Do you gulp at the high price of produce made without chemical pesticides? Do it for the soil, if nothing else.

    -    I look at the ears of corn in the grocery store and am taken aback. The organic ears cost twice as much as the non-organic. Ouch! Do I really want to buy organic?

Then I remind myself of why I buy organic at all. It's not just because I'm opposed to insecticide sprays. I recognize that organic produce can itself be sprayed with an insecticide spray.

It's just that the regulations require that for organic produce the insecticide cannot be synthesized, i.e., it must come from a natural plant source, such as pyrethrum or nicotine or rotenone.

However, just because an insecticide is not synthesized does not mean that it is not toxic. Obviously, such insecticides are used because they are toxic to insect plant pests.

      - Connie BattaileDoes this mean that a pest killed by a non-synthesized insecticide dies a nice organic death? And even the organic insecticides are also lethal to other critters, such as bees, amphibians, and fish. The impacts of these insecticides on human health has not been strongly investigated, though carcinogens have been found in about 50 percent of both synthetic and natural insecticides, and an association between rotenone and Parkinson's Disease has been found in farmworkers.

So it is not just to reduce exposure to insecticides for me and for farmworkers that I buy organic.

Nor is it that it is healthier — for the most part organic produce has not been found to contain more vitamins and minerals than standard produce.

No, the reason I buy organic produce is for the soil.

Soil is a living thing.

Soil, with its millions of microorganisms (many not yet identified), has been called the most complex ecosystem on earth. Chemical fertilizers harm that abundant life and overused chemical fertilizers leach into our waterways, leading to algal blooms and other problems.

As a long-time gardener, I learned the hard way that building good soil is not an easy or cheap process. It ultimately paid off and my fruits and vegetables were vigorous and productive, healthy to eat — and my garden was healthy to work in.

My soil would continue to be productive so long as the next gardener treated it with the year-round care that was necessary to ensure its well-being by mulching, rotating crops, using no-till plantings, occasionally picking off bugs, and using organic manure and fertilizers moderately as needed. These are labor-intensive processes. Now I'm glad to pay the price to recompense those who are tending to the well-being of this earth.

I bought the organic corn. It was good.

Connie Battaile (pronounced battle) lives in Southwest Portland's Hillsdale neighborhoode. She is a retired librarian and compiler ofThe Oregon Book: Information A to Z ; she can be reached at 503-245-5290 and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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