrace. I’m not spreading internet memeish nonsense.  That’s all.  

Like I said, not spoiling for a fight. 


suave's picture

Repeating the fake story about RoundUp used as a dessicant does not really improve your cred.  And cancer - the guy spent 20 years pouring bunch of pesticides, herbicides and whatnot from a bucket, without so much as gloves, who knows what caused his cancer and what his cumulative levels of exposure was.  Certainly not a Californian jury.

Some people are afraid of "chemicals".  There is no shame in it, but equally there is no need to present it as a noble fight for the future humanity.'s picture

Thank you for questioning my implied frequency of the pre-harvest Roundup treatment of wheat. Some legit internet sources insist it is “uncommon” in the US but more common in Canada. Apparently a genuinely “fake” story is out there (and appropriately debunked) about Roundup, wheat and celiac.

I’m happy to go with “uncommon “. That’s good news.  Restores a measure of faith.  Thanks again for your input.


msneuropil's picture

As a consumer...we all have to decide whether to pay more for the "O" label and many do not really educate themselves and by default "trust" the Organic labeling when they could trust some non organic products IF they educate themselves.  It's a matter of time.  Do you have the time to find out?  Many times a product may be grown with good practices...but their neighbors practices affect their ability to get a "O" label.  The storage of the seeds is also a factor (at least in sprouting seeds) as to whether a clean product can get a "O" label.  

So education in the terminology is important. This is from one farm that I have bought flour from for decades...for example: 

What is the difference between Certified Chemical Free and Organic?

Our Certified Chemical Free wheat is grown conventionally using a natural nitrogen fertilizer. We then have an independent lab test the final harvested wheat for any chemical residue, finding none, they certify the wheat as being Chemical Free. Our Organic wheat is grown on land certified by the State of Montana and does not have any type of fertilizer or other chemicals used. The State of Montana inspects our farm, bins, warehouse, equipment, packaging, etc. and then give it the Certified Organic label.

And from my "organic" sprouting seed research I learned:

  "Seed may be in compliance with USDA organic standards and crop grown by organic standards even though it can no longer be certified due to packing facility due to time and expense.

"Because our facility is no longer certified, once we break into a bag of certified organic seed and rebag it into small quantities, technically we can no longer claim it is "organic".

So sometimes the much higher cost of labeling organic products is the cost of certifying and you can get a good, clean product from a farm that uses good land and good practices and pay less.

 And one of those weird thoughts that go thru my head at night...  IF rye traditionally has grown in poor European soil since the middle ages and needs little why does it need to be fertilized in the US/Canada??  LOL!  



suave's picture

"If rye traditionally has grown in poor European soil since the middle ages and needs little why does it need to be fertilized in the US/Canada??  LOL!  "

Because the yields have increased by the order of magnitude, and I am being literal here.

msneuropil's picture

I knew that...but I was just thinking about silly things...