Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Organics - Status or Altruism, what is your motivation?

According to the Organic Trade Association, organic food was a $29 billion industry in 2010 and is still growing. New York Times recently reported on a meta-study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, finding little to no health benefits from eating organic.  

Crystal Smith-Spangler, at Stanford University School of Medicine, collected some 200 peer-reviewed studies that followed people who were eating either organic or conventional food. The meta-analysis looked for evidence that the choice in organic food made a difference in the consumer's health. As expected, there were fewer pesticides found on organic produce; but the study found that vast majority of conventionally grown food did not exceed allowable limits of pesticide residue set by federal regulations. There is one study that Smith-Spangler reviewed which showed organically grown tomatoes contained significantly higher levels of antioxidant compounds; but as the meta-study concluded, the tomato study is only one study of one vegetable in one field. The meta-study revealed no conclusive patterns of increased nutrients in other organic produce.   

Immediately I found myself scrolling through facebook posts of the great “Organic” hoax. The Nay-Sayers pronounced organics a fraud; all those who were advocating for such a thing must’ve been crazy. The whole organic label thing is just another case of alien mind control/government conspiracy. 

Save yourselves!


But before conclusions are made and the curtain is drawn on organics, let’s look at exactly why we need to consume “organics.” Organic farming is a different style of agriculture. Organic farmers often grow a variety of crops to control pests. This increases biodiversity and ensures a level of security from single crop failure. Organic farmers also control the nutrients in their soil through compost or nitrogen-fixing plants thus reducing chemical run-off that could contaminate our water supply. Most organic farmers also supply to local markets, making their carbon footprint smaller from less packaging and transportation needs. Organic meats also contain less antibiotic-resistant bacteria; feeding less antibiotics to livestock reduces the likelihood of antibiotic-resistant super-bugs from wrecking havoc.    

So let’s get this straight. You want to buy “organic” because you care about our environment and our long term health and prosperity. You are eating certain types of produce and meat grown a certain way not only because it’s a status thing or a selfish need for yourself to live long and prosper, but because it’s good for others and good for the planet. If you believed you were eating some kind of super-food under the organic label because it will make you stronger and faster, I’d recommend you stop the fantasy and just purchase an Acme Superman’s cape. You’d have better chance of flying then. But if you are eating better ways because it’s the right thing to do and it’s healthier for everyone else, then I suggest you ignore the flurry of bad branding created by the Stanford study.      

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