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Is Organic Worth It?

Is Organic Worth It?

The end of 2012 raised quite a few eyebrows and much ire as some quiet and some not-so-quiet snubs were aimed at organic foods. First, the Stanford meta-analysis, which claimed organic foods were “no better” than conventional foods (though their actual findings showed some clear organic benefits). Then, the timid report from the American Academy of Pediatrics hesitantly providing a wishy-washy statement for pediatricians to use as a guide when discussing organic foods with patients. And, finally, the betrayal of Dr. Oz, a formerly staunch supporter of eating organic, who tucked tail and spouted support for GMOs (and venom at “elite” organics) like a well-paid industry mouthpiece.

All these messages claim to be focused on “health” and whether or not certain foods help or hinder our progress toward this mystical perfection for which we are all supposed to strive. But, as I was just coming to realize last fall, all these detractors have one thing in common: They narrowly define health in terms of nutrient content. And it struck me: Maybe the problem is we are speaking a different language.

12 Reasons To Avoid GMOs

Organizations and researchers working on organic issues over the years have focused primarily on a different definition of health. For these groups, broader, more holistic concerns like contaminated water, soil degradation and loss, and the effects of toxic pesticides on environmental and human health have taken precedence over a reductionist study of individual nutrients.

Why? Because organic farming (and, therefore, organic research) is based primarily on biology rather than chemistry. Whereas conventional farmers look to synthetic fertilizers to provide their plants with specific nutrients (N-P-K), organic farmers focus on nourishing the living interactions in the soil, water, air, and even wider wildlife and insect communities to create strong, healthy plants. Organic farming recognizes the complicated interactions that go on within the natural world that result in true health–interactions we might not necessarily be able to control by adding or deleting individual nutrients.

Medical science is really just beginning to glimpse and talk more freely about these natural interactions in human health–think antioxidants and phytonutrients, the incredible health benefits of which weren’t “discovered” until the 1990s. While conventional medicine has historically focused on increasing this or that vitamin or mineral to promote health or on substituting this or that “bad” food with some “healthy” engineered foodstuff (think margarine instead of butter or saccharin instead of sugar), we are coming to realize there are complex interactions of often unknown factors that result in true health.

Although we would (and do) argue that there is more to health than nutrients, maybe the organic community has done itself a disservice by essentially ignoring the nutrient density of the end product. As I wrote before, “if nutrient content is how organic foods will be weighed and measured by American shoppers, it is time for some long-term, hands-in-the-dirt research to really find out how organic and conventional foods stack up.”

On the Future of Food

So 2013 will be a year for new plans at Rodale Institute. Our Farming Systems Trial (FST) has side-by-side research fields that have been managed organically and conventionally for more than 30 years–the perfect location for a sound comparative nutritional study. The crops are all grown in the same soil, are processed in the same manner, and can be tested after the same number of days following harvest. Plus, it takes at least five years to begin to see the full impacts of organic and conventional practices on soil and, therefore, crops. It only makes sense this would translate to the full impacts on nutrient density, as well. The long-term organic and long-term conventional fields of the FST provide an excellent field laboratory to address the impact of growing methods on nutrient density.

The organic community has been baited, and we’re ready to bite. We believe we can put the skeptics to rest once and for all.

Related:
7 Reasons You Should Grow Your Own Food

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Food, Health, Maria's Farm Country Kitchen

By guest blogger Coach Mark Smallwood, Rodale Institute executive director

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77 comments

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3:22AM PDT on Mar 16, 2013

No matter what, eat smartly

6:48AM PDT on Mar 10, 2013

Organic will never cost less then non organic.
An organic farmer has to put in a lot more time and effort to have a successful crop. That's the downside to not using pesticides and herbicides. Higher demand for organic may see prices drop some but we'll never see them at an equal level.

We need to wake up and realize our current food pricing model is unrealistic and unsustainable.

Maybe we should all be spending more of our incomes on food and less on electronics and other non essential crap?

4:59PM PST on Feb 28, 2013

IS LIFE WORTH IT?

6:37PM PST on Feb 26, 2013

thanks

10:22AM PST on Feb 26, 2013

There is no doubt in my mind that organic is better than conventional. No one can eat pesticides without getting sick or poisoned. Why would eating it in your food be less harmful? The human body is such a complex thing and there are millions of chemical interactions that can happen when you introduce chemicals in your body. I don't believe we fully understand all the chemical reactions that happen in our own bodies much less when we add more chemicals to it.

2:38AM PST on Feb 26, 2013

BJ, I think it's the other way round. There's less demand for it because it costs so much more. I, for one, will eat more organic stuff if only they cost less.

1:48PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Mari G .......... Well that's your loss - it was an interesting read !!!!!

Good soil, good water (rain), good fertilizer (compost) NO pesticides, NO weedkiller a bit of patience and a bit of hard work = GOOD, TASTY, HEALTHY fruit and vegetables !!!!
It's not rocket science and doesn't cost more (unless you add in your own time and effort) !! I'd go so far as to say it works out cheaper than shop bought and you have less waste too ....... anything left over goes straight back to the composters !!!
The only added expenses I had were (right at the beginning) several water butts and piping, to collect sufficient rainwater, and some foundation work to put the composters on (to stop weeds and "burrowers" coming up into the composters). Luckily our community is in favour of composting and supplied the "bins" free-of-charge, to encourage people, and there is plenty of stone in certain areas of the garden which I was able to recycle to build my raised beds (to dissuade moles etc and reduce the amount of bending necessary to "work" the soil). Grow your own ....... and reap the benefits !!!!!!!!

9:39AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

These kinds of studies are funded by the chemical industry so of course they will try to convince people organic food is exactly the same as food doused with chemicals. People need to realize that just because something doesn't kill you immediately, doesn't mean it's good for you.

5:15AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Yes! Yes! Yes!. Going organic is worth it. Not just for the people who consume the same, but also for all the living beings. Even if someone claims that Organic gives 0 additional benefits, just going organic cuts of all the pesticides, GMOs being added to the system.

Organic is nothing but, producing and having food the same way, people did 100 years back!!

Cheers.

For more info pls visit following few NGO sites. or just google on it benefits.

http://justlabelit.org/
http://www.organicconsumers.org/organicbytes.cfm

4:52AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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