Organic foods – are they worth the extra money?

Organic Food

Recently, organic foods have become more popular than ever before. While a significant market is now buying organic foods, few are questioning the standards of organic agriculture, enforcement, and justification of high prices.

Organic food producers in Canada are licensed by the association of organic food producers, which requires that a previously conventionally farmed land be pesticide and fungicide free for three years. Organic foods must be grown without the use of any non-organic input. No GMO (Genetically Manipulated Organism) may be used in organic food production. However, the standards applied in different countries vary widely, and enforcement even more so.

It is worth pointing out that approximately 40 – 45 percent of non-organic farms are contaminated with pesticide, albeit below levels recognized by the U S D A (United States Department of Agriculture) as acceptable.

It is alleged that 70 – 75 percent of all vegetable and fruit farmed by standard techniques contain pesticide and herbicide residues, but the levels are low enough to be harmful.

Researchers have not been able to determine the nutritional difference between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables although in blind-tastings people generally detect taste differences in flavor of organic foods. Generally organic foods are smaller per unit and contain less water, hence the concentration of flavor.

However, organic foods are significantly more expensive than standard foods. Conventionally grown bananas cost $ .49 to .79 per pound, and apples $ .99 to 1.69 just to name two of the most popular organic foods in the marketplace. The price differential between other foods is much larger.

Consumers accept imported organic foods from South American countries as if all were produced using North American standards. The truth is not even clear whether existing North American standards are rigid enough to be effective.

If an organic farm is located between two non-organic farms that are sprayed by aircraft, the organic farm’s crop will be contaminated, as is the case in many vineyards. Hence even though a vineyards may be farmed organically, if it is located between two that not the first cannot advertise its products as organic.

When it comes to dairy products, cows are treated with more care, fed organic grass and in case of medical treatment natural remedies are used. In general, organic milk, cheese and ice cream taste getter, possess more flavour and have a longer after taste. The price differential between the two is significantly however and considered unjustifiable.

Organic meats (beef, pork and chicken) taste better, and all animals are treated humanely, especially pigs and chickens.

Conventional farmers abuse pigs and chicken inject them with antibiotics and growth hormones. Many European countries prohibit the importation of American chicken, beef and pork, due to such practices.

Pesticides concentrate as they go up the food chain, and studies show that lactating vegan mothers’ milk contains lower levels of pesticides. However, researchers have not determined what level of pesticides in milk may be considered harmful. Some will argue that any level of pesticide in any food is not permissible.

Many root vegetables, particularly potatoes are irradiated to prevent sprouting and spoilage. Scientists claim irradiation to be safe, but there is no conclusive evidence of this.

Also, packaged organic food may not contain MSG or hydrogenated fats. There is no conclusive evidence of MSG being harmful, but some people experience discomfort like nausea, headaches, dry mouth, and excessive thirst.

Hydrogenation of liquid fats is clearly harmful, but is often used in conventional packaged foods, I e. cookies, cakes, pastries, snacks just to name a few.

Ultimately, the high prices of organic foods cannot be justified and in fact there is little, if any, evidence, that conventional foods consumed in moderation are harmful, except those that contain excessive amounts of fat, salt, sugar and other ingredients mentioned above.

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