“Only when the last tree has been cut down, only when the last river has been poisoned, only when the last fish has been caught will you find out that money cannot be eaten” -Native American Proverb
There is a lot of talk about the new Stanford study regarding the benefits of organic food. The study concluded that there are no more nutritional benefits to eating organically grown versus conventionally grown produce and meat. However, it discovered that organic produce contains more cancer preventing phenols and phosphorus than its non-organic counterpart. It was determined that 38% of conventional produce contains traceable amounts of pesticide residues, with only 7% on organic produce testing for residues*. The research also concluded that organic milk contained more omega-3 fatty acids, which have many health benefits, including joint health, heart health and reducing inflammation in the body. Organic pork and chicken were less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The findings were researched over a period of four years, with no new laboratory work being conducted, only analyses of previous findings. While this may help those who do not organically to feel better about their food, I doubt it will persuade those already eating organic to change their mind.
I read a blog post titled ‘The Organic Fable‘ in which the author, Roger Cohen makes his case against eating organically. While I completely agree with his disgust over hearing the O word mentioned as often as it is, and with a couple of his other points, overall I feel his article is doing a disservice to the traditional produce consumer.
I do agree that while the study may have found organic food to not be any more nutritious, it is definitely better for the environment. There is no doubt that the chemicals we are putting into our food, air and water supply are contaminating those supplies, along with the animals (humans included) that consume them. Long term pesticide exposure can have detrimental health effects, so while it may appear just as nutritious to eat conventional produce, in the long run you are better off with organic. You can look around our society and notice that there are many more diseases (cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity to name a few) that were not nearly as prevalent 100 years ago. So what has changed that could be contributing to these statistics? We started chemically spraying, genetically modifying, and injecting hormones into our food supply.
I completely disagree with his portrayal of the people who buy organic. Am I a romantic? Maybe. Am I affluent, upper middle class, narcissistic and elitist? Hardly. And neither are any of my friends who pay close attention to their health and the foods they put into their body. Not all people who eat organic do so because it’s the trendy thing to do right now or because they are rolling around in money wondering what to spend it on. We choose to spend our money on healthy, whole, real food now instead of health care in the future. The reason organic prices are higher is due in part to certain companies driving the prices up by branding, as Mr. Cohen mentioned, but it is also due to paying people an honest wage. Organic companies rely on laborers to do the work instead of chemicals, thus providing jobs and having to charge more to pay those wages. And yes, while a consumer may be able to buy 2 gm carrots to one organic, he could actually buy a packet of carrot seeds and grow 100 lbs. of organic carrots for a little more.
To feed a planet of 9 billion people, we need to show people how to grow their own food, quit wasting so much food and quit feeding livestock from our food supply. It’s really that simple. The solution to world hunger is not now, nor has it ever been gm crops. A recent article noted on CNN shows that 40% of food is wasted in America and that the average household throws away 25% of their food, yet over a million children go to bed hungry every night. We need to educate our own citizens on how to feed themselves by growing their own food. For those that don’t have their own land to grow a traditional garden, there are multiple options such as container gardening, raised bed gardening, window gardening and community gardens. Why are we worried about feeding the world when we aren’t even making sure our neighbors have enough food anyway? Not that I want anyone in the world to starve, but I think we have a duty to our friends, neighbors and countrymen first. Also, there is no reason to take up so much land by raising crops to feed animals. Let them eat the food that they are meant to eat and grow the way they are supposed to grow instead of feeding them cheap crops that use up our invaluable resources to beef them up.
You really don’t have to be against nature to have people better fed. It’s not about being for or against nature, but what is better for everyone’s health and well-being. I definitely would NOT trust that the pesticides are used at safe levels, as there really is no safe level at which to ingest pesticides. And who came up with the word organic anyway? Shouldn’t it be the foods that are grown in a non-natural way be the ones that are labeled?
Organic may have become trendy, but it certainly didn’t start that way. I believe that it is a movement by the people for the people and that the future of food IS organic.
In truth, the future of food is it up to you, the consumer and will be determined by what you spend your money on. GMOs or real food the way God and nature intended?
*Organic produce can test positive due to a neighboring farm that does spray, and also during processing or transporting.