If you ever wonder why you grow a garden...

Discussion in 'Gardening & Plant Propagation' started by zealot, Sep 9, 2006.

  1. zealot

    zealot Soli Deo Gloria

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    Basil sold in most stores is imported from Thailand. Tests show that it frequently contains small amounts of rat guano (droppings), from the little black rats found in the strawpiles of Thai farms, feeding on compost materials and waste. The rats rest in the basil bushes to get out of the tropical sun, and they "do their thing" in the basil.

    Flowers from the chain florist shops often come from Colombia. In the flower-growing farms or floriculturales of Colombia, farm workers (often teenage girls) have to work with the pesticides and herbicides; application is often done in an unprofessioinal manner. In addition to endangering the health of the campesinas who work with it, the chemical spray also damages the ecology of the cloud forest. On top of that, floriculture suppliers often are fronts for drug rings. The bouquet that you buy for your wife on Valentine's or Mother's Day could supply the funds to bring a nickel bag of coke into the nation.

    Fruits are often irradiated by the company shipping them. The rays used are a lesser intensity of the same rays used by the U.S. military in nuke experiments.
     
  2. suburbanite

    suburbanite Well-Known Member

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    I live in California. I can't speak for the basil, but our cut flowers come from Half Moon Bay, Gilroy, and Watsonville. That is, the flowers are sourced right here in our own region.

    Irradiating food does not result in any residual radiation and is not a hazard after the process is completed. Here is the basic science:

    Atoms are comprised of protons and neutrons in the nucleus--in the middle--with electrons whizzing around the outside to create an 'electron cloud' on the outside.

    Nuclear reactions, the kind that produce 'ionizing radiation' or atomic particles, occur in the nucleus and involve the protons and neutrons. It requires a high level of energy to create any kind of nuclear reaction--1000's of times higher than that required for chemical reactions. These reactions produce elemental particles and 'ionizing radiation'--high-speed protons and neutrons that can whack into other nucleii and move them around, like the collision of billiard balls. It requires very high energies, such as those in a supercollider, to create these nuclear reactions. However it is possible to get ionizing radiation by ionizing a hydrogen atom (which means, removing its single electron), and then using magnetic fields to accelerate the hydrogen ion, which is basically a naked proton. This involves no nuclear reactions since all you're doing is removing an electron (electrons as you'll see are what make up chemical reactions) and then using magnets to move a (very tiny) object that has an electrical charge.

    Chemical reactions are all due to the interactions of the negatively-charged electron clouds with the positive charge of the protons in an atom's nucleus. Molecules are what happen when these electron clouds are attracted to the nucleus of an different atom than their own, causing formation of a 'bond'. Ions are formed when a nucleus has either more or fewer electrons in its cloud as it does protons in its nucleus. Ions have an electrical charge and can be moved by electrical fields. Most atoms do not have an electrical charge (I don't want to digress into discussion of dia- and para-magnetism, so this is close enough for now).

    One of the conditions for a chemical bond to form is the proximity of two atoms--if you pull them too far apart my some mechanism, the bond between them will break.

    Another is the proximity and energy level of the electrons--if you put in enough energy, you can disrupt the interaction of an electron with the nucleus of a neighbor atom, and break the bond between atoms. Electrons get this energy by absorbing wavelengths of light (from infra-red up through x-rays are all forms of light, low to high energy), and they lose energy by emitting light or by converting it to mechanical energy in a molecule--heat.

    Life is comprised of molecules. In general, these molecules are very long and complex, with many many bonds all lined up in a chain of elements, most of which are carbon. Each atom in the molecule is bonded to its neighbors in some way. The existance of each bond depends upon the interaction of the electrons of one atom with the nucleus of its neighbor, and that interaction depends partly on proximity of the atoms and partly on the energy of the electrons.

    Remember that 'ionizing radiation' we talked about? The one that can whack into atomic nucleii and move them around like billiard balls? If you zap a crop with low energy ionizing radiation, like the accelerated hydrogen ion I mentioned, you can whack the nucleii of some of the atoms out of position to break the bonds within a molecule. This happens fairly rarely, but if you have a long enough chain of atoms in a biological molecule, such as DNA, chances are its going to get broken somewhere along its length. With enough exposure over a short time so repairs cannot be made, this kind of damage is enough to kill a living thing. You can also do this with light, with varying effectiveness and side reactions depending on wavelength. Infra-red will tend to be absorbed and cause heat; x-rays have such a tiny wavelength they tend to pass right through with minimal interaction, like water through a windowscreen.

    DNA is particularly vulnerable to ionizing radiation because the molecules are so big. If you get a broken bond in one in a million bonds, well, you've got millions of bonds in DNA, so you'll probably get a break. Proteins, though large molecules, are smaller, so the likelyhood of a collision breaking a protein chain is lower. This means that if you use ionizing radiation, you break up DNA, and kill any living things that might be in the cargo. But you leave the proteins relatively undamaged.

    Now, when you cook something, you break up the DNA strands just like happens under the ionizing radiation. So that ionizing radiation (which leaves no radioactivity behind, just broken DNA strands) doesn't do anything more radical to your food than you do yourself when you cook it. But cooking also has the major effect of 'denaturing' proteins--breaking them up and twisting them around--which ionizing radiation does not, because the odds of a protein being broken are fairly low due to the smaller number of atoms in the protein. (Watch an egg white cook to see proteins being denatured right before your eyes.)

    So what the ionizing radiation does when food is irradiated, is break up DNA chains--something that matters only to things living in the food--without actually cooking the food (which is already dead and no longer using its DNA for anything anyway). It essentially preferentially cooks the DNA--accelerates its post-mortem degredation--without cooking the proteins, leaving the food fresh and firm for you to buy and prepare, but killing any microbes or insects which might make you sick or that might infect agriculture in the importing country.

    For these reasons, food irradiation is no more dangerous than cooking food is, to the people or livestock who later eat the food.
     

  3. suburbanite

    suburbanite Well-Known Member

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    Oh, yeah, more stuff for you.

    Radioactive materials are atoms whose fundamental atomic structure is unstable, so that they have a fairly high probability of their nucleus falling apart. When the nucleus falls apart, the material changes identity from one unstable element or isotope to another, stable element or isotope (isotopes of an element have differing numbers of neutrons but the same number of protons), and emits some form of energy and/or particles. Sometimes the particle is a neutron. Neutrons, like accelerated hydrogen ions, can do the 'billiard ball' trick, so radioactive materials are used to actually do the food irradiation because this is easier to implement than running around using energy to accelerate hydrogen ions. The radioactive material itself never comes near the food, only the neutrons do.
     
  4. MsPacMan

    MsPacMan Well-Known Member

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    Well, I'm no expert on nuclear treatment of foodstuffs, but what I do know is that there is no reference to irridating food in the Garden of Eden, and that is the garden that I strive to emulate!


    I don't trust these highly paid scientists to tell me what "is" and "is not" safe anymore. They can be bought for a price, and companies like Monsanto, Ortho, Tyson, DuPont, and many others buy their research results regularly.


    I'm not against "new fangled" ideas per se (for example, I do use a well and a soaker hose system to water my garden), but I prefer heirloom seeds, God's fertilizer (manure or composted plant material), and other natural ways of growing the food I serve my children.


    I don't till my soil, but build it up yearly with applications of compostable material to rot over the winter.


    And I like raised beds, because it is easier to grow food naturally and without chemicals in a raised bed format.


    At any rate, you can keep your irridated foods -- I'll grow everything I can, and buy local (and un-irridated) for everything else.
     
  5. MaineFarmMom

    MaineFarmMom Columnist, Feature Writer

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    You can have my share of irradiated food. I prefer food that never needs irradiation.
     
  6. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Ditto.
     
  7. lorian

    lorian Well-Known Member

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    could you please share with me where you found the info. on flowers.
    I used to work in a flower shop in the 80's and am horrified by the amount of pesticide/herbicides I was exposing myself to. I'd like to read more..........
    I would never buy a bouquet of commericially produced flowers today.
    thanks!
     
  8. jnap31

    jnap31 garden guy

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    good post Mspacman
    she can have my irradiated portion also.
     
  9. suburbanite

    suburbanite Well-Known Member

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    There's nothing in the bible that speaks against irradiating food either.

    While I agree with the rest of your post, I'm really irked by you falling back on the bible to guide your decision about a technology which has only existed for a few years.

    Did you even read my whole post? Did you understand it? Are you just blowing it off because it is something you don't have the patience to sift through, idea by idea, to come to an understanding of what the technology actually does?

    If you don't understand a technology then it is hard to make wise decisions about it. Its primary purpose is to keep foreign pests out of this country so that you *can* grow the garden and produce locally that you want to grow. Otherwise we'd have imported every scourge on the planet, as happened with argentinian ants and fire ants years ago. This technology prevents that sort of thing happening today (though smuggling still imports pests at a lower rate).
     
  10. Kee Wan

    Kee Wan Well-Known Member

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    Lemme "chime in" herre a minute.

    Just so you know - I'm a chemist - and I know and understand HOW irradiation works on the atomic level, and I KNOW how cooking works, on the atomic level. (in fact I spent an entire semester calcualting this stuff - LOTS of physica and calculus and chem....)Let me try to explain the kinnetics of this stuff in more simple terms.....

    First - EVERYTHING that you take into your body is recognized as one of two things - it is a nutrient or it is a toxin, and your body deals with it in one of the pathways designed to handle whichever of those two the body RECOGNIZES. THat's why so many vitamins are peed right out - they body didnt' RECOGNIZE the mineral or vitamin - because of what it was paired with or whotever.....Nutrients are assimilated by teh body, in very specific ways, by very specialized carrier protines adn things like that.....Toxins are "escorted" out - or "neutralized" and stored - depending on how serious and immediate the threat the body considers them.

    Next - chemical bonds. Each chemical bond requireds some minimum amount of energy to break.....some bonds break harder, some easier. You can break a weak bond with "bit of energy" ( we call it a quantum)that is more than needed - you cannot break a strong bond with a "bit if energy" that is less than needed (and if you hit a bond with a weak bit of energy - adn then another weak but - it will not break even if the "sum" the the energies is more than sufficient to break the bond).....cooking imparts generally lower levels of energy than does ionizing radiation. Neither differentiates. BOTH denature DNA and protines. Protines and DNA have, along their lengths, places where they are easy to break apart, and places which require more energy to break. In general, you WANT protines to be broken into amino-acids - the body will recognize these as "nutrient". You do NOT want to break protines into other "shapes". Luckily, the bonds betweeen the amino acids that make up protines are the "weak links". (This is the true beauty of this stuff....)

    It's not that there is residual energy leftover, it's the SIZE and SHAPE of the pieces that are left over when things have been cooked/ionized. What matters is that the pieces that are leftover are recognizable to the body as food (nutrient) and get used as such - and NOT recognized as toxin - (and thus use resources better saved for real toxins and other "ikkies" that the body gets into).

    Ionizing radioation does two things that general kooking does not - it has a MUCH higher energy and so the "spot" on the protien chain that gets "hit" to break it up (or denature it) can be anyplace. It can be between two amino acids - or it can break an amino acid in half. The method that it uses to to "break" things is different. It's more "physical". It "cuts" more like a knife would...heat "pulls" more like a tug-of-war game. The knife can cut indiscriminantly, but the tug of war will tend to break things at the weak links.

    In addition, there is some "weird things" that happen when protines are heated. Some "disfugurement" -and that is another thing that is concerning. The rate at which things are disfugured adn the new shape they take are RADICALY different with ionizing radiation than with standard heat. so...how harmful are the pieces that are left after ionization?? No one knows...the research simply HAS NOT BEEN DONE. WE CAN do the research - but the proponents of the irradiation are not interested (they claim things are safe UNTIL prooven otherwise - so why hurry to proove otheriwse) and the opponents - well, they are poor.

    Ionizing radiation, DOES cause harmful particles in foods (sometimes those particles ARE really harmful - but you DO get some level of that in regular cooking too, adn sometiems they are harmful only in the sense that the pieces left over are NOT recognized (to as great a degree) as nutrient -and thus are treated as a toxin -and depleat the body of what it needs to detoxify the really bad stuff that it gets into. With irradiation, this occurs at a MUCH higher rate than does cooking. In general - you want to cook things at teh lowest possible temperature....this helps to insure that the bonds that are broken are, indeed, the weakest. One other thought.....Microwave radiation, does the same kinds of things. (feed one plant water boiled in the microwave -and another water boiled on a stove...hole everythign else constant.....try it!!!)

    Furthermore, irradiation kills EVERYTHING. Your imune system is JUST like a muscle, excercise it, and it gets stronger, papmer it and it gets weaker. If you sterilize your home and all your food - you are weakening your immune system. Oh - and irradiation does not kill prions - the "nastie" that causes Mad Cow - it kills some - but NOT ALL - and it only takes one. (now this is NOT to say that we dont' need to clean - just that modern AMerica takes this WAY WAY WAY Too far.

    Best dietary advice - Eat a wide variety of foods, all in moderation, in a form that is as close to "as nature made it" as possible. That is how one stays healthy.....