Organic food is very popular today, and the movement has grown fast over the past sixty years. The problem is, organic food is expensive! There’s no question that a lot of people think it’s better, but for budget-conscious consumers, is it worth the price?
The FDA and other government agencies oversee our food supply and keep it safe. But they also proposed the food pyramid and allowed certain drugs through that have done damage. Should we simply trust government regulators and eat whatever is on the shelves? Should we completely reject scientific advances and synthetic products that make farming easier? These questions don’t have easy answers.
- What Makes Organic Food Different?
- Genetically Modified Organisms
- Environmental Benefits of Conventional Food
- The Bottom Line on Organic vs Non-Organic Foods
I recommend educating yourself and getting to know your own body. It is important to know the kind of nutrition food provides, and how that varies based on farming practices. Once you understand your own personal needs better, you will be prepared to make the best choices possible.
Keep reading to find out more about organic foods and how they compare to conventional methods that use the latest scientific advances.
What Makes Organic Food Different?
Food that is labeled organic in the stores has been grown without the use of synthetic products. What this means functionally can vary from place to place. Most of the time, the organic label means the fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides used on your food cannot have been made in a lab. Organic fertilizer is primarily sourced by composting manure and other organic debris.
Most people who prefer organic farming practices are concerned that new technologies may carry hidden risks. Some synthetic chemicals are approved for use only to find out later that they are dangerous or have unexpected impacts on the environment.
Conventional meat production, for example, relies heavily on antibiotics and growth hormones. When used together, these methods produce larger amounts of meat in a shorter period of time. But the overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Over time, our antibiotics are losing their efficacy, and farming with antibiotics is spreading strains of bacteria that are more dangerous.
Food grown on organic farms use more land and water than foods grown using conventional methods. Organic farmers consider the extra cost to be worth the added security, but this leaves less room for wild habitats and natural spaces.
Winter recipes are a delicious way to fight the cold and are a great way to add seasonal foods to your diet. Changing your eating habits based on what is available locally is environmentally conscious and is a great way to add variety to your diet. The food available at your local farmers’ market is often grown following organic farming practices. Buying locally makes it easier to eat organic food grown with natural methods and in the appropriate season.
Genetically Modified Organisms
Humanity has been altering plants for tens of thousands of years. Traditional methods include grafting and selection, which are forms of genetic modification.
The ancestors of common grains, fruits, and vegetables all looked vastly different. The original strains of wheat and corn had only a few kernels of grain on the stalk, and they were much smaller than what you see today. Tomatoes in their natural state are small, green, and mildly poisonous. They belong to the deadly nightshade family! It took thousands of years of cross-breeding, selection, and tinkering with gardening techniques to create the foodstuffs we know and love today. While that may seem like a bad thing, taking thousands of years also ensures that the food supply stays safe. Any problems will literally be weeded out over such a long period of time.
Scientists want to speed that process up. Proponents of organic farming practices believe we should not use synthetic means to improve and increase our food supply. It’s a legitimate concern.
So what’s the difference between these methods and modern genetically modified organisms (GMOs)? Instead of the slow and natural process of cross-breeding for new traits, scientists have learned how to transfer genes directly from one organism to another. This means you can make salmon that are bigger than in the wild, corn that has built-in protection against bugs, and many other alterations.
The first GMO product was a tomato that was released in 1984. After more than three decades of study, no harmful effects have been observed from these tomatoes, so they are generally considered safe. And now, the genetic revolution has been in high gear for almost twenty years. Back in 2001, Craig Venter sequenced the first human genome, and ever since, money, attention, and scientific research has run forward at an ever-increasing pace.
Environmental Benefits of Conventional Food
Non-organic food is grown with fertilizers made using inorganic chemicals, usually petroleum. The food itself is not inorganic, so the term can sometimes be a little confusing.
Organic and conventional farming methods have different impacts on environmental health. While conventional methods pollute waterways with more chemicals, they also use much less land. This makes it hard to know which method is better for the environment.
Taking adaptogenic herbs can help you manage your stress and wellbeing. Organic farming methods may grow herbs with more active ingredients in them. This has yet to be demonstrated reliably. Some studies have shown higher levels of antioxidants and certain phytochemicals (plant-based bioactive molecules). There is no guarantee, but if you try some supplemental herbs and they don’t work, consider trying an organic variety before giving up.
I like to use Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar when cooking because I like the flavor more than other brands. It may be better because of the organic farming methods, but Bragg’s is very picky about their entire operation. The most important part for me is to use the best tool for the job, and in this case, that tool happens to be organically grown.
The Bottom Line on Organic vs Non-Organic Foods
Organic foods are trusted because they use methods that have been in use longer than some of the newer farming methods. In some cases, these practices go back thousands of years.
Farming that is certified organic uses a lot more land and water, but results in less water pollution.
Non-organic, conventional farming methods are newer and rely on synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms. They use less land and water, but in some cases produce foods that have lower concentrations of some nutrients.
Most consumers do not have a nutritional deficit. In fact, overeating is one of the biggest problems faced in the 21st-century world. It is important to make sure your diet is well balanced and contains all the micronutrients you need. Non-Organic farming methods have made these micronutrients cheaper and more available than ever.
Overuse of antibiotics is a real concern. High-density production facilities depend on antibiotics to keep their animals alive and healthy enough to produce meat. But the efficacy of these antibiotics is declining. If we don’t develop new antibiotics soon, or come up with ways to restore their effectiveness, current meat production methods will collapse.
What kind of food do you buy when you go shopping? I recommend you pay closer attention to the foods you eat and the ingredients they contain. You may learn a lot about what is best for you, regardless of the farming methods used.