Top myths about organic food
The organic food trend is not something new, if you had thought so. First made available commercially in the 1960s and 1970s, organic foods have become very popular in recent times. In supermarkets, they even have dedicated ?premium-looking? segments for organic foodstuffs or ingredients, where the products are sold at slightly higher prices than the regular farmed foods.
Just to briefly take you through how organic foods are produced, let?s look at the mechanics of it. Many definitions commonly agree that organic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators, livestock feed additives and so forth. Organic legislations also prohibit irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms. Essentially, this means organic agriculture is about a way of farming that pays close attention to nature. It also means fewer chemicals on the land such as artificial fertilisers that usually would pollute waterways.
So what?s so great about organic food, beyond what we have read above, that it deserves to be sold at higher prices? It appears that there is still no sufficient scientific evidence to support claims that organic food is safer and healthier than regular grown food. There could be some differences in the nutrient and anti-nutrient contents between the two, but otherwise the manner in which they are handled post-farming probably result in similar conditions when they both land on supermarket shelves.
Any controversial subject would have its myths as we know, and similarly, there are quite a number of myths surrounding organic food as well, which all of us should know before considering switching entirely to an organic food diet.
Surely you have heard that organic food is safer. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. You have to know that only foodstuffs with the ?100% Organic? label guarantees the USDA definition of organic. Only those with the label will guarantee that meat, eggs and dairy products are free of antibiotics and growth hormones; produce is grown with fertilizers free of synthetic or sewage components; and no genetically modified organisms are part of the products. Otherwise, there will always be presence of regular farming integers such as fertilisers, pesticides, growth regulators and livestock feed additives, albeit in smaller amounts. In fact, it is also salient to remember that the USDA organic certification allows for natural substances such as pheromones, vaccines for animals, and a limited number of natural pesticides as well. So technically, organic foods are not completely pesticides free.
Then, there is of course the myth that organic food is healthier. This is probably why most of us end up paying a little more for organic vegetables than regular farmed vegetables, just as we do for ?healthy? food at some restaurants. Well, it is fair for everyone to think that organic food is healthier since it is supposedly free of most herbicides and pesticides. This comes from the knowledge that the residue of poisons on conventional food, although not very dangerous to human health, still kill weeds and pests and accumulate in human bodies, so it would make sense to avoid these chemicals. Whilst the American Academy of Pediatrics says that lower pesticide levels in organic foods could reduce the risk of ingesting drug-resistant bacteria, the truth is, as we had indicated earlier, there is currently no direct evidence that consuming an organic diet leads to improved health or lower risk of disease.
Third, there is also belief that organic food is better for the environment. Yes, we know that organic food encourages more wildlife and biodiversity, the absence of veterinary medicines such as antibiotics in rearing livestock and the avoidance of genetic modification. Organic farming could also offer benefits for animal welfare, as animals are required to be kept in more natural and free conditions. And all of these conditions are better for the environment. But just because the food is organic doesn?t mean its production and distribution are necessarily good for the environment. Studies show that one liter of organic milk requires 80% more land than conventional milk to produce, has 20% greater global warming potential, releases 60% more nutrients to water sources, and contributes 70% more to acid rain. So evidently, it does not seem like organic food is doing any good to the environment after all.
Finally, there is also a myth that organic food is more nutritious. Several studies have examined the nutrient differences between organic and conventionally produced foods. Most of these however show no appreciable difference in the vitamin or mineral contents or even health effects. If at all, in some cases, organic farming may improve antioxidant contents while in others, man-made pesticides actually increase concentrations of certain beneficial plant-based compounds.