Now, regrettably, and at great personal risk to my reputation, I must try to puncture the very favorite belief of food religionists, the doctrine that organically grown food is as nutritious as food can possibly be, Like Woody Allen's brown-rice-eating friends, people think if you eat Organic foods, you will inevitably live a very long time and be very healthy. Actually, the Organic vs. chemical feud is in many ways false. Many (not all) samples of organically grown food are as low or lower in nutrition as foods raised with chemical fertilizers. Conversely, wisely using chemical fertilizers (not pesticides) can greatly increase the nutritional value of food. Judiciously used Organic fertilizing substances can also do that as well or better. And in either case, using chemical fertilizers or so-called organic fertilizers, to maximize nutrition the humus content of the soil must be maintained. But, raising soil organic matter levels too high can result in a massive reduction in the nutritional content of the food being grown–a very frequent mistake on the part of Organic devotees. In other words, growing nutrition is a science, and is not a matter of religion.

The food I fed to my daughter in childhood, though Organic according to Rodale and the certification bureaucrats, though providing this organic food to my family and clients gave me a feeling of self-righteousness, was not grown with an understanding of the nutritional consequences of electing to use one particular Organic fertilizing substance over another. So we and a lot of regional Organic market gardeners near us that we bought from, were raising food that was far from ideally nutritious. At least though, our food was free of pesticide residues.

The real dichotomy in food is not "chemical" fertilizer versus "Organic," It is between industrial food and quality food. What I mean by industrial food is that which is raised with the intention of maximizing profit or yield. There is no contradiction between raising food that the "rabbis" running Organic certification bureaucracies would deem perfectly "kosher" and raising that same food to make the most possible money or the biggest harvest. When a farmer grows for money, they want to produce the largest number of bushels, crates, tons, bales per acre. Their criteria for success is primarily unit volume. Many gardeners think the same way. To maximize bulk yield they build soil fertility in a certain direction (organically or chemically) and choose varieties that produce greater bulk. However, nature is ironic in this respect. The most nutritious food is always lower yielding. The very soil management practices that maximize production simultaneously reduce nutrition.

The real problem we are having about our health is not that there are residues of pesticides in our food. The real problem is that there are only residues of nutrition left in our foods. Until our culture comes to understand this and realizes that the health costs of accepting less than optimum food far exceeds the profits made by growing bulk, it will not be possible to frequently find the ultimate of food quality in the marketplace, organically grown or not. It will not be possible to find food that is labeled or identified according to its real nutritional value. The best I can say about Organic food these days is that it probably is no less nutritious than chemically-grown food while at least it is free of pesticide residues.