He told me, however, that the chemicals in the non organic waste are broken down during the composting process and become inert, and so are ok to put on my garden. Is this true?
Any insight welcome.
A compost pile will get hot, but not enough to burn off all pesticides and chemicals.
there is a certain number of natural compounds in everyday untreated soil that might be considered not so healthy. chemical are not the exclusivel realm of humans. for me I consider a certain amount of exposure to chemicals both natural and man made just part of life and very possibly neccessary to simulate/excercise our defensive mechanisms in the body to keep them ready for unavoidable and more dangerous exposures. my personal choice is to reduce exposure without losing sleep over it.
One example: Polonium (famous for its use to poison a Russian journalist) is included in the fertilizer spread on tobacco fields, and so radiation from that fertilizer is one of the many ways cigarettes can cause cancer.
Problems with metals like lead and arsenic and cadmium are similarly not solved by composting.
As mentioned earlier in this thread, there are a few broad classes of agricultural chemical that behave very differently in the compost pile. The only class I know of that a natural community of compost organisms cannot chemically rearrange is halogenated hydrocarbons. These are things like PCBs, dioxin, agent orange, DDT, and, in recent news, aminopyralid and clopyralid. There are also halogenated hydrocarbons that aren't used as poisons, such as sucralose (Splenda) and Freon and Teflon; the fact that they are so stable is, IMHO, a problem in itself, but I offer them here as examples of just how much variety exists within this broad category.
There have been reports of compost contaminated with aminopyralid and clopyralid killing legumes and other broad-leaf plants. I haven't heard of any harm coming to grasses due to this sort of issue.
If the non-organic method didn't add radionuclides or toxic heavy metals, and the grower in question hasn't used halogenated hydrocarbons or halogens (chlorine and bromine sometimes form durable compounds when exposed to organic matter; I believe some potatoes are grown in soil that has been sterilized with bromine), then I can't see a difference between how organic and non-organic compost would effect your garden.
As Paul hinted, the real difference may not be in the effect the compost, but the causes of the compost; not downstream of the decomposition, but upstream of it.
Nature finds a way, of course.
I guess the problem with killer compost is that the pesticide in question works even at minuscule concentrations (~10 ppm).
What makes them sick?
Our food is loaded with toxic gick that some folks say is "safe". I have to wonder if the safe levels of toxic gick could be making people sick, only the connection has not yet been made. Once the connection is made, some form of toxic gick will be banned. In the mean time, 100 new forms of toxic gick are okay to add.
And a lot of this stuff can float around in our compost and pass through an animal's innards and still be in their poop. Bioremediation fixes a lot of stuff, but not all of it.
I just like the idea of starting with really good soil and really good organic matter and maybe some fungus going to town on that will move it from "good" to "better" rather than moving it from "toxic" to "not as toxic".
"Organic" is a standard. I'm glad that we have a standard and we can draw a line somewhere. I like the idea of a much higher standard. I wish there was a word and a definition so we can think of it as a goal: flibbertygibbit standard. Organic is cool with cardboard as a mulch. Flibbertygibbit is not. Organic is cool with using any manure from ruminents; flibbertygibbet has strict standards about what those animals were eating, their medications, their pasture and bedding situation. Flibbertygibbet requires polyculture and has strict rules about tilling that leads to soils going decades without being tilled.
(I thought I made up the word "flibbertygibbet", but I just now googled and it turns out to be a real word!)
So! I would choose to not use that compost. But, that's just me.
paul wheaton wrote:
"Organic" is a standard. I'm glad that we have a standard and we can draw a line somewhere. I like the idea of a much higher standard. I wish there was a word and a definition so we can think of it as a goal
One of the things I like least about the term "organic" is that it's based in vitalism:
It think something that approaches more closely to Paul's desired goal is "biodynamic," but that has its roots in anthroposophy, which he might have some qualms about.
This all speaks to a very fundamental problem in human existence: It is very difficult to get enough information to make a good decision. When you cut away bad stuff, how far away from the obvious bad stuff do you cut?
I guess it is worthwhile to throw away perfectly good things, if the subtle differences between them and bad things are too difficult to suss out and the other option would be accepting bad things. It seems kind of tragic to throw tomatoes away because nighshades are, as a rule, poisonous, or to snub foreigners because one cheated you one time. But it's sometimes hard to get good information on this kind of thing.
I'm fine with petrochemical waxes and dyes in my compost, but I'd be a bit nervous about sepp holzer's animal-repellent bone tar. But that's based on my education, which wasn't complete in these matters, and started from principles that many people here have valid reasons to reject.
I bet over the next few decades, a stricter standard will develop; I bet its name will have something to do with "organic;" I bet there will be two or more camps that relate to one another in a way that resembles kosher vs. halal.
paul wheaton wrote:
I see sick people.
What makes them sick?
Our food is loaded with toxic gick that some folks say is "safe". I have to wonder if the safe levels of toxic gick could be making people sick, only the connection has not yet been made.
that is what has brought me to where I am today in my thinking. I believe there is alot of stuff making people sick. but as long as those things take a significant amount of time to present the symptoms or disease then the connection is not made because it is impossible to do long term controlled studies in humans. hence we are left with analyzing data that is gathered in retrospect which is very difficult and subject to major interpretation.
but I guess I am a little less paranoid in that I also believe people got sick before the advent of all this nasty stuff in our food. and those things that made people sick before suffer from the same problems of discovery as anything. I believe and their is plenty of evidence, that there are a whole lot of naturally occuring things that can make people sick too if utilized in large quantities especially. back when those things were every day exposures people often didnt' even live long enough to experience the consequences of the toxins in the naturally gathered food that sustained them. so my conclusion is.........we can't know everything about the safety of everything in our lives. so I avoid what I consider the likely culprits and major concentrated exposures, direct food additives, direct pesticide and herbicide use on or near the food i am going to eat etc.... other wise I would go crazy because I can see the possiblity for danger everywhere including in natural food stuffs.
black pepper contains carcinogens
beans contain lectins
cooked meats have been strongly associated with stomach cancer
this is interesting though it lacks any references
grazing certain plants can infect the meat and milk of animals as well as drinking herbal teas. comfrey is mentioned here specifically as containing Pyrrolizidine alkaloid
I don't get too far into researching this stuff....because like I said...i would lose my mind...... so take it for what it is and research for yourself if something bothers you that you don't want to compost even if it is natural.
I would suggest that anything that is going to make up a large part of your composting material be researched a bit whether it is natural or not.
paul wheaton wrote:
Bioremediation fixes a lot of stuff, but not all of it.
Yes, I agree. We need to make personal decisions about what is likely to be significantly contaminated, and what is or will be clean enough to feed to our plants, our selves, our friends and family. Ideally, nasty chemicals will not be used and materials to compost and mulch will be clean.
paul wheaton wrote:Biodynamic is cool stuff, but I want to embrace a lot of their stuff and skip some. And I want to add a lot more stuff.
Emilia Hazelip coined "synergistic gardening," which did precisely that, although probably not precisely as you would've.
As I understand it, in a nutshell it's "biointensive minus moon/planets plus a mediterranean-climate adaptation of Fukuoka's natural farming plus ruth stout minus nudism."
At any rate, that term doesn't seem to have an orthodoxy yet, and so refining its definition is probably still possible.
I suppose I could embrace a lot of that but ....
sepp holzer says something about "holzer permaculture is different from permaculture": my interpretation of that is that he is optimizing long term communication - avoiding statements like "you can't do that because ruth stout says ...." so, instead he says "this is what I do".
So, I suppose, at some point, I should make a web page that says "Here is what I do, which takes my favorite bits from ruth stout, biodynamics, permaculture and a hundred other schools of thought." thus making no commitment to follow any one so purely that it is used as a weapon against you.