Organic Food: Hype or Healthy? :
Our society seems determined to latch on to the food fad of the month. This month, acai berries, for example, are all the rage. Next month, they’ll be replaced by something else. Clever marketing often fuels these fads—there’s a lot of money to be made in the health food industry.
As a result, it’s worth considering if the fad of the month lives up to the hype. Most of the time, you’re paying inflated prices for something that isn’t quite worth it. If you factor in the monetary and environmental cost of bringing in fruit from halfway around the world, these fads don’t make sense.
We’d say that if there’s a local alternative that offers similar benefits, it’s usually not worth making the switch.
How Natural Is Mass-Produced Food?
When it comes to organic food, though, things are slightly different. Here we’re not just dealing with a bunch of marketing hype, but defined benefits. Commercial food manufacturers must maintain maximum production.
This often leads to overuse of the soil and the stripping of its natural minerals. Synthetic fertilizers provide the crops with nutrients for optimal growth but don’t contain the same nutrition levels that organic composting methods do.
Farmers may use a range of synthetic chemicals to ward off disease and protect their crops. The chemicals seep into the soil and water and are taken up by the plants themselves. Cattle farmers inject artificial growth hormones and antibiotics to keep cattle healthy.
Crops are genetically modified to improve disease-resistance and yield. Some companies splice fish DNA into vegetables, for example, to improve the crops’ resistance to the cold. This allows crops to thrive in conditions that Mother Nature never intended.
Improvement in technology
With improvements in technology, we’re also able to maintain food “freshness” for a lot longer. You’ll see I put “freshness” in inverted commas. That’s because the food being transported from halfway around the world can hardly be deemed fresh in the traditional sense of the word.
Even with locally produced commercial food, you have no guarantee of freshness. It’s not uncommon for apples, for example, to be stored from one season to the next. A new hybrid, Cosmic Crisp, is said to last a year before rotting if stored properly.
I can see why that would be useful for farmers and retailers, but why do consumers need an apple with this kind of longevity?
We’re Living Longer, but Not Healthier Lives
92% of all the corn now produced in the United States is genetically modified. Only 5.7% of food sold in the country is organically produced. Yet, despite being one of the most medically advanced countries in the world, the government states that 117 million Americans suffer from one or more chronic, preventable lifestyle diseases.
Now, we’ll grant you that the Western diet also has a lot to answer for in the country. Fast food is cheap, tasty, and convenient. We can’t, however, discount the country’s reliance on genetically-modified produce and non-organic farming methods.
My grandmother always grew her fruit and vegetables and kept chickens. She hardly had a day’s sickness in her life despite smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. She never put a foot in a gym and didn’t believe in supplements. Despite this, and the smoking, she was active right up until her death at 84.
Can we say the same for most people today? How do we explain increasing levels of conditions like autism and ADHD in children, and Alzheimer’s disease in adults? Those conditions were virtually unheard of when we were growing up, so we have to ask what’s changed.
The answer? Science has been toying with the genetics of the food that we eat since the 1940s. It wasn’t until 1994, however, that the FDA approved the sale of the first GMO produce.
Interestingly enough, it only became feasible to produce growth hormones for cattle on a large scale in the 1980s. One of today’s most common growth hormone products, Posilac, by Monsanto, was approved for commercial use in 1993.
Deaths due to Alzheimer’s in the United States increased by 146% between 2000 and 2018. Some of that was undoubtedly due to better diagnostic procedures, but the coincidences certainly seem to be piling up.
Are Organic Foods Worth the Extra Money?
The evidence is mounting in favor of organic produce. Yes, there’s certainly a lot of marketing hype involved. Producers of organic products can charge a premium for their foods. Is it the increased cost worthwhile for the consumer?
It might not seem so initially, but when you tally up the statistics, it seems to be better in the long term.
Consumers can reduce these costs by growing what they can, and sourcing the rest from local farmers and producers at farmer’s markets. While it’ll add to your food bill, it could detract from your medical bills later. In my book, good health is a valuable commodity worth making sacrifices for.