A Closer Look at Organic Foods

Warning! For the next couple of weeks I’m introducing politics into Food Yourself only because I feel organic foods are misunderstood. Consumers truly believe that ‘organic’ foods are healthier, safer, and better for the environment, but unfortunately I don’t buy it. For the next couple of weeks I’ll tackle these assumptions, and hopefully lead you down a path towards sustainability rather than suckerville.  

One of the reasons consumers choose to eat organic food is to reduce their pesticide intake. There is no doubt that pesticides are toxic; their purpose, after all, is to eliminate pests. However, the effect of pesticides on the consumer is not as extreme as it’s presented to the public since the amount we are eating is miniscule. In fact, organic food may even contain small amounts of pesticide residue due to background contamination, and pesticide drift from nearby farms. Food safety regarding organic food is also jeopardized because animal manure, used for fertilization, may cause more pathogen contamination to food compared to the pesticides originally used. Corporations, unfortunately, mislead consumers who choose to eat organic food to eliminate their pesticide intake because even organic food contains toxins.

Consumers perceive organic food to be more nutritious and healthier than conventionally produced food; however, most studies show that organic food does not have higher amounts of vitamins and minerals. Opponents of conventionally produced food state that organic food is better for the environment by reducing the consumer’s carbon footprint. For instance, the herbicides, pesticides, and other synthetic material used on conventional food is believed to have a negative impact on the water supply. However, according to a recent study the negative environmental impact resulting from conventionally produced food is counterbalanced by some organic food. Organic food is significantly less energy efficient and more polluting because the food needs to get here asap.

A final argument against conventionally produced food is that by purchasing only organic food the consumer is promoting the development of their community. However, organic food can come from anywhere, and local produce may not be organic.

Feeling helpless? We’ll tackle some solutions next week, but for now remember: a diet full of conventional fruits and vegetables is always a healthy choice, and an “organic” label does not change a less healthy food into a more healthy food.

Image courtesy of Rastoney