Synthetic! Man-made! These words have come to leave bad
feeling for many people, whereas natural and organic leave
good feelings. Why? Let's talk for a while about these
If we look in the
dictionary, we find that the word chemical means: made by or
used in chemistry; made with or operated by chemicals; or
any substance used in or obtained by a chemical process. A
chemical element is any substance that cannot be separated
into different substances except by radioactive decay. All
matter is composed of such substances. Matter can not be
created nor destroyed but may change its form, such as
occurs in a chemical process.
can occur within living organisms or from nonliving
sources. In the early 1700s, it was believed that chemical
synthesis could occur only in living organisms and organic
compounds were defined as coming from living organisms,
whereas inorganic compounds come from nonliving sources.
This belief was called "vitalism" and is still held today by
some. However, today, we know that chemical synthesis can
occur outside of living organisms.
are the compounds made up of the chemical element carbon.
Inorganic compounds do not contain carbon. Inorganic
chemicals include sulfur, oxygen, nitrogen, silver, copper,
etc. Living things are composed primarily of organic
compounds but the organic compounds also have lots of
hydrogen and oxygen with small amounts of other inorganic
elements sulfur, copper, magnesium, etc. When living things
die, these organic compounds may change form to become
compost, or with even greater time, petroleum.
originating from living things are organic but anything
containing carbon is also organic. The food we eat, the
wood to make our homes, the clothing we wear (whether
natural cotton or polyester), gasoline, propane, rubber,
plastics, medicines, pesticides, herbicides, all are made
from organic compounds. Man has used organic compounds for
thousands of years dating from the ancient Egyptians and
Phoenicians who used chemicals obtained from living
organisms to dye cloth. The making of wine was known in
biblical times and required the action of a living organism,
bacteria, which was used as a chemical produced by the
grape, sugar, to synthesize alcohol. To make wine to drink
requires the physical intervention of man to bring the grape
and the correct bacteria together.
A synthetic is
something produced by chemical synthesis, rather than of
natural origin. Inorganic oxygen is a requirement for man,
but when oxygen enters into chemical reactions in our
bodies, or in our plant, new forms of oxygen are made that
are toxic. Our bodies process nitrogen to synthesize urea
and process oxygen to synthesize hydrogen peroxide. These
are natural processes but both compounds can be synthesized
in chemical reactions outside our bodies.
In the early
1800s, Friedrich Wohler found that urea could be made simply
by evaporating an aqueous solution of ammonium cyanate. It
could be argued that a vital source intervened in this
process, from a physical standpoint "man-made".
Nevertheless, no matter how urea and hydrogen peroxide are
synthesized, they are still urea and hydrogen peroxide.
Both have useful purposes when chemically synthesized
(man-made). Urea is used as fertilizer and hydrogen
peroxide as an antiseptic.
We cannot argue
that "natural" vitamin C made by citrus fruit is healthier
than the identical "synthetic" vitamin C. The alcohol in
wine may taste good but has serious health implications.
Medications are useful when used as prescribed but harmful
if used inappropriately.
compounds, whether synthesized "natural" or "man-made", can
have good or bad effects. It is up to us to become educated
about how we use any chemical, natural or man-made, to
protect our environment and ourselves yet provide for life
in abundance. So when hearing the words, synthetic,
organic, man-made, natural and/or chemicals, please take a
moment to determine what is really being said.
FERTILIZERS: THE BREATH OF LIFE
farfetched? Not at all! For all the environmental
activist’s complaints about chemical fertilizers, they might
be amazed (and more than a little enlightened) to find out
what these so-called curses of humanity have to do with
their continued and healthful existence. Consider: For
each ton of CO2 the corn plant inhales,
three-fourths of a ton of oxygen is exhaled back into the
atmosphere. In 1992, a 9.2 billion bushel corn crop exhaled
593 million metric tons of oxygen back into the air, enough
to support every man, woman, and child on this plant for a
year! Ponder… What kind of crop, what kind of oxygen
replenishment would we have had without chemical
fertilizers? Instead of pillorying chemical fertilizers,
perhaps environmentalists should check a mirror as to who is
really culpable. For they, unlike plants nurtured by
chemical fertilizers, exhale CO2, not oxygen.
Using their logic, we should eliminate humans and save the
planet. You’ll also learn in this issue of the Fluid
Journal how effectively the corn plant and other crops
remove CO2 from the air to counterbalance the
quantities put in by fossil fuels and by Mother Nature.
You’ll be shown how increasing quantities of chemical
fertilizers above current levels could raise yield averages
to help sequester even more of the CO2 that
contributes to global warming. Featured also is an update
on the unfolding technology of precision farming and its
vital role in protecting our environment.