The debate between organic and non-organic eating

By Hae Young Yoo

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Organic food has come a long way in the last decade. It used to be that people could only bring home organic foods from specialty farmers markets and health food stores, but now major grocery store shelves and freezers are filled with organic products to meet the growing demand from consumers. Eating organic has turned into a trend that is believed to have benefits that eating non-organic does not.

In order for food to be labeled organic by the United States Department of Agriculture, it must abide by strict regulations. All foods must be free of synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, fertilizers, preservatives and antibiotics, as well as grown without the use of genetically modified organisms and sewage sludge. Organic livestock is required to have full access to pastures and is not permitted to have been treated with growth hormones or genetically modified feed.

Organic foods are believed to be cleaner and safer because of the absence of these harmful chemicals that can cause health problems. The Organic Consumers Association states that pesticides may be the cause of breast cancer, asthma and early puberty, and that the sewage and drugs that are fed to non-organic livestock is associated with risks for prostate and testis cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

Aside from the health problems that eating organic prevents, the OCA also says that organic food is more nutritious in vitamins and minerals than non-organic food is, and provides more antioxidants and vitamins C, D and E. Organic food is better for the environment as well because pesticides and fertilizers that are used on non-organic farms contaminate primary drinking water sources when they are washed into them, and studies have proven that such chemicals can disrupt and impair the wildlife that come in contact with them. Eating organic also supports small family-owned farms because there is less disparity between what comes off the farm and what makes it to the table.

However, there are people who do not consider eating organic to be beneficial at all. Jayson Lusk, from the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, strongly advises people not to buy and eat organic. He argues that organic foods are too expensive, usually doubling the price of non-organic foods, and that the extra money can be spent on more practical things. He says that organic farmers do in fact use chemicals, and although they claim to be “natural,” there is no way for a consumer to know exactly how much and what fertilizers and pesticides there could be in an organic product. Additionally, the cancer-reducing effects of many fruits and vegetables outweigh the cancer-increasing effects of chemicals. And he says there is no proof that organic foods taste better than non-organic foods like many people assume to be true.

The argument between the benefits of organic eating compared to non-organic eating will continue to be heavily debated. It is up to the consumers to decide the truth and choose for themselves.

Hae Young Yoo can be reached at [email protected]