G’day; before we start, let me suggest that if you are bored
stiff with this subject, just click ‘delete’. If you really HATE
it press ‘shift delete’ and it won’t even go to ‘Trash.’
To clear up my own thinking at least, let me explore the ideas
concerning "what is the meaning of the terms ‘organic’; and
My first concern with chemical nomenclature came when I left school
at 14. I became a lab boy in 1935 in a Technical College Chemistry
Department. The Department had four separate stores for chemicals:
inorganic, organic, pharmacy, and so called inflammables but I
suggest pharmacy and flammables doesn’t really enter this argument.
So, someone would come to the stores and ask for say, nickel
chloride, so we went to the inorganic store. Someone else wanted
phenol which was organic;. fine. But it took me a while to discover
where sodium acetate should be kept; but it was considered
inorganic. One learnt by experience but it didn’t seem logical to
me. Then the next place I worked there was only one main store
with chemicals in alphabetical order; much more intelligent; with
separate stores for flammables and bulk acids. The problem then was
purely a matter of spelling. Sodium hydroxide or caustic soda?
Phenol, carbolic acid or fenol? So when I became the first
laboratory steward for a University chemistry department in a brand
new building, storage systems were up to me; I had to arrange for
the quick, easy transfer of thousands of bottles of chemicals.
(by labour which knew no chemistry) Simple. All bulk acids and
solvents in The Safety Store. All chemicals in alphabetical and sub
alphabetical order. What if a chemical had multiple names?
Natrium sulphosaures;? sodium sulphate? Or; Potassium
thiosulphate? Hypo? Hyposulphate? etc. Simple. Put them on the
shelf under the principle name given in either The British Drug
Houses catalogue, or L Light and Sons catalogue. and re-lable if
necessary. (Any unlabelled bottle or package must be instantly
disposed of; no ‘guided’ guessing allowed. Disposal mandatory.).
So now we tackle the crux of the problem. So far as chemistry is
concerned, the division of “if it is the product of life it is
organic. Otherwise it must be inorganic” That definition went out
of use. long ago.
So it became , “if it has a carbon atom, then it must be organic;
everything else is inorganic.” So is really ancient (4 billion
year old) calcium carbonate organic? Yes it is. it has one carbon
atom Or is it? Life wasn’t ‘invented’ at that time.
But there came a compromise “Chemicals with two or more carbon atoms
are organic; all else is inorganic” Thus calcium carbonate is
inorganic; Ca2CO3 . So is methane CH4. Acetic acid is organic.
And that is how it stands at the moment. But there doesn’t seem
much point in the argument any longer.
HOWEVER!!! We now come to the present day ideas of what does
the word ‘Organic’ means as applied to food. Using the old
laboratory criteria; all food is organic; we cannot thrive on
anything which has not lived or is not the product of life. The
word 'Organic" in modern speech has come to mean ‘chemical or
not-chemical.’ Man made. Thus a food crop fertilized with manure or
compost has been termed organic. A food crop fertilized with
ammonium nitrate, ‘superphosphate’, etc is not “organic” in those
terms. (It isn’t inorganic either!)
BUT: a crop grown without pesticides is also called 'organic’
So what about apples grown with the use of manure or compost, but
sprayed with a chemical to guard against spoilage by codling month?
At this point I abdicate, saying “Life gets tejus don’ it?” And ,
“Fings ain’t wot they useter be”
And I plead guilty of the crime of academicity on the grounds of
Cheers for now,
John Burgess; @John_Burgess2 of Mapua, Nelson NZ