Does Organically Grown Mean Fertilized with Human Poo?
Erma Bombeck a great American humorist once wrote a book entitled, "The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank" No truer axiom exists. With that in mind, would you eat produce grown in a field that had been fertilized with untreated human waste or poop?
One of the buzzwords in farming these days is "organic" Everyone seems to be looking for produce and foods that are organically grown. Prices for organically grown items are often much higher than produce that is not labeled as such.
In our area, The Texas Real Food website lists Back 4T Farms in Eden as "the farm to contact if you are looking for the following: organic, pastured eggs, and organic, pastured chicken.
What does organically grown mean exactly? Does it mean your food could be fertilized with untreated human poo?
The official definition for "organic" generally means food grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or other artificial agents. Human poop is not artificial. Is it organic?
This has become a hot question since an organic farm in Michigan, called Kuntry Farms was found to be fertilizing their fields with untreated human poop, according to state health officials there. As unappealing as this sounds, is it unhealthy?
The answer is "yes". Untreated human poop can contain dangerous infectious diseases such as hepatitis A, Clostridium difficile, E coli, rotavirus and norovirus. All of these are very serious. That's why health department officials in Michigan are warning people there not to eat food grown at Kuntry Farms.
Here in Texas, it is also illegal to use untreated human waste as fertilizer on produced commercially sold. As a result, you don't have to worry that your commercially grown "organic foods" have been produced in fields where human poop has been used as fertilizer.
Family farmers could technically do whatever they want on their own farms, so it might be a good idea to ask before you eat, if you eat produce grown by your friends and neighbors.
If you buy your produce at a store, no worries. Farms like Back 4T Farms in Eden follow rigorous rules to maintain safe and healthy products. In fact, studies have consistently shown small to moderate increases in some nutrients in organic produce. In fact, organic produce often contains more of certain antioxidants and types of flavonoids with antioxidant properties and Omega-3 fatty acids. In other words, organic produce is just plain healthier in many cases.
You should not worry that untreated human poop, as "natural" as it may be, is being used to fertilize the food on your table. If you know of a farm that is doing it, report it to state health or agricultural agencies. No one wants a Kuntry Farms type incident here in Texas.
It's perfectly fine if the grass is greener over the septic tank, but not the squash.