To be Organic or not to be Organic, Why ask the question?
By Sterling Burnett, NCPA, September 25, 2012
For many years, environmentalists – many of whom seem to hate the very synthetic chemicals that make modern society, high standards of living and the modern “environmental chic” lifestyle possible – have teamed with a small but growing sub-segment of farmers to push for policies that treat ‘organic’ agricultural products as if they were special.
The term organic is amorphous but in general for most people for crops it means free of synthetic pesticides, fertilizer and (recently) bioengineering. For livestock it means free of the hormones, anti-biotics and (for some) that the animals are fed only organic crops or natural feed (grass, weeds, etc, untouched by fertilizers and pesticides.
The biggest legislative push has been for federal (standardized) labeling, supposedly so that consumers would be able to make an informed choice between organic and traditional farm goods. More recently, with the growth of bioengineered crops, there has also been a push to keep genetically modified crops out of the field not just due to health concerns but due to fears of cross pollination or contamination of organic crops.
The truth behind these legislative demands is that environmentalists and organic farmers want to use the label to imply that organic foods are safer than conventional farm products and that organic foods are healthier than conventional farm products. The NCPA has examined the first claim on more than one occasion and found it false. There is little or no evidence to suggest that consuming organic foods is safer due to their lack of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers than traditionally grown foods.
More recently, science has examined the second claim and found no evidence that organic foods are any healthier than foods grown using modern agricultural chemicals.
Most recently, Stanford University came out with a study that compares the nutrients and antibiotic difference between conventional and organic veggies. Researchers at Stanford reviewed over 200 studies that compared either the health of people who ate organic or conventional foods or, more commonly, nutrient and contaminant levels in the foods themselves.
Those included organic and non-organic fruits, vegetables, grains, meat, poultry, eggs and milk.
Many of the studies didn’t specify their standards for what constituted “organic” food – which can cost as much as twice what conventional food costs – the researchers wrote Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Before that the British Food Journal produced many similar studies. Ultimately, Stanford’s study found that there is no appreciable health benefit from consuming organic foods when compared to conventionally grown crops. One thing’s for sure, if you are spending more money on food than you have to to obtain equal health benefits, you have less money to spend on other goods and services that than really improve your health.
No surprise here!