A study carried out by Stanford University in September 2012 argued that organic foods, both in terms of their nutritional value and their impact on the environment, aren’t demonstrably better than conventionally grown food. This argument has been made several times over the past few years, with many keen to dismiss organic food as overpriced and misleading in terms of its health benefits and sustainable values. Are organic foods, then, all they’re cracked up to be?
Perhaps the first thing to remember is that organic foods are not superfoods – they won’t help to slow down the rate of disease, and they can’t be relied on as a substitute for a balanced diet. What is important to focus on, though, is the margin by which the majority of organic foods are better as the result of being prepared in better conditions. Organic foods are not grown using artificial pesticides, and are developed as part of farming conditions that focus on sustainable soil use and seasonal patterns.
The emphasis placed by organic farming on sustainable practices, and their extension to co-ops and other initiatives that reward farmers, arguably outweighs whether or not individual examples of organic food are healthier. Indeed, all organic foods contain some forms of natural pesticides and preservatives, which help them to last for longer and grow – sulfates and other residues can still cause health problems in large doses, albeit not on the level of synthetic versions.
Again, organic food is better by degree in terms of its production, and in terms of fresh produce like fruit and vegetables, can taste better if bought from local markets and shops. Food that is grown seasonally, and is not subject to being distributed around the world, tends to be fresher and tastier. The extra difference created by how quickly food gets from the ground to your plate is enough to make food riper and more in line with the seasons. Eating seasonally has its own benefits, from varying your diet throughout the year, through to enjoying crops at their most ripest.
Organic food’s value in comparison to non organic food is also tied to sustainable farming and co-ops. While not a complete alternative to standard farming methods that use chemicals and mass production methods for crops, organic farms are more careful to avoid over working the land. On a wider scale, co-ops and farms that use organic methods and have smaller quotas in terms of production, tend to be independently owned or run to ensure that workers are not being exploited. Farmers with a personal stake in their land are able to produce crops without having to rely on artificial growth methods, or wholesalers that demand international distribution all year round.
There’s still a lot that’s unclear about organic foods, both in terms of how much healthier they are over long periods of time, and the variation between different types of organic produce and meat. The residues created by chemical preservatives and hormones might, in this way, be less harmful than the lack of attention paid to air pollution and smog around farms, and what chemicals are going into the general water supply. What is arguable, though, is that organic foods, while not always as cracked up as they may be, are still healthier by a matter of degree. An investment in the higher costs of organic food is therefore justified by accepting both the slight gain in nutritional value, as well as the belief that more sustainable farming is worth supporting as a principle, rather than an exact science.
Author Bio: Liam Ohm writes about healthy cooking. He highly recommends co-op food as the place to buy your local healthy dinners. In his spare time he enjoys networking and travelling.
Are Organic Foods All They’re Cracked Up To Be?
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