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Is Organic Food Really Better For You?

The big weekly shop can be a daunting task, with more options in each aisle than you thought possible, and the constant challenge of balancing convenience and cost with what’s best for your family.

One of the choices we face in many supermarket sections now is organic vs. conventionally produced food. Organic food boasts many benefits over conventionally produced food, but do the claims stack up?  Should you “go organic”? Is it better for your family? The environment? Animal welfare? Is it worth the extra cost?

The demand for organic food has been increasing steadily over time, suggesting that there is some concern among the public about some of these issues.  What does it mean when food is “certified organic”, anyway? Produce that is certified as organic is grown without synthetic fertilisers or pesticides, and in animal products no antibiotics or growth promotants are allowed. Let’s explore a few of the common reasons why people choose organic food.

Nutrition

To start with, many people buy organic food because they believe it’s more nutritious. While some studies have found that there may be a higher antioxidant content in some organic foods, there generally isn’t a lot of evidence to support this. A number of studies have examined the micro- and macronutrient content and have found them to be the same for both types of foods. Also, it’s worth noting that the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables depends on many factors and is hard to measure – for example, the soil or feed used in different regions will contain different nutrients and contaminants, and farming practices could vary as well. 

Pesticides and other synthetic additives

There’s also the issue of pesticides or other additives used in conventional farming which concerns many consumers. Should we be worried about this?

Organic farmers aren’t allowed to use any of the synthetic pesticides that are typically used in conventional farming, but the pesticide level in conventionally farmed crops must stay below levels considered to be harmful to health anyway. Actually, the amount of pesticide residue that is absorbed varies, and tends to relate to the thickness of a fruit or vegetable’s skin.Have you heard of the dirty dozen? This a list compiled by the Environmental Working Group (an American non-profit) of fruit and vegetables that are most likely to contain pesticide residues when conventionally farmed. The group recommends that for these items, consumers should buy organic if possible. Similarly,some fruits and vegetables (typically with a thicker skin) are less likely to absorb pesticides within their flesh.

Environment

Many people believe that organic farming practices are less harmful to the environment. Let’s compare the two farming styles.

Conventional farming requires the use of fertiliser, which typically requires fossil fuel inputs, produces greenhouse gases and contributes to climate change. 

At the same time, organically farmed crops produce lower yields and therefore require more land. Clearing extra land for farming destroys ecosystems and also releases greenhouse gases. However, organic farming practices also include high animal welfare standards – and often farmers employ traditional farming practices such as crop rotation to try to mitigate soil nutrient depletion. So, there are pros and cons with both styles of farming – but there are ways that we can reduce our environmental impact, regardless of whether we buy organic or not. Choosing local and in-season produce reduces ‘food miles’ (the distance that food has to travel to reach your local supermarket) and reduces the need for cold storage of food. It means your food is fresher, too! 

While the jury is still out on whether or not organic food is better for you, many people swear that it tastes better and that it makes them feel great – so for some, that may be reason enough to buy it anyway!

Sources:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/health/2018-03-14/organic-fruit-and-vegetables-are-they-worth-the-cost/9539572

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24968103

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/should-you-go-organic

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/organic-food-better#1


Article provided by Terre Madre

Author: NBMs

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