14 Sep 2014
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Is Buying Organic a Farce? Study Gives Food for Thought

While a recent study indicates spending more on organic food may be a waste of money, there is always a high price to lower cost.

Is Buying Organic a Farce? Study Gives Food for Thought Is Buying Organic a Farce? Study Gives Food for Thought Is Buying Organic a Farce? Study Gives Food for Thought Is Buying Organic a Farce? Study Gives Food for Thought

The Stanford study published earlier this month—entitled Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review—confronted the common misconception that organic foods are more nutritious.

Thanks for clearing that up, scientists! For years I’ve been going around thinking that by simply omitting some toxic chemicals, farmers were creating superfoods chock full of nutrients and vitamins lacking in their watery and flavorless counterparts.

The fact is, I don’t know anyone who was ever under the impression that they were getting more vitamin bang for their bucks, other than perhaps the researchers who conducted the much discussed study.

A close friend of mine buys only organic and no, she’s not some rich rock star prima donna living life on high in the Hollywood hills. A full-time mom of an autistic 4-year-old who suffers from a host of food allergies, she subsists on a single income earned by her husband.  

For her, the revelation of the study is no revelation at all, because by picking premium produce, she believes that she is limiting her son’s exposure to the kinds of environmental factors that may have contributed to some of his conditions in the first place, many of which require expensive medicines and treatments.

While they are not prescribing organic food, his doctors agree that his ailments are directly rooted in his diet, necessitating a need for whole foods.

Higher food prices have caused her to question how much organic food items she can afford—they are often double their conventional counterparts—but she still feels the cost of organic is worth it.

And she is not alone. The organic food industry in America has mushroomed into a billion dollar industry in recent years, fueled by others seeking a relief from the inundation of unneeded, unwanted and often unhealthy additives in our food.

Past studies have linked growth hormones used in cows for increased milk production to earlier onsets of puberty for children. Food “products” which have had the life processed right out of them have become the mainstay for struggling families.

Due a dependence on cheap food lacking nutrition, members of that socioeconomic class are more likely than affluent neighbors to have higher rates of diet-based diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and obesity.

Even the conclusion of the Stanford study finds that although “published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods, consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

The study itself shows the merits of going organic, but they far surpass simply limiting exposure to harmful pesticides, with far-reaching implications extending to the quality of life, land and even communities.

Many suspect toxic chemicals sprayed on foods as the culprits when it comes to the prevalence of cancer in our society, but also highly suspect are the pollutants in air and water stemming from agricultural run-off.

The mass-farming industry, propped up artificially by the use of unsustainable amounts of petroleum used not only in the gas tanks of machinery but also in the very pesticides used to protect crops, is an inherently flawed system.

Not only does it destroy the evolution of local ecosystems by reducing vast fields to a single staple, but it also introduces the liquefied death of eons ago into the web of life, often with harmful side effects for the natural world.

It wasn’t always that way and due to limited resources, it really can’t go on that way. But there is a better way: organic farming.

The debate wages on whether organic farming can really feed the world, but there’s no doubt that organic farming is better for the land and, in turn, us. There are several different approaches to doing so, one of the most promising of which is the permaculture method in which farms mimic nature by raising several crops.

Instead of a traditional field razed bare, blighting the land like a monotone scab, permaculture gardens look like the wild wonderlands primitive hunter and gatherers would have been stoked to happen upon while foraging. The hunter gatherer system was a proven success, until agricultural and industrial revolutions propelled populations into unsustainable levels.

But if every neighborhood had such a garden, not only could we reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, but fossil foods as well—the food items that are steeped in chemicals and travel an estimated 1500 miles to end up on your dinner plate.    

Even as 40 percent of food in America ends up in the dumpster, a huge segment of the Earth’s population goes to bed hungry every night and a disproportionate number of those are children, including right here in this country. But permaculture activists believe we can change that.

Furthermore, even the U.S. government has noted that farmers markets, which specialize in organic fare, contribute to an overall sense of unity among community members. The open air style of farmers markets encourage a sense of social cohesiveness, like the office water cooler but on a larger, healthier scale where people can connect, bond and share their stories.

The recent trend in community gardens is likewise bringing neighbors together in a common pursuit.

Yes, buying organic can be expensive. But the same people who recoil at the price often spend exorbitant amounts on brand name clothing, i-Phones, nice cars and other non-necessities that don't even go into the most precious systems of all--our own bodies.

Far from being a luxury item average income-earners should shun, the multitudinous merits of an organic system aren't only worth the high cost--they're priceless. Of course, it's not in everyone's means to exclusively shop organic, but it doesn't hurt to hit the local farmers market once in awhile and support a healthy habit that nourishes society and helps it flourish.

The side effects of sustainable farming are as numerous as the side effects of conventional farming, but like the fruits they produce, organic practices tend to yield a sweeter harvest. 

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