Organic foods are foods that are healthy because they lack the chemicals that many other foods have. According to the USDA, “Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used (USDA, 2013).” According to mainstream media, organic foods are foods that are foods that are agriculturally processed and grown according to specific guidelines by the USDA (Organic Foods). Often they are also referred to as natural foods (Organic Foods). Though the first part of the definition is similar to the USDA’s definition, the natural foods part can be misleading. Products must be 95% organic to use this term, whereas natural foods can be naturally in only a small way, such as “hormone free” when using this term (Staff, 2012). Natural foods are cannot have artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or any other artificial ingredient, but animals can still be given antibiotics and growth hormones (Organic Foods).
Organic farming and conventional farming are very different. Conventional farmers use chemical fertilizers, synthetic insecticides, synthetic herbicides, and also gives animals antibiotics, growth hormones, and medications. (Staff, 2012). Organic farmers use natural fertilizers, pesticides from natural sources, environmentally
-generated plant-killing compounds, rotate crops, hand weed, and only give animals organic feed, and access to the outdoors (Staff, 2012). This would be safer for the environment because organic farmers are not introducing chemicals to the soil, plants, animals, or air. The chemicals used by conventional farmers could be harmful to all of these areas.
It is very controversial as to whether organic food is more nutritious than food produced using conventional means. According to the Organic Food Help Guide, it is unclear. There are some studies that suggest organically grown fruits vegetables may have a slightly higher Vitamin C content, some trace minerals, and antioxidant phytonutrients, but other studies have found no nutritional differences between organic and conventional foods (Organic Foods). The benefit of organic foods however, is that there contain fewer pesticides, it is often fresher, organic farming is better environmentally, and organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal byproducts (Organic Foods). So there is not really any significant research proving that organic food is more nutritious than conventional foods.
However, there is information regarding whether organic foods is safe for human health and the environment. Pesticides matter because children and pregnant women are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure (Conflict in the workplace, 2012). Also most of us have an accumulated build up of pesticides that medical professionals feel could lead to headaches, birth defects, and added strain on the immune system (Organic Foods). In regard to antibiotics fed to conventionally raised animals, this helps develop antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Though not necessarily more nutritious, organic food is safer for human consumption than genetically modified foods. It is also safer for the environment in that harmful chemicals are not used in organic farmer. These chemicals pollute the soil, water, and air that they come into contact with (Organic Foods).
The benefits of locally grown produce are that locally grown food travels fewer miles saving energy costs and valuable non-renewable resources (Pijai, 2013). The food is fresher, and fresh food loses fewer nutrients (Pijai, 2013). It lasts longer because it was picked more recently (Pijai, 2013). It benefits the environment and wildlife in the area (Pijai, 2013).
While visiting the local grocery store and comparing prices, on average organic foods cost approximately 25% more than conventional foods, this is true of fruits, vegetables, and meats. There are many reasons why this food is more expensive. It is more laborious for the farmers to farm organic foods (Organic Foods). Due to the lack of chemicals used in the process, the farmers spend more time cultivating the food. It is also expensive to maintain the certification and status of organic (Organic Foods). The organic feed for animals is more costly, also. Other reasons include are smaller which means fixed costs and overhead is spread over less product as well as the smaller farms not qualifying for government subsidies (Organic Foods).
There are ways of keeping the personal costs lower, however. Shopping at local farmers markets can be more cost efficient (Organic Foods). This keeps the overhead cost of the grocery store away from the produce they you buy. Community Supported Agricultural Farms allow an individual or family to join and purchase shares of the product in bulk (Organic Foods). Other ways to keep costs down are to buy in season, shop around, and remember that organic does not always mean more nutritious.
While researching this information, I found it compelling enough for me to make changes in my food purchases. Though organic foods may not necessarily mean more nutritious, it is important to consider other factors. It is very important that food should be developed in an environmentally healthy way. Chemicals that are used in conventional farming are not natural and have negative effects on the environment. Also, the pesticides that are used in conventional farming can be harmful to the body. Organic farming is a more natural process that could be safer in the long run.
Organic Foods. (n.d.). Retrieved April 27, 2013, from Helpguide.org: http://www.helpguide.org
Pijai, E. I. (2013). Benefits of Locally Grown Produce. Retrieved April 26, 2013, from Super Kids Nutrition: http://www.superkidsnutrition.com
Staff, M. C. (2012, September 7). Organic Foods: Are they safe? More Nutritious. Retrieved April 27, 2013, from Mayo Clinic.
USDA. (2013, February 5). Retrieved April 27, 2013, from National Organic Program.