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Beyond organic

Organic growers are permitted to fertilize their fields using animal byproducts from conventional farming, such as factory farm chicken manure, which can bring contaminants like heavy metals, pesticides, and antibiotics into the organic food supply. Veganic growing reduces the risks of contamination by using entirely plant-based techniques, with a focus on building fertility right on site.

There are growing concerns about chemicals used in food production and contaminants found in the food supply. Organic food is a step in the right direction, because the farmer is not intentionally adding substances like pesticides, herbicides, and GMOs to the farmland. Unfortunately, these substances can still make their way to organic fields.

Surprisingly, organic farmers in North America are permitted to use animal-based fertilizers like manure, blood meal, and bone meal, even if these are sourced from conventional farms. Many organic farms, especially large-scale operations, amend their fields with animal by-products from conventional factory farms and slaughterhouses, and these fertilizers may be contaminated with substances that are contrary to the aims of organic agriculture.

For example, when farm animals are fed pesticide-tainted food, certain pesticides bioaccumulate in the bodies of the animals, resulting in animal-based fertilizers that still contain pesticides. Bone meal has been implicated in the spread of mad cow disease, causing some people to become wary of bone meal used in vegetable agriculture. Antibiotics that are given to farm animals can be found in the animals’ manure. The University of Minnesota conducted studies in 2005 and 2006 that show that some of these antibiotics are actually absorbed by vegetables, causing concern about antibiotic resistance. And heavy metals are also an issue: arsenic has made its way into the organic rice supply because arsenic was added to conventional chicken feed, then the conventional chicken manure was used in organic rice production.

Veganic farmers and gardeners use plant-based techniques to maintain fertility, and are encouraged to produce as much fertility as possible on their own land rather than relying on off-farm inputs, which minimizes the chance of contamination. This keeps the food cycle truly in line with the intentions of organic growing!

For consumers who are concerned about contaminants, we recommend actively engaging with local farmers to find out more about how they fertilize their fields, and promoting veganic techniques to help create a clean food supply.

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