I’ve been thinking about my organic post for quite some time now. Tonight I decided it was time to knock it out after hearing a girl in my epidemiology class say “It’s hard to eat healthy because organic food is so expensive.” ayayaya. This statement makes me cringe like no other. But its important to bring it up because I think many people believe that organic food is healthier for you and will blindly choose organic foods just because they are labeled organic, but have no real concept of what organic actually means. One part of this statement is true, organic food is more expensive. However, eating organic food has nothing to do with obesity and will certainly not help you lose weight. With that said, there are definitely some benefits to eating organic.
First, lets start with a definition. Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm. Organic farming excludes or strictly limits the use of manufactured fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, livestock antibiotics, food additives, and genetically modified organisms.
Yep, taken straight from wikipedia, and as much as I know that wikiP. is frowned upon its the easiest and most basic definition out there. I REALLY wanted to give you the USDA definition, but it was about 5 pages long…
So now that we know that organic just means that pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemical additives aren’t used (or limited) in the production we can focus on what this means for us. Below are some facts and fiction about organic.
- Buying organic helps support a clean and healthy environment. The production is not nearly as fossil fuel intensive as traditional agriculture. Additionally, if the cows are grass fed they will not emit nearly as much methane as the cows being fed corn on the regular farms. BUT, some organic farms merely force feed their livestock organic corn, in which case it really is no better.
- Organic is beneficial for the worker/farmer’s health. Many studies have shown direct exposure to pesticides has negative consequences for the people working in the fields.
- There are some foods that buying organic may be beneficial, for example, potatoes have been shown to have a slightly higher pesticide content in the skin. So, if you eat the skin, and I highly recommend that you do! maybe ist worth buying organic potatoes if you are really concerned about pesticides. On the other hand, there are a lot of foods, especially those with peels or shells like bananas, peanuts (I’m thinking organic PB), coconuts? where it literally makes no sense at all to buy organic, unless you are concerned about the environment.
- Organic is better for you nutritionally. In almost all cases this is not true. If you were to compare the calories and nutrients of organic blackberries to regular blackberries it will be almost exactly the same. There is some very limited research that will show that said organic food may have higher antioxidant capacity over a regular food, but these studies are few and far between and there are many studies supporting the exact opposite. Here is a nice conclusion statement from a 12 month systematic review “there is no good evidence that consumption of organic food is beneficial to health in relation to nutrient content”
- Pesticides and fertilizers from the non organic foods are the cause of obesity, autism, asthma, all food borne illnesses and everything that is wrong with our society. I’m not an expert on all of these topics (well maybe obesity), but I do know that there is not a lot of evidence showing non organic foods as the main cause of these problems.
This is an important part I forgot before…
In general, animals living on an organic farm are treated better and more humanely. 1) It is required that they have access to open air and are not caged 2) They are not given antibiotics and they are not given growth hormones. At first, I did not understand why not giving them antibiotics was a good thing, I thought well if they are sick they should get antibiotics too! BUT the reason that farms have to give their animals antibiotics is because they crowd the animals soo tight and they are literally falling in and ingesting their own feces so these poor animals need mega doses of antibiotics just to keep from dying in order to have the short unpleasant life that they do have.
With that said, there are many small, local farms that treat their animals better than larger Organic chains such as O Organics buy walmart. If the organic brand is very cheap there is probably a reason, and if the organic brand is more expensive there is also probably a reason (AKA they are actually using humane practices). Being organic certified is actually really costly to the farmer and it is a huge procedure to go through so some farms simply can not afford the certification.
In conclusion, you are helping out the animals by buying organic, but the practices vary widely by farm. This is a great article by the huffington post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/13/organic-vs-conventional-h_n_201609.html
I would also recommend the movie FOOD INC to everyone.