"The Omnivore's Dilemma," Vocabulary from Part 2

"The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan has quickly become a classic in food-obsessed circles for its emphasis on knowing where your good comes from, eating well, and eating locally.

Learn these word lists for this work of nonfiction: Introduction-Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4-Afterword

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. organic
    of foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers
    The government rules about organic food allow companies to make organic high-fructose corn syrup—words I never expected to see combined.
  2. regret
    sadness associated with some wrong or disappointment
    He spoke without regret about the compromises he’s made along the path from organic farmer to agribusiness executive.
  3. cooperative
    done with or working with others for a common purpose
    “We tried hard to build a cooperative community and a local food system, but at the end of the day it wasn’t successful. This is just lunch for most people. Just lunch.”
  4. determine
    shape or influence; give direction to
    What followed was a great debate to determine the future of the organic industry.
  5. synthetic
    a compound made artificially by chemical reactions
    Without synthetics, processed foods like TV dinners just can’t be manufactured.
  6. fraud
    intentional deception resulting in injury to another person
    Many people from the old organic movement argued that to put synthetics in a processed food and then call it organic was a fraud.
  7. compost
    a mixture of decaying vegetation and manure
    In place of petrochemical fertilizers, Greenways’s organic acres are fed with compost from a nearby horse farm and by poultry manure.
  8. eliminate
    do away with
    The Goodmans estimate that this has eliminated some 270,000 pounds of pesticide and 8 million pounds of petrochemical fertilizer that would otherwise have been applied to those fields.
  9. seldom
    not often
    Pesticides, even the ones allowed by the USDA organic rules, are seldom sprayed.
  10. calorie
    unit of heat raising 1 gram of water by 1 degree centigrade
    Growing, chilling, washing, packaging, and transporting that box of organic salad to a plate on the East Coast takes more than 4,600 calories of fossil fuel energy, or 57 calories of fossil fuel energy for every calorie of food.
  11. antibiotic
    a substance used to kill microorganisms and cure infections
    Since the birds receive no antibiotics and they are all genetically alike, if one gets sick, they will all get sick.
  12. humid
    containing or characterized by a great deal of water vapor
    The air was warm and humid and smelled powerfully of ammonia from their droppings.
  13. conventional
    conforming with accepted standards
    Compared to conventional chickens, I was told, these organic birds have it pretty good.
  14. access
    a way of entering or leaving
    USDA rules say an organic chicken should have “ access to the outdoors.”
  15. dilemma
    state of uncertainty in a choice between unfavorable options
    That one bundle of asparagus presented its own little dilemma. How much fossil fuel was burned to keep it refrigerated and fly it to the U.S.? Should farmland in South America be used to grow expensive food for well-off North Americans? Should we even try to eat asparagus (or any vegetable) out of season?
  16. hefty
    large in amount, extent, or degree
    That comes to $34 to feed a family of three at home. (Though we did make a second meal from the leftovers.) That’s a hefty price compared to the same meal from the industrial food chain.
  17. bland
    lacking taste or flavor or tang
    Those “unnatural” feeds make chickens with mushier and blander meat.
  18. disrupt
    throw into disorder
    I know the dinner I prepared contained little or no pesticides. Those chemicals have been proven to cause cancer, damage nerve cells, and disrupt your endocrine system—your hormones.
  19. tolerate
    withstand a poison or strong drug or pathogen or condition
    The government says the levels are low enough that our systems can “ tolerate” them.
  20. residue
    matter that remains after something has been removed
    Also, organic cows, like Rosie the organic chicken, are never fed corn that contains residues of atrazine, the herbicide commonly sprayed on American cornfields.
  21. evolve
    undergo development
    We have evolved over millions of years eating plants that today we would call “natural” or “organic.”
  22. substance
    the real physical matter of which a person or thing consists
    Who knows what other healthy substances are in plants that we have yet to discover?
  23. seep
    pass gradually or leak or as if through small openings
    To grow the plants and animals that made up my meal, no pesticides found their way into any farmworker’s bloodstream, no nitrogen runoff seeped into the watershed, no soils were poisoned, no antibiotics were wasted, no government subsidy checks were written.
  24. guarantee
    give surety or assume responsibility
    An organic label does not guarantee that cattle have spent any time in a real pasture, any more than “free-range” chickens really range freely.
  25. drench
    cover with liquid; pour liquid onto
    To top it off, my industrial organic meal is nearly as drenched in fossil fuel as a non-organic meal.

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