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Re: Compost Tea and Organics

Hi wytze & other saneters following this thread,

Responding to your reply sent today, Thursday, November 14, 2002:

wxn> For once I may disagree with you.

I am not a HACCP expert and am certainly interested in learning your
reasons for not liking HACCP.

wxn> I am not too fond of HACCP since the way it acts, it makes
wxn> impossible all kind of traditional ways of foodmaking and just
wxn> favours large industries.

Could you explain that point by point?

(1):- that: "the way it acts, it makes impossible all kind of
      traditional ways of foodmaking", and

2).- that it "just favours large industries".

wxn> Besides, I do not see a real need.

I was relating to the points raised by Dr. Benbrook. Chuck pointed
out that the organic food movement is under fire by corporate
interests in the industries that conventional food production
systems depend on.

He also pointed out that bacterial contamination was the Achilles
Heel of the organic movement (which is logical, since organic food
is relatively free of contamination from the toxic chemical produced
by the corporate interests mentioned above - so what other front can
they attack organic / sustainable / biological / ecological /
alternative agriculture from)?

Did you read Sal's post (and Sal is a long time and very dedicated
organic grower) in which he stated very clearly his rejection of
eating "shit sprayed" food?

So we have a controversy here. Let's look at compost and EM teas. In
the best of cases, compost and EM teas offer three major advantages.
As I understand it:

1).- Compost teas constitute a way to apply the nutritional elements
     compost offers via irrigation or even via a foliar application.

2).- Compost teas contain growth stimulating phytohormones, which
     are produced by beneficial microorganisms contained in compost
     and intentionally concentrated (by feeding them natural sugars)
     in compost teas.

3).- Compost teas also contain antibiotic substances that have
     proven to be effective against pathogens that cause crop
     diseases. These antibiotic substances are produced by the
     same beneficial microorganisms contained in compost and
     intentionally concentrated (by feeding them natural sugars)
     in compost teas that produce the phytohormones.

Conventional agricultural productions systems make war on all living
organisms except the economic crop itself. Conventional agricultural
productions systems are ideally implemented in a sterile soil.
Ideally, the soil is sterilized before planting in these systems.
The concept of irradiated food is based on the same mentality. I
have talked at length to those that produce and sell irradiation
systems and they firmly belive that all food should be and someday
will be irradiated.

For my part, I am convinced that these people are mistaken (if not
totally insane).

Nevertheless,they are responding to real concerns (the existence of
pathogenic microorganisms) that many people do share.

Since organic / sustainable / biological / ecological / alternative
agriculture is based a different principle, a principle that
involves many beneficial organisms, including beneficial
microorganisms, we must somehow distinguish between good and bad
forms of life.

Beyond that, a totally different mindset is called for.

While off-farm input substitution is a legally acceptable means of
qualifying for organic certification, the major benefits of organic
growing are derived when basing one's operation on an organism based
agriculture, which takes into account the full life cycles of all
organisms involved, beginning with the farmer (who begins by
designing the project and ending with the consumer (who converts the
pineapple into energy, constructs needed tissues with it's
nutritional contents, and is motivated by it in subtle yet important

Those additional participants, whose performance is significant in
relation to the success of this joint venture (involving a diverse
series of organisms) called sustainable (or organic) agriculture,
can include:

A).- The crop itself;

B).- Soil microorganisms, as well as other microorganisms that can
     dwell on the surfaces (and sometimes within the tissues) of (or
     in symbiosis with) the plant,

C).- Other non-microbial inhabitants of the soil (i.e. earthworms);

D).- Birds, insects, mammals or other either beneficial or
     destructive organisms (see below).

E).- Crop disease organisms;

F).- Crop pests (including vectors);

G).- Predators, parasites and pathogens of crop pests and crop
     disease organisms.

H).- Companion crops, which include:

  i).-  Crop Rotations

 ii).-  Green manures

iii).-  Plants that repel pests

 iv).-  Plants that attractant pests

   v).- Plants that attract other beneficial organisms

  vi).- Plants that contain substances that are extracted and applied
        separately for achieving any of the above.

wxn> Does the overview by Dr. Ingham not give sufficient overview of
wxn> when there is a risk?

I don't think it goes far enough, and I think she agrees with that
analysis, as which is why she's doing the work she's doing at

As I understand it (in simplified terms), Elaine claims that making
compost aerobically produces environmental conditions conducive to
the growth of beneficial microorganisms, which in turn, prevent
pathological microorganisms from growing.

I can accept that. However, she herself has stated that we need to
know more about how that occurs. And that is why she continues to do
research directed at investigating and resolving these issues (which
she will publish when done).

wxn> Her analysis seems to be "haccp" enough to me.

Enough? I don't think it addresses the issue raised by Dr. Benbrook.
In order to really GUARANTEE that food raised using compost teas are
REALLY free of pathological microorganisms, we need to test for
them. And that is precisely what Dr. Ingham has recommended for
compost teas made from compost made from materials that included
materials of an animal origin. (As I understood her, she has
recommended either using compost of a vegetable origin or testing
for pathogens).

Let's just look at what HACCP stands for: Hazard (in this case,
pathological microorganisms), Analysis (testing for them &/or taking
steps designed to insure their absence) via Critical Control Points.
I interpret that to mean that the entire operation is analyzed in
order to determine:

1).- At which points are the Hazards (the presence of pathological
     microorganisms in food), are likely to present themselves and
     infiltrate the operation,;

2).- What can be done to minimize that risk (the concept of hazard
     implies a risk - in this case the risk that a product will
     become contaminated by pathological microorganisms);

3).- At what point and in what way can that risk be observed; and

4).- At what point and in what way can that risk be minimized?

I think the concept is valid and should be extended to other
possible sources of contamination, even for organic food production.
For instance, I know a melon grower whose product was contaminated
by ammonia contained in the water used to form a layer of crushed
ice that is commonly applied to the top layer of a load of boxed and
palletized melons. The ammonium probably got in during the ice
making process.

This friend is the largest private (non co-op) melon grower in the
USA. But no business is so big it can't be wiped out by a few deaths
of even a rash of serious illness traced to their food.
Contamination of one's product is the nightmare of even the
strongest competitors, and not just those producing organic food.

HACCP methodology represents an option I intend to look into
further and would appreciate your amplifying on your comments.