Minnesota Farmer

Organic or not organic

The health benefits of organic food are one of the most intensely debated issues in the food industry.

By definition, organically grown foods are produced without most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge. Livestock aren’t given antibiotics or growth hormones. And organic farmers emphasize renewable resources and conservation of soil and water.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs the National Organic Program, says that organic is a “production philosophy” and that an organic label does not imply that a product is superior. Moreover, some say there’s no need to eat organic to be healthy: Simply choose less processed food and more fruits and vegetables.

The argument often comes down to the nutritional benefits of organic foods, something that’s hard to measure. To compare the nutrient density between organically and conventionally grown grapes, for example, researchers would have to have matched pairs of fields, including using the same soil, the same irrigation system, the same level of nitrogen fertilizer and the same stage of ripeness at harvest, said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center, a pro-organics research institution.

Last summer, the debate came to a head after the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a comprehensive systemic review that concluded organic and conventional food had comparable nutrient levels.

The consumer must also be aware that simply being labeled organic does not make it so.  To truly be organic is should be labeled as USDA Certified Organic.  The process to be labeled organic takes years to achieve and some want the organic price with out the extra work it takes to get the label properly.  Also organic crop production takes more work since many tasks that conventional farming does chemically must now be done by hand or machine.  Organic livestock production has more risks since a sick animal must be treated with slower working organics rather than fast acting antibiotics.

Although my personal choice is not to go organic, I have no argument with those who do.  They deserve the extra money that truly organic products command.  My choice is to go for the least amount of processing I can.  I prefer the fruits and veggies from my garden because they taste better when vine ripened and eaten immediately.

But in Minnesota we cannot have vine ripened all year long.  Having produced livestock I understand the need for some antibiotics.  I understand that hormones are part of life and no meat can be “Hormone Free.”  Despite not being an organic farmer, I also emphasize renewable resources and conservation of soil and water.

There are many times that I consider the concerns of the alarmists unreasonable, but I am a scientist.  I understand the workings of the body and the way a plant uses chemicals placed on it.  For me there is no concern.  I still wash my raw fruits and veggies, no matter who grows them.  I’ll let the cooking process take care of the rest.



3 Comments so far
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I think those who push EVERYTHING organic are too similar to those who push a totally Vegan lifestyle. I believe it comes back to a BALANCE between extremes. Do we NEED organic avocados? I doubt it (even though I have them growing in my backyard simply because I don’t fertilize or spray the tree – and fruit ARE tasty & good). Do we need organic apples? I think so. Due to the amount of pesticides/herbicides that are sprayed on the apples – no amount of washing truly removes it all. Do I buy organic apples or juice? No, can’t afford it.

In your post about Where Will California Get Its Eggs From, you mentioned possibly Mexico and who knows how those hens and eggs are handled (thus, you end up with a “dirtier” egg than you started with).

Likewise, I get scared sometimes of what might be on non-organic strawberries and grapes (though I can’t afford organic strawberries and grapes, but I CAN afford local strawberries). I REALLY don’t like to buy strawberries and grapes out of season, that are grown & shipped from other countries as I see this as even more “dirty.”

Some web pages I think that are worth looking at include:
• The Daily Green “The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Foods to eat Organic”
• The Daily Green “The Clean 15: Foods You Don’t Have to Buy Organic”

• Today MSNBC.com “Organic food: Is it worth the extra money?” – page 2

Bottom line for me – grow what I can, buy in-season, buy local, buy at Farmer’s Markets. Know where my foods are coming from and how they are treated. Knowledge is power.

Comment by Tom Graham

Funny, just noticed of the “no need to go organic” fruits, 4 out of 5 grow in Hawaii 🙂

Comment by Tom Graham

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