The Reality of Organic Foods

Monday, September 24th, 2012

If there is one thing most Americans can agree upon, it’s this: as a nation, there is a definite need for healthy food reform.  With obesity on a rise, even the smallest change is a step towards a healthier country.  But this quest for health isn’t always in search of lighter foods.  Recently, people have been flocking in masses to become gluten-free, or vegetarian, or just drastically change their dietary habits based on what they heard was good for them.  Here, we address the reality of an old favorite: organic foods.  We’ve all heard of the benefits; it’s better for the environments, it’s better for your, it contains less pesticides.  But how much of that is actually backed by science?  It turns out there is a lot to be learned.

1. Organic Farming Isn’t Really Better For The Environment.  Now, to judge the environmental impact a certain crop has, we have to look at certain criteria.  In this case, effective land use is being examined.  The effective use of agricultural land is important to the environment, as that is land that could otherwise be used for wildlife preserves or growing carbon consuming plants.  Considering that, by some estimates, croplands and pastures make up 40% of the earth’s surface, that is a lot of land, and we need to be using it as effectively as possible.  And, according to an article in Nature, going organic wouldn’t be the best use of our croplands.  Based on their research, Nature reports that organic methods of farming yield 25% less crops when compared to conventional farming. 
2. Organic Foods Don’t Have Any Nutritional Benefit.  Okay, so maybe it isn’t as good for the environment as we might have expected, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t better for the individual.  Well, no one’s proven that.  Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t substantial evidence testifying to organic foods containing a higher percentage of vitamins than conventionally grown food.  According to the writings of Crystal Smith-Spanglar, whose group did reviewed 240 reports of organic and conventional food’s vitamin containments, “Despite the widespread misconception that organically grown foods are more nutritious than conventional alternatives, we did not find evidence to support this perception”.      
3. Not All Food Retains Pesticides.  Organic food, by definition, is farmed without the use of synthetic pesticides, meaning that you’re less likely to be swallowing something harmful.  And we know pesticides are harmful – a study by Washington State University showed that pregnant women who consumed high amounts on pesticides gave birth to children with an IQ 4-7% lower than their peers.  So any food that can lesson the amount of pesticides we’re consuming can’t hurt.  However, not all foods retain the pesticides they are exposed to doing farming.  Some do, and in those cases, the Environmental Working Group that devised this list advises the wary to go with the organic option.  But for the following fifteen foods in the “It’s Not Worth It” column, they don’t absorb enough pesticides for the organic option to be worth the price: