Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Organic Is Better Than Conventional. Usually. Unless it's not.

Does anyone else feel like this Stanford study is nothing new?

The study, if you have not yet heard, stated that there is little evidence proving that organic foods are better or more nutritious for your health than conventional foods. Is a strawberry called by any other name just as sweet?

The fact is there can be differences in nutritional values in any fruit or vegetable based on climate, soil, water, ripeness when picked, and more. I would assume there are certain situations where an organic food could actually have less nutritional value than a comparable conventional food item depending on conditions of growth and time of harvest.

What should be focused on, and what I'm concerned about, are the long term effects of organic products for the consumer's health during their lifetime, and the effects on our Mother Earth.

There is usually less pesticide residue on a certified organic food product as compared to a non-organic food product; I say usually because not all foods that are grown in an organic fashion are always labeled organic. Many times at a farmers market you can talk with the farmer and they will let you know if the food was 'sprayed' or not, meaning if pesticides were used. The term organic is a very vague term when used to describe a certain food: There is 'certified USDA organic' and there is also the practice of growing a certain crop in an organic fashion, meaning no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, but not going through the actual process to be officially certified.

The quality of life for livestock is usually better when raised on an organic farm. Again I say usually because the term organic can be such a vague term. At a large scale level, the minimum requirements to provide a certain quality of life for the animal is set at a higher standard to be registered organic than it does to be a conventional farm. Yes, of course, a small scale family farm that is not registered organic would likely provide a better quality of life than a registered organic large scale farm, but the minimum requirements set a slightly higher quality of life that you can usually count on when lost in the super market aisle (of course I will say usually because there are always corporations trying to take advantage of consumer trust and not living up to the standard).

Also, certified organic food cannot contain GMO. Or at least cannot be known to contain GMO, there is always the likelihood of cross contamination from conventional farming that could cause an organic crop to contain a certain percent of GMO, and a farmer that isn't certified organic does not mean that his crop does contain GMO. See how vague and confusing the term organic is?

Most people who buy certified organic, at least the people I know, are not doing it strictly from the belief that it is more nutritious. I had several 'non-organic' people send me the link to the study out of what I felt to be a 'I TOLD YA SO' moment, but the study was no surprise to me. It has a catchy headline that conventional Walmart shoppers love to read (do they read?) and point and say, 'see I told ya'. I'm sticking with organic, local, pesticide free,  fair trade, or whatever seems appropriate in the situation. Not all organics are created equal, not all conventional foods are created equal. Know your farmer and become his/her friend. They hold the power, they have the knowledge.