When you watch the following clip you’ll hear three questions regarding the benefits of organic food.

  • Just because it says it’s organic, is it really?
  • Is it really fresh?
  • Why does it cost more than conventionally grown foods?

The implication in this video is that we’re not really getting any true benefits from buying organic. The questions raised are regularly voiced by critics.

In this second clip, you’ll hear the answers from a dietician, Kim Mason. I would debate her first point, that there is no quantifiable health benefits to organic food. There’s much research that does indeed show that organic food is healthier for humans and animals, not least because it doesn’t contain synthetic toxins used as pesticides or fertilisers or growth promoters which are absorbed by the fruit, grain, vegetable or animal, and then consumed by us. However for now we are focusing on the three questions above.

Certified organic food has to be grown in accordance with strict regulations laid down by each country’s organic certification body. There is some variance between countries, but by far the majority of regulations in the US and Europe mean that the farmer or gardener cannot use chemicals and toxic pesticides to help grow the crop. So if the product isn’t certified then there is a big question over what has been used to grow or produce the end result.

Nutrient content

As Ms Mason says, traceability (the ability to trace the food back to the farm on which it was grown) is an important element in organic food production. This certainly doesn’t happen with conventionally farmed produce or meats – they could come from any number of farms. So the point raised in the first video clip about contaminated peanut butter relies on exactly this point – health guardians knew exactly where the peanuts came from and could act straightaway.

The second point made here is that much organic food does come from local growers. Certainly if you buy from farmers markets, or have an organic box delivery scheme, the majority of produce is locally grown. The main exception to this is exotic fruit. Unless you live somewhere with a tropical climate, your local farmer is unlikely to be able to grow bananas or kiwis or mangoes. Of course the non-organic bananas/kiwis/mangoes are also flown in from faraway countries too.

It’s not just about the benefits to us as consumers. Organic farmers have to take care of the soil in which the food is grown – otherwise the plants simply don’t grow as well. The use of natural methods to improve soil health, such as using composted waste materials to deliver a broad spectrum of nutrients, is surely better than using synthetic fertilisers which usually deliver one or two soil nutrients only. When this happens, the plant grows (and importantly looks good), but it lacks a whole range of trace vitamins minerals, which we, as humans, need for maximum health.

Why does organic food cost more?

There are several reasons for this. The primary one is that commercial farmers are given agricultural subsidies by government. This rarely, if ever, happens for organic farmers. Secondly, rather than buying and using cheap synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, organic farmers work their land and crops themselves. There is more labour required. Often the farms are smaller than huge agri-farms, so it is harder for the farmers to achieve economies of scale. But, for me, and for millions of others, the knowledge that you pay for what get, is sufficient to justify a few extra pennies or cents. Also I, along with many others, believe that there are significantly higher levels of vitamins in organic produce compared to mass produced foods. So ultimately you are getting more nutrition in the same fruit or vegetable. Organic living makes sense, just think about it in logical terms.

Filed under: Organic Farming

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