The next step would be to inoculate half of these women with arthritis in some way. Since we do not really know what causes arthritis (in spite of the claims of organocultists) this would be difficult to do. The other 50 women would serve as a control by remaining on their "chemical" diet. The experiment would have to be continued over several years to be sure results would be statistically significant. During this period, 50 arthritic women would have to be fed a diet grown organically-compost-fed potatoes, manured cabbages and what not. After a specified length of treatment, it would not be enough to have one or two of the subjects recover from arthritis. Unless most of them were cured the experiment would be rated as non-conclusive.
Such an experiment is obviously impossible, but I felt that stating it in some detail would show up the vagueness of what organic gardeners offer as proof.
There is one major weak spot in the organocultists' armor. It is their habit of citing authority, often out of context and often without fully understanding what they are quoting. I feel it is only fair that if they quote a certain individual as an authority on gardening, they accept his views on that subject. They don't have to recognize him as an authority on love, politics, the Einsteinian theories or the atom bomb, but they are stuck with him on gardening.
With this in mind, I wrote to half a dozen acknowledged authorities on gardening whose writings have been quoted from time to time by organic-gardening publications. I asked these experts for their opinions on five specific questions:
1. Do you think chemical fertilizers cause damage to plants or
cause plants to grow abnormally?
2. Do you think plants fertilized with chemicals rather than pure
organics are more subject to insect attacks?
3. Are plants fertilized with chemicals more subject to plant
4. Are organically-fed plants better protected against insect attack and diseases?
5. Do you think that eating chemically fed plants will cause
cancer, arthritis and poor teeth?
Out of the six expert gardeners contacted, all replied with a flat No to all five questions. In addition, the American Medical Association, which disqualified itself on the first four questions, emphatically denied that plants fed with chemical fertilizers could be proved to cause cancer, arthritis or poor teeth.
One reply was from Harry O'Brien, whose national magazine column, "Diary of a Plain Dirt Gardener," was read by millions every month. His answers were typical. He said:
"(1) Chemical fertilizers used according to accepted standards are not dangerous to plants and do not cause abnormal growth.