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The Problem With Organic Food

March 14, 2013

In the world of marketing, the organic industry has done a marvelous job in classically conditioning us into believing that their products are better, tastier, and healthier than conventional produce.  The moment we hear the word “organic,” our minds instantaneously associates it with superiority.  The American consumer reinforces their campaign by increasing buying their products, thus creating an industry that now yields over $35 billion dollars in annual sales (Organic Trade Association, 2014).  This is rather unfortunate, because spending more money on organic food will only provide you with a sense of elitism and not much else.

The biggest problem with the current organic revolution is that it goes against the carrying capacity of the earth.  According to the greatest agricultural scientist of all time and Nobel Prize laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug, the earth only has enough soil and nitrate to feed a population of 4 billion people if traditional forms of agriculture were implemented on a global scale.  As we know, there are approximately 7 billion people alive today, and demographers predict that another 5 billion will be added before we reach population saturation.  So how will we feed that surplus of 8 billion people?  To further perpetuate the problem, much of the earth’s fertile regions are now being destroyed to make way for industrialization and sprawl, especially in large states like Brazil, China, and India.  The only reason why mankind has been able to prolong its Malthusian Catastrophe is because of science, but even science can barely keep up with the rising population and declining soil, and organic farming is contributing to the problem.

Much of today’s food ideology is rooted in hysteria and scare tactics, with very little evidence to support it.  Recently, Stanford University conducted a 40 year study that incorporated data from 38 other college researches, and they found that organic foods, on average, were no more nutritious or safer than conventional foods.  Some opponents of this study will argue that the use of pesticides is a big reason why they choose not to consume conventional produce.  But what most consumers don’t know is that all farmers use pesticide, regardless of agricultural preference.  The difference is that most modern synthetic pesticides have been introduced after the ban on DDT in the 1970s.  They’ve been tested meticulously for over 40 years and are deemed safe by nearly every health organization in America.  In contrast, although most organic pesticides are more “natural,” they have not experienced nearly as much experimentation and their affects on the human body remains mostly a mystery.  “Natural” is another one of those buzzwords that is so often used by the industry, but natural doesn’t always mean better.  Uranium-235 is natural, would you consume that?  Besides, what is pesticide, anyway?  It’s poison.  So then, what is the difference between natural poison and synthetic poison?  It’s still poison.  In fact, Copper Sulfate, the most popular organic pesticide is highly toxic, and according to research published in the Journal of Economic Entomology, they are a threat to non-sting bees.  Many companies within the organic industry will use this misconception to turn a profit.  Recently, there was a marketing video produced by Coop, an Swedish organic grocer that has since gone viral that trouts the lack of pesticides found in a family’s body after they switched over to a full organic diet.  That company is now being sued for misleading consumers.  The problem is that the video only measured synesthetic pesticide residue in the body, so of course you won’t find any in an organic diet.  It would be great, however, to see what the copper sulfate levels are in that little boy’s system.

When it comes to fertilizers, one could also argue that organic fertilizers could potentially be more dangerous than chemical fertilizers, since it is primarily manure-based, and manure is a host for the E-Coli virus and salmonella.  The restaurant, Chipotle, who prides itself on being organic and GMO free, has had a string of E-coli outbreaks this year. If you go through Whole Food’s list of recalls, you will find many items contaminated with E-coli and salmonella.  It is one thing to cook the bacteria away, it is another when you’re serving raw, cold lettuce and tomatoes that has been sprayed with compost

In today’s society, people seem to have a partisan belief system.  They only believe what they want, regardless of facts or rationality.  The American Cancer Society, FDA, United Nations World Health Organization, and the APHA have all endorsed the safety of conventional and GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) foods, and yet, people refuse to accept them, because they don’t trust “the government” or “science.”  Hypocritically enough, when stricken with diabetes, cancer, or some other affliction, these people are far too eager to accept medical science.  What’s the difference?  Why should we fear science?  Science is the reason why western societies now have life expectancies that borders or exceeds 80 years on average.

What scares the organic consumer about GMOs is that they’re “genetically modified,” but all foods are genetically modified through years of selective breeding.  If those organic corns you’re consuming taste sweet, then you’re eating a genetically modified product.  That organic turkey you’re having for Thanksgiving?  Well, that’s been ultra modified.  Did you know God didn’t create the Welsh Corgi?  We did, and we messed that creature up for the sake of owning something adorable.  Yes, GMOs are created in laboratories but they’re not much different from selective modification.  Moreover, GMOs are heavily monitored by American health agencies, and they set some of the highest safety standards in the world.  As of today, after thousands of research trials (read the actual research, not just conclusion) conducted throughout the world and funded by universities, for-profit and non-profit agencies, there is still absolutely zero indication that GMO causes any negative health effects.  It is completely safe.

If you do not trust the U.S. government, then you will be glad to know that much of your organic produce is actually regulated by the Chinese and is imported into the states. A recent investigation conducted by WJLA found that Whole Foods, America’s top organic grocery chain, sell hundreds of products from China, including spinach, sugar snap peas, carrots, cauliflower, and ironically a “California Blend” of broccoli.  According to the Seattle Times, in 2008, China exported $800 million dollars worth of organic produce, with much of it sent to Europe and the United States.  Although the United States Food and Drug Administration regulate imports, it is nearly impossible for them to monitor every piece of fruit and vegetable that enters the country.  Therefore, the discretion of safety falls on a country that is notorious for corruption.  Remember the 2007 pet food scandal and the 2008 melamine tainted baby food?  Which government would you rather trust?

Lastly, what most people fail to realize is that the more organic food they buy, the more expensive food in general, becomes.  It is a simple matter of supply and demand.  Organic methods produce far fewer yields per acre of land compared to conventional methods.  If organic agriculture spreads to a global scale, the total world production would plummet, thus driving up prices.  How are poor laborers in Peru going to be able to afford food?  How are we going to afford it?  So the next time you’re in the supermarket on top of an Ivory Tower, ask yourself this:  Is spending more money on this organic fruit, which offers no health or safety advantages, really worth the potential cost of global starvation? – Ping Zhou

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Hope permalink
    March 15, 2013 6:59 am

    “Did you know God didn’t create the Welsh Corgi?” Hilarious. Well written, if only the rest of the pompous organic loving population could take off their blind folds.

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. César permalink
    September 15, 2015 3:01 pm

    What about sustainability? You don’t seem to talk much about that, and is by far my main reason for supporting what I think is the sustainable way.

    • September 16, 2015 2:05 am

      Organic agriculture is not as sustainable as the organic agribusiness wants you to think. For one, with the increase in organic methods, there will be a need for more compost. Compost generates methane, which is 20x more potent than CO2 when it comes to global warming. Also, due to high labor costs and a need to minimize what is already an inflated price, organic farmers also use industrial machinery, just like conventional farmers. The difference here is that with GMO crops, you can obtain a larger volume per acreage of land than non-GMO, meaning organic machines have to travel greater distances, thus using more energy. Moreover, since organic farming requires more land, that means more areas will have to come under cultivation, such as forests, etc. If you truly want to minimize your carbon footprint, buy from local farmer markets. That is much more important than whether your food is organic or non-organic.

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