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Still Buying Organic, Despite the Price?

This week at Giant Food, a half gallon of nature's Promise 1% Low Fat Organic Milk is on sale for $3.49. Meanwhile, you can get a whole gallon of Giant brand 1% Low Fat milk for $3.75.

Which one would you choose?

The ongoing debate as to whether organically grown foods are better for you has taken on added urgency as the economy has tanked. Where once we might have been able to afford a few luxuries in the grocery store, today many of us are doing whatever we can to cut back. For many, apparently, that includes taking a tougher look at how much we really want to spend on organic food.

Though many organic-food advocates remain adamant that the eco-friendly, pesticide-free methods of farming deemed organic by the USDA produce better-for-you foods, there's not a strong body of science to support that stance. Some isolated studies (here's a list compiled by the Organic Trade Association) have noted organic's advantages, but, as David Joachim, co-author of The Science of Good Food and one of the sources I consulted for today's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column (about mid-winter produce options) puts it, "Studies have been conflicting. It's not a slam dunk that organic is more nutritious."

"But there is mounting evidence" of its value, Joachim says, pointing to a 2001 roundup of research suggesting organic foods do offer some advantages over conventionally farmed foods.

The jury's still out on the extent to which pesticides used on fruits and vegetables are likely to harm humans. Many experts suggest the small amounts of pesticide residue on some produce aren't a threat, except perhaps to very small children and unborn babies. But if you're shopping organic primarily to avoid pesticides, here's a list of produce items ranked by their pesticide load; you can pick and choose accordingly.

Is organic food a priority in your life? Has your attitude shifted in light of the economy?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  January 27, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Nutrition and Fitness  
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Comments

Yes in fact there is documentation on not eating organic. We are ingesting these toxins form the fertilizers and sprays which permeate the food even if skinning. These toxins are absorbed by the produce and fruits and the hormones are still in the meat of cows. Many doctors have done these studies and recommend we change.
Just like the oil industry- the food industry tries to supress these facts because it would affect their sales
US goverment study from 1936 on our soils which are grossly depleted of nutrients is still valid today - even more so because farmers are not rotating crops just pouring more fertilizer and toxins into soil. We need to wake up and get healthier- one of the main reasons obesity is on the rise is these toxins in our bodies.

Posted by: wcwjarhead | January 27, 2009 8:49 AM | Report abuse

As a food and nutrition professional, I believe that organic production is an important step in improving our unhealthy food system. The superior nutritional quality of organic is reported in a recent (2008)scietific review at http://www.organic-center.org/science.nutri.php?action=view&report_id=126
The Organic Center which did this reveiw is a well known source for credible scientific information on organic.
The food we choose to eat affects our health tremendously. Actually choosing organic, whole foods is often less expensive than processed, quick foods. If that is not the case, we need to work in the US so that all people have the option of healthy, organic foods.

Posted by: susan39 | January 27, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Professor Joan Gussow warned us many years ago about the dangers of looking at organic purely through the lens of nutrients/nutrition. Indeed she suggested that this approach serves to undermine the larger values associated with foods raised with organic principles. Her words are as true today as they were back then. While science continues to uncover nutritional benefits associated with organic foods, the larger contribution this food production system has to the environment, communities and general respect for humanity, should receive equal attention. To look at food purely from its price point or even nutrients alone is to think about food in a vacuum -- or isolated from the systems that it is a part of.

The other point I personally take issue with (I am also a food and nutrition professional), is the notion that a little bit of something possibly toxic is better than nothing at all. Should we apply that to water perhaps? A little bit of contaminated water is better than none at all? This is a bizarre way of looking at nourishment and perhaps reflects the distance that so many of us are from the growers and producers of our food.

Posted by: ajarchibald | January 27, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Recent surveys showed that organic sales in 2008 were up 16% over 2007, demonstrating that even in tough economic times the American public is committed to choosing healthy, safe food. While organic can be more expensive than conventional foods, this is not always the case and seems to be changing. At my neighborhood grocery store (Harris Teeter in Southeast DC) organic onions are the same price as conventional onions. Organic products bought in bulk can be significantly less, making organic foods both eco and wallet-friendly. Research from the University of Seattle last year also noted that organic produce was cheapest when bought locally at a farmers market. Comparing data from the USDA last year showed that while conventional food prices were heavily volatile, likely from the change in gas prices, organic products did not fluctuate in price as much- perhaps because they use fewer fuel inputs.

On the nutritional side, there have been dozens of studies which have demonstrated the superior quality of organic foods over conventional foods, mainly noting the decrease of nitrates in organic foods and for milk, the increase amount of good fatty acids.

Let's also consider the other reasons why people may choose to eat organic, beyond simply pesticide residues. Organic foods are not only good for human health, they are better for the environment and can provide a premium for small-scale farmers throughout the country. Organic production is known to use fewer energy inputs and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, organic farms have been documented to increase biodiversity in both plant and animal species and be better suited to sequester carbon.

With all of the added benefits of organic- environmental, health and price premiums for America's small family farms, I'm willing to pay a few dollars more.

Meredith Niles
Cool Foods Campaign Coordinator
Center for Food Safety
www.coolfoodscampaign.org

Posted by: meredith4 | January 27, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

As a registered dietitian I am always looking at the science behind what we are claiming. I agree with the last comment, and I do see that the evidence is mounting in support of organic practices.

I also believe as an individual to follow our instincts, and learn from our past as a community. I am reading "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan, and it describes what happened to the soil out west when the land was stripped of its natural prarie grasses, and wheat was planted in surplus. Forcing our environment to grow against the natural climate, stripping the soil of its nutrients, using pesticids on foods we eat are not natural to the environemnt. As an individual I beleive it is time to get back to basics, and have a healthy relationship with our land. The science may come in time to show us a definite answer to the question of "Is organic healthier or not?". But doesn't it make sense now to just go back to basics, and treat our land and food with respect? Just a few thoughts.

Posted by: robinn63 | January 27, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

For research on organics and health, the best resource is www.organic-center.org.

Michael Straus, President
Straus Communications
www.StrausCom.com

Posted by: michaelstraus | January 27, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Right...and I'm sure that the Organic Center is not biased in its reporting. There has been very little substantive evidence that there is ANY benefit to organic. I laugh hysterically at those who go to Wholefoods and empty their wallet. Local-grown IS another issue and I love my farmer's market.

Posted by: byte1 | January 27, 2009 1:00 PM | Report abuse

It's funny how the headlines about organic are so negative when science and many sensible people support the consumption and practice of organic crops/foods.

As the parent of a 10 month old, organic is the way to go for our family. When my husband and I start thinking of it, we wonder why we wouldn't choose organic for ourselves, too! No toxins, no chemicals, better nutrient content....the list goes on and it supports eating organic.

Posted by: LarynCallaway | January 27, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Many appear to focus on benefits from the absence of toxins in organic products. This is certainly great value. However another less quantified component is the toxins in the environment. Average toxic pesticide used to grow non-organic cotton is 1.5 lb for every 1 lb of cotton harvested. This pesticide stays in our eco system and is passed onto water or air system. This is a lot of toxic pesticide. Removal costs billions. For example, it cost very little to throw salt in water, but take a lot to remove it. This math is simple and supporting organic foods and textiles is no brainer.

Posted by: HealthyPro | January 27, 2009 1:49 PM | Report abuse

In these harsh economic times it may seem cheaper and more rational to buy conventional farmed foods, but as a species we need to slow down for a second, and think unselfishly about the long term cost on the planet and everything that lives on it when we don't consider the greater eco-system in our farming methods.

What have we done to our land and livelihood in the name of the bottom line?

Surely supporting organic agriculture with a few dollars more at the grocery counter is a worthy sacrifice for, essentially, the preservation of the human species?

There is no denying that serious degradation of soil fertility has occurred on land that has been conventionally farmed. And the 'mysterious' disappearance of bee populations certainly has some of us questioning the use of pesticides as a possible cause. Does everyone realize that without bees there aint gonna be much of anything to eat?

SERIOUSLY, how much more does organic really cost?

I have shopped both conventional and organic and any drastic difference in price greatly depends on what it is that I am buying.

If, like me, you are filling your cart with fresh fruits and vegetables, a little meat, a little dairy, perhaps a small treat here or there, the price difference does not make that big of an impact on the weekly budget.

This would not be the case, however, if I filled my cart with pounds and pounds of organic meats, fancy cheeses, pre-cooked foods, potato chips, sugar-laden snacks, etc. (yes, they are available organically, even if they're not the most nutritious choices!)

...and surely it goes without saying: What About Taste?

It seems to me that beauty is only skin deep in the fresh produce world too!

I cannot tell you the number of times (although I finally learned) that I have been lured in by a huge, ripe, delicious and juicy-looking peach from the conventional grocer's shelf, only to find that when I bit into it, it was brown and powdery inside, had no juice and absolutely no flavor!

At least with organic produce you are more likely to get something that actually tastes good enough to eat...and, heck, perhaps if our fruits and vegetables taste good, our kids would eat more of it and less junk?

Posted by: dvazquez | January 27, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Organic production for us is all about sustainablity. Our land and its wildlife are the most important resourse on our ranch. We are the largest certified organic 100% grass-fed cattle ranch in the USA, 600,000 acres, 90 square miles. Our beef is tender and more flavorful than any other grass-fed beef product, mainly caused by our ranches physical location. In the middle of the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming, the Cowboy State. Our grasses are dry and loaded with protein. Wyoming is where the Texans brought their cattle to get fat, high altitude and latitude creates forage that will finish livestock, it take more time, but we like it that way, and so do the cattle. When you serve our beef, you are eating the cleanest, healthiest, most sustainable, and most humanly raised, meat product on the plant. And its right here in the USA. We do not want customers; we want people that desire a relationship with where their food comes from, and who really care about how it's produced. Check-out our website www.rockymtncuts.com and if you need more information please call, we love to talk about what we do, you see, here in the Rocky Mountains human contact is not something that we get everyday. As you can see from the photos on our web page, we don't have allot of neighbors. Organic's "choose it or loose it" as a producer of food we get it, we can only hope more food conumers undersand the difference.

Posted by: rod4 | January 27, 2009 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree with this as my favorite food (apples) has 2nd highest chemical contamination in the fruit chart and who knows what that will do to me or my family in 10-20 years. At least we have a choice in my family and our choice is the same for food as it is for our home environment - chemical free or at least as natural as possible. Even feeding my dog from the table as the processed pet food smells and has (to me) suspect ingredients.
I'm happy to say the place I work in uses sustainable materials for the environment along with natural and organic products. We do use some synthetic materials in the lower priced sleep items as some people just can't (yet) afford totally chemical free products. But we engineer better performance with what we beleive to be safer synthetics and surround with natural materials for those folks not fortunate enough to be able to afford chemical free, we are working toward getting everything affordable for those folks too, that has to be the ultimate goal. And label everything honestly please so at least people can make the decision which way they want to buy.
Larry Klein
Ex. VP Sales
Natura World Inc.
Larry Klein
Ex. VP Sales
Natura World Inc.

Posted by: lklein23 | January 27, 2009 2:20 PM | Report abuse

In these harsh economic times it may seem cheaper and more rational to buy conventional farmed foods, but as a species we need to slow down for a second, and think unselfishly about the long term cost on the planet and everything that lives on it when we don't consider the greater eco-system in our farming methods.

What have we done to our land and livelihood in the name of the bottom line?

Surely supporting organic agriculture with a few dollars more at the grocery counter is a worthy sacrifice for, essentially, the preservation of the human species?

There is no denying that serious degradation of soil fertility has occurred on land that has been conventionally farmed. And the 'mysterious' disappearance of bee populations certainly has some of us questioning the use of pesticides as a possible cause. Does everyone realize that without bees there aint gonna be much of anything to eat?

SERIOUSLY, how much more does organic really cost?

I have shopped both conventional and organic and any drastic difference in price greatly depends on what it is that I am buying.

If, like me, you are filling your cart with fresh fruits and vegetables, a little meat, a little dairy, perhaps a small treat here or there, the price difference does not make that big of an impact on the weekly budget.

This would not be the case, however, if I filled my cart with pounds and pounds of organic meats, fancy cheeses, pre-cooked foods, potato chips, sugar-laden snacks, etc. (yes, they are available organically, even if they're not the most nutritious choices!)

...and surely it goes without saying: What About Taste?

It seems to me that beauty is only skin deep in the fresh produce world too!

I cannot tell you the number of times (although I finally learned) that I have been lured in by a huge, ripe, delicious and juicy-looking peach from the conventional grocer's shelf, only to find that when I bit into it, it was brown and powdery inside, had no juice and absolutely no flavor!

At least with organic produce you are more likely to get something that actually tastes good enough to eat...and, heck, perhaps if our fruits and vegetables taste good, our kids would eat more of it and less junk?

Deanna Vazquez
President and Founder
Alchemilla Ultra-Pure Skin Care
www.myalchemilla.com
(Member of the Organic Trade Association)

Posted by: dvazquez | January 27, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

As a scientist, I have yet to see any data that supports any significant health benefits for organic food. Anything I've seen has been speculative or a best equivocal. Almost without exception, foods contain natural "toxins" at levels higher than any residues found. The biggest deception is that "organic" means no pesticides - no, organic means only pesticides on the approved list, such as sulfur and pyrethrum. Organic means no synthetic fertilizers, but does not preclude the use of manure, with all its pathogens - yum, yum.

As far as any environmental benefit, organic production generally provides lower yields, which means to produce the same amount of food, more acres have to go into production.

Primarly, organic is marketing, just like paying more for designer clothes because somehow they're "better" and you feel you are "better" for buying it. If it makes you feel good, and you can afford it, go for it. I live in Bethesda and it cracks me up, the Whole Foods lot packed with SUV's and down the road from Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales.

Posted by: northerngirl | January 27, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Organic food has been a way of life that has followed my family through generations. My parents both grew up on ranches farming and raising their own food. They taught me about the connection one has to the land when they are raising food for their family on their land. I had the fortune of farming in Northern California for a school farm and I felt that connection when I worked soil that I knew was clean. Soil that would in turn feed me and my family. Neither my parents nor I could willingly treat our soil or plants with substances that would harm us or the environment. As a consumer I vote with my dollars and I vote for clean and sustainable food. It seems that as a nation we do not take into account the value of natural capitalism. Not having done so in the past is now giving consumers sticker shock. I think it is truly shocking not to give nature its full value and worth.
For me working with Rishi Tea has been an amazing outlet to be able to have a connection with farmers across the world who also want to preserve a clean and sustainable future. Loose leaf tea has such great value that I can sell to customers at cents per cup and not give that sticker shock. Having that direct connection to the farmers we work with makes my colleagues, family and me incredibly proud.

Susana Mojica
RISHI TEA
www.rishi-tea.com

Posted by: susana2 | January 27, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

I believe that organic food is a priority in my life, and by consuming organic prodcuts we help to preserve the world we live in.

Organic agriculture protects the health of people and the planet by reducing the overall exposure to toxic chemicals from synthetic pesticides that can end up in the ground, air, water and food supply, and that are associated with health consequences, from asthma to cancer. Because organic agriculture doesn’t use toxic and persistent pesticides, choosing organic products is an easy way to help protect yourself.

We can see that even when the economic in the USA is not so good right now,millions are saying "NO" to pesticides, industrial agriculture- to the idea that more and faster are things to strive for. There has been a very noticeable growth in the organic food sector as consumers are beginning to comprehend that their personal, family, and environment's health & well-being are directly related to what they eat & drink.

On the other hand we can see that in the past two decades the demand for kosher food product in the USA and around the world has greatly impacted the food industry.

The recent popularity in kosher foods has resulted, in part, from Jews looking to reconnect with their heritage, as well as from purchases by members of other religious groups ,and also because kosher foods are considered to be healthier than no kosher products. But the greatest boon to the industry has been people seeking out kosher food for health reasons: lactose-intolerant consumers who buy pareve products, which contain neither meat nor dairy products; and vegans, vegetarians and people with food allergies who favor kosher foods because the industry's labeling practices are considered to be more rigorous.

In conclusion I can say that even when the economic is not so good in the USA right now the demand for organic and kosher food is increasing everyday.The consumers prefer to pay $2 or $3 more for a product that will keep them healthy and will not damage the planet.

So..., my advice is:"If you want to sell in America to the food market; you have to have organic and kosher products certified"!
Kosher Organics can help you!
For more information visit our website wwww.kosherorganics.com


Patricia Seara
Marketing Director
Kosher Organics
Tel: 305-987-1133
Cell:786-876-3-5366
www.kosherorganics.com


Posted by: patricia10101 | January 27, 2009 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I rest my case.

Posted by: northerngirl | January 27, 2009 4:55 PM | Report abuse

Only consumers have the power to change the world! Every purchase we make is a vote to keep the status quo or make a change. If you really want to change your health, your community, or the world then pay very close attention on how you spend your money. The organic movement is a vehicle for positve change and sustainability. Yes we can help our economy,
one American grown organic soy nut at a time!

Mavis Erikson
Truson Organics Inc.
CFO
www.trusonorganics.com

Posted by: trusonorganics | January 27, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

I have a slightly different perspective than reviewed in the comments so far. I am Canadian and retail others' organics, but not food, well with the exception of Daniel Organic Chocolate produced in Vancouver and Yerba Mate, again from a Canadian company. We are situated in British Columbia, a mile from the US border north of Seattle, WA. One thing we do see as a result of the depressed CA dollar is the US residents visiting and purchasing here more frequently. That is good.
But, really, the price is not the cost of organic goods. Our green lifestyle store vends everything for the home from paint, flooring, and mattresses to lipstick, shampoo and baby bum balm, sort of the one stop shop for those seeking a sustainable lifestyle. Since the customers are dedicated to organic living already, we do not have to compete so much for their loyalty to organics.
The price of an organic lipstick is not higher than its department store counterpart at all, but the cost to the environment of the drug/department store brand is extreme and the product hazardous to the end user, while the organic lipstick is clean and chemical free. What price would a woman pay to know her lips are kissable and her health not compromised with the addition of lead, parabens and phalates?
The price of an organic mattress is double a standard brand name found in department stores. Again, the price is not the cost. The mattress that is organic has not stressed the Earth in any way. The workers who produced it do not fear for their health as a result of exposure to toxins. The consumers who purchase it pay extra for peace of mind knowing they can regenerate at night when they sleep instead of fight the toxins found in chemical mattresses. Again there is a but.
But, the organic mattress is a lifetime purchase. With due care and attention, it will be the last mattress one would purchase. Compare that with the standard brands, which must be replaced anywhere from every five to ten years. In fifteen years of buying conventional, it is apparently much cheaper to go organic and also allow the world and the consumer the peace of knowing it is safe, harmless and toxin free. Now that is the real cost.
So, yes, there is a pinch on the gift giving and frivolous spending, however; the green lifestyle industry is all about wellness for the individual and the planet and there is no cost too high for that peace of mind.
Eileen Wosnack
Eclectrix Organic Home, www.eclectrix.com

Posted by: eclectrix | January 27, 2009 7:12 PM | Report abuse

My skin care products, Organoderm, which I just introduced this past year have seen an upsurge in orders. I credit this to giving the consumer elegant, effective formulations in super-sized USDA certified(95% plus certified organic ingredients)and Circle of Green certified(green product-fully recyclable with NO harmful chemicals whatsoever)product amounts for the same or even lower price as non-organic, synthetic skin care products!
The consumer is not only becoming more savy about the products they are purchasing but also in these harsh economic times, wants true value for the money they spend. My goal in super-sizing almost my entire line is to decrease excess waste in our landfills as well make Organoderm affordable and its benefits more readily available.

Posted by: drdomanskis | January 27, 2009 8:07 PM | Report abuse

Organic is not a simple replacement of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides with organic inputs and biologically active formulations, but it envisages a comprehensive management approach to improve the health and underlying productivity of the soil. Most of the people just see few countable features of organic that are listed on package as per the USDA rules.

To sustain the earth, bio-diversity and other eco-friendly farming, processing and packing techniques are a necessity for today's world.

Organic is a life style for sustainable earth, environment, water and human existence on earth for the future.In a healthy soil, life, mineral particles, air, and water co-exists in a state of dynamic equilibrium and regulates the ecosystem processes in mutual harmony by complementing and supplementing each other. Healthy soil provides natural and healthy food ingredients. This state of soil life and the associated organic trans-formations will enhance the regenerative capacity of the soil and makes it resilient to absorb the effects of climatic vicissitudes and occasional failures in agronomic management.

Organic food is not a luxury as projected in the media but a life style that whole world (rich & poor) has to accept for sustainability.

Recession will come and go but if we loose the sustainability, there will be nothing left for future generations !. Can we afford to do that ?.

Kamal Goel, Ph.D
Founder & CEO
Indus Organics, Inc.
www.IndusOrganics.com

Posted by: kgoel | January 28, 2009 12:54 AM | Report abuse

I have to ask...why are the majority of posts followed by website addresses that are for a money-making concern. Sounds like a lot of retail spin. I want hard research, not special-interest research

Posted by: charlesmurphy85 | January 28, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

charlesmurphy85 -

Because organic is primarily a marketing tool. There is no real research that shows any health or environmental benefits.

Posted by: northerngirl | January 28, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

northerngirl, no real scientist is grossed out by manure as a fertilizer. It is the most logical fertilizer in the world. It is a great way to close a big hole in the biogeochemical cycle of agriculture. Being a scientist means using your head, not an internal "yuck factor." I do agree, organic for the sake of organic is not always the best, but smaller organic, multi-crop farms are the way to go. Would you rather have a huge cow farm, where all the manure goes into a local river, next to a huge corn farm, which is dumping fertilizers all over the place, much of which goes into the same local river? Or could it be better to use the cow manure to fertilize your fields, which reduces the amount of waste that goes into the local river? I know this is turning into a bit of a personal attack, but I hate it when people claim to be "scientists," but then leave their logic at the door. What fraction of food poisoning comes from organic farms versus factory farms? Name a recent outbreak that has been traced to an organic farm (yes, they do happen, but they are much less frequent that outbreaks from conventional suppliers).

Posted by: ftg_somerville | January 29, 2009 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Hasn't it been established that the Chesapeake Bay is being killed by fertilizer runoff? That's enough of a reason for me to go for Organic.

Chemical fertilizer farming is not sustainable. We MUST think about our grandchildren.

Posted by: Voiceinthedesert | February 3, 2009 9:34 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for listing a link to the Environmental Working Group's (EWG) "Shopper's Guide To Pesticides in Produce" It is very helpful. http://www.foodnews.org/
It lists the top 12 vegetables and fruits that have the most pesticides (I get these organic) and those with the least. Although I prefer organic, when on a tight budget I make sure to purchase those foods on the "Dirty Dozen" list organic and I'm more flexible about those with the least pesticides. For me its not just the superior taste and that it's good for the environment, it also helps me to stay well. As I hit menopause, I developed a slew of food sensitivities and I find that choosing organic foods assists me in feeling better. By the way, the EWG also has a full list of the produce in-between.

Posted by: dlkhoward | February 3, 2009 9:53 AM | Report abuse

Did you get the Silicone Valley news this morning about 'organic' food enhanced with systemic fertilizers having been labeled 'Organic' and sold for years? What are we to conclude? A placebo rules your taste-buds?
Mind you, it remains a minor aberration when compared with thousands of food items emblazoned with fake 'health' slogans.
Blame food science!
hartsmartliving.com

Posted by: hart0007 | February 3, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Eating locally farmed food means beef, and more beef. If I drive fifty miles then I could buy locally produced hard red winter wheat. A little further and I could buy locally produced #2 yellow corn or pork. A hundred mile drive would get me some onions, watermelon, canatlope and potatoes.

Posted by: jbowen431 | February 3, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

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