My take on “organic”

I’m not a huge proponent of the “Organic” movement.  I don’t particularly see the need for it.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with organic farming per se, but here are a few things that I’d like to point out.  I’ve been mulling on this for a while and I finally wanted to get around to putting it to words.  This is merely my opinion, based heavily on my food science education.

Organic farming is designed to be good for the environment:
Ok, while this in of itself is not a bad thing, look at what is missing from that statement.  Organic farming is not designed to improve a food’s quality, quantity or nutritional value.  “Quality” as far as no pesticides or whatever, is debatable, but also a very personal thing, but a tomato is a tomato.

Organic farming is lower yield:
Just by it’s very nature.  You don’t use pesticides, insects eat your crops.  You don’t use fertilizer, your plants don’t grow as big.  Organic farming is slower, less efficient and more wasteful.   This is why they cost more.  Not because it’s more expensive to grow.  And also because it’s trendy and people will pay 12$ a pound for apples.

Organic is not “better for you”:
You can argue all you want about “pesticide residues” and “chemical fertilizers”, any presumed health benefits of organic foods is purely anecdotal and not yet supported by any hard science.  Since pesticides tend to be the battle cry, even conventional raised foods have pesticide residues well below the limits of safety.  Also, these pesticides are designed to kill or deter one specific insect leaving other insects and larger animals unharmed.  It’s very easy to disrupt the simple systems of an insect, but this is not going to have any impact what so ever on a more complex mammal such as a rabbit, a deer or a human.

Organic farming is a luxury:
Let’s be honest.  There are 7 billion people on this planet that need to eat.  Regardless of the farming methods, 10 tons of rice per acre is better than 4 tons of rice per acre.  Countries that have a food surplus (US, UK, Japan, Australia) can have regulations to throttle down and restrict food production.  Other countries can’t afford to do this. They have to produce as much food as they can by any means necessary.   Organic farming produces as low as 50% of the yield of conventional farming, and that doesn’t bode well for starving people.

One caveat I will add is there is benefit to buying local, organic or not.  I’ve made it a point to buy more things sourced locally since even if they are conventional, they will be better than organic shipped in from South America.  And I buy things from North Carolina as much as I can, but also just things from the US.  I buy apples from Washington State.  I did not buy the same apples (Galas) that were from Chile.  Why should I?  Yes, some things don’t grow in the US at all (bananas come to mind) and other tropical fruits that grow in Hawaii (pineapples, mangoes) and no where else.  So some stuff still has to get shipped on a plane/boat/train.  But buy local when you can.

Feel free to read and educate yourself as well.

Wikipedia link with information and sources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food

USDA Website on Organic Regulations:
http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml

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1 Comment

  1. […] friend Eric wrote a blog post on this same topic a couple of months ago. And while I echo many of his sentiments, I have a […]


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  • About Me

    I am a recent graduate in Food Science (NC State, 2009) and I work for a major food manufacturing company. I love food, but I can no longer eat anything that crosses my path. About 24 months ago I begin a serious struggle to get my obesity under control and reduce my chances of developing Type II diabetes. Since September of '09 I have lost 50 pounds and I still have a long ways to go. I've started eating better and exercising more, including taking up running.