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To Make an Organic Man

December 2, 2008

20080508_114854_0Considering the high standards that the USDA holds organic fruits vegetables and animals, it’s time to look back and apply that to ourselves. Dr. Alan Greene, pediatrician and author in Danville California, has been eating nothing but organic foods for the past three years in attempt to earn the right to buy a green and white sticker and slap it on his own forehead.

Unfortunately, in order to be truly organic, he would also need to have been managed organically since the last third of gestation unless he is a dairy animal or poultry, which considering his powerful command of the english language, we assume he is not. This isn’t the only rule he would need to comply with to consider himself organic – he would also need regular access to open pasture, easy if he has a car. He must not use hormones to promote growth, so anabolic steroids are probably out, even if they’re sustainably produced. Pesticides are out, so he’ll have to lay off the bug spray.

Importantly, he would also need to be of a species selected with regard to the site specific conditions he was living in, which might explain why he lives in California.

Three years of organic feed is what the USDA requires to certify an animal, and so that’s why Dr. Greene chose such a long time to run his own experiment. The New York Times points out that while other authors like Barbara Kingoslver and Michael Pollan have experimented with puritanical concepts of strictly organic diets, Dr. Greene is unique in his attempt to truly integrate that kind of eating with everyday life. He continued to live his life, on the road and off. In corporate cafeterias, organic foods are marked with a number 9 while industrial foods are marked with a 4. What 1-3 and 5-8 are, god only knows.

The diet seems to be working for him. Even though he’s a pediatrician and spends so much time around sick children, he is rarely ill, and he wakes up earlier with more energy. His urine has also gotten to be a bright yellow, which beyond aesthetic satisfaction, indicates a diet with vitamins and nutrients.

The kinds of experiments are fun, of course, and show that if you are committed to living organically it is possible, but what’s always disturbing is just how hard it is. We call this kind eating “natural,” but in modern society it is anything but: it requires concerted, constant effort. There will come a time when an all-organic diet is more than just an anomaly and a gimmick, and stories like this serve not only to show what that might look like, but just how much is needed to make that a time a reality.

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