Is Organic Food Worth It?
Is a good quality diet important to you? It should be, since illnesses are the leading cause of death. A large part of good health relates to the quality of what we ingest, whether it nourishes our health or breaks it down. Organic food is a step above the conventional commercial approach: It doesn’t include pesticides, chemicals or other ingredients that generally harm us.
A 2022 survey by the Organic Trade Association revealed that Americans spent more than $60 billion on organic consumables and household products, which is a record high. Consumers have demonstrated that they’ll return repeatedly because the organic system is superior for them, the environment and the economy.
Nevertheless, there is a strong movement to discredit organic foods. You may have heard that it’s not worth buying organic because organic farmers simply cheat. The truth is that many of these reports of cheating are blown up by big businesses with a vested interest in discrediting the organic food industry.
A small number of giant corporations have extensive control over virtually every aspect of food production and are increasingly dominating the industry. The majority of America’s corn and soy are genetically modified. Biotech companies create a system of food production with products designed to work together. For example, they link seeds with specific chemicals like weed killer.
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, is the most widely used agricultural chemical in history. According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it’s a probable carcinogen. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has revealed that nearly 30 percent of the more than 3,000 foods they tested contained glyphosate.
Pharmaceutical companies consider this an extremely lucrative and ongoing source of revenue. That’s why the industry portrays a fierce bias in defense of conventional agriculture, using language similar to when vaccines were introduced, while touting safety in the face of contrary evidence.
Genetic engineering advances may see some plants become more resistant to diseases, pests, droughts and floods, producing higher yields for farmers and lower costs for consumers. But at what cost? We live in a time of increasing diseases due to toxic chemicals and genetically modified organisms (gmo). Profit improves at the expense of public health. There must be an alternative to the conventional commercial food standard.
Organic Farming Benefits
Organic farms have to be free of prohibited substances for three years to be eligible for the United States Department of Agriculture (usda) organic seal. In addition, the usda is supposed to regulate the organic industry with inspections to ensure that most synthetic herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and genetically modified crops are avoided.
Despite robust usda data indicating that organic foods have low pesticide levels, the Genetic Literacy Project contends that some skeptics promote the idea of organic farmers surreptitiously using more pesticides than their conventional counterparts. This is despite organic farmers employing natural methods to disturb insect environments, such as crop rotation. They also use beneficial soil organisms and insects, as well as traps and obstacles.
Animals raised on organic farms don’t receive antibiotics or growth hormones. They’re given organically grown feed while roaming freely outside. The usda only certifies crops, animal products and foods that are 95 percent organic. This preserves natural resources, supports animal health, and avoids the use of most synthetic materials, states Harvard Health.
The end result is superior nutrition. Free-roaming cows with access to forage produce milk that contains about 25 percent less omega-6 fats and 62 percent more omega-3 fats than conventional milk. Organically grown foods also contain “significantly” higher levels of antioxidants and, on average, more vital nutrients than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. This factor, along with lower pesticide residues, nitrate levels and certain heavy metal pollution, is associated with a lower incidence of chronic diseases.
A Two-Tiered System
The contrast between organic agriculture emphasizing natural processes and biodiversity and conventional farming that relies on chemical inputs is stark, the Rodale Institute says.
Scientists see no difference between nitrogen from animal manure or nitrogen synthesized in a factory. To them, both are simply the same element within the periodic table, rather than being distinct in health-giving properties. For example, nearly 75 percent of non-organic produce in the U.S. contains pesticide residues, a practice that can lead to soil degradation, water pollution, a damaged nutritional food profile and eventual chronic diseases.
Industrial agriculture also uses 80 percent of the antibiotics used in the country to promote growth and prevent diseases that would otherwise make their cafos unprofitable. This brings on about 2 million drug-resistant infections and 23,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On organic farms, the preventive use of antibiotics is restricted, while animals are typically given more living space, helping to naturally reduce infection risk.
Another substance required in conventional agriculture is the use of gmos. Of the two main types, one is Bt crops, an insecticide that dissolves the gut lining of insects and is then harvested while still on the crops for humans to eat. The other type is Roundup Ready crops, which are engineered to withstand heavy applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. In humans, it acts as an endocrine disruptor in cells, according to Toxicology, and is linked to numerous types of cancer.
Organic farmers do use some pesticides, but they only use those on a relatively short list that the Environmental Protection Agency regularly reviews. Most are natural (or non-synthetic) substances produced or extracted from natural sources.
In general, organic farmers emphasize prevention over treatment and use other pest-control measures like insect traps, disease-resistant crop varieties, predator insects and beneficial microorganisms to help control pests before resorting to pesticides.
That’s not to say organic fraud doesn’t occur. “There are incentives to cheat,” said Kate Mendenhall, executive director of the Organic Farmers Association and an Iowa farmer.
Organic dairy requires vigilance because some farms sell industrially produced milk as organic and pocketing the increased profits.
This and other nefarious practices damage the credibility and integrity of the organic food industry. Dumping non-organic foodstuffs on the organic market depresses prices for farmers.
That has led the usda’s National Organic Program to release final rules aimed at curbing organic food crime. You can also look for the American Grassfed Association certification to make sure your milk is truly grass-fed.
Although far from perfect, choosing organic products is still one more method you can use to take control of your health. Sustainability, nutrition, taste and quality trump all-out chemical usage and gmos every time. I encourage you to support farmers and businesses that practice organic, biodynamic and regenerative farming as a proven model that benefits both humans and the environment.