Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Organic Crop Production – Part 2 of 3 (Food Safety)

I have 3 main beefs (pun intended) with the false information many in the organic groups are spreading:

  • Myth #1-Conventionally grown food is unhealthy and can make you sick, organic is healthier.

  • Myth #2-Conventionally grown food hurts the environment

  • Myth #3-Organic Agriculture is more profitable.

    This week I will dispute the myth that organic food is somehow healthier, next week I will discuss environmental impact and profitability of organic farming.

    Myth 1 - Organic Food is Healthier

    According to the American Dietetic Association: “Research has shown that nutritionally there is no evidence that food grown organically is no better or safer than conventionally grown produce. Organic foods differ only in the way they are grown and processed”.

    There is a good article at the Mayo Clinic’s website that does a good job defining organic production. The Mayo article states: “No conclusive evidence shows that organic food is more nutritious than is conventionally grown food. And the USDA — even though it certifies organic food — doesn't claim that these products are safer or more nutritious.”

    Corn syrup used as a sweetener instead of sugar is one that has gotten a lot of negative press and really bean spread by many anti-farm groups. Many studies have shown that the sugar molecule from corn sweetener is basically no different than a sugar molecule from sugar cane and your body can not tell a difference nor treat them differenrly.. Oh, there is one difference-the one from corn is much cheaper to produce. Why anyone would want to make food more expensive I can not understand.

    The extent that some will go to spread this falsehood is maddening, and sometimes just plain sad. The most tragic example of this is the group that convinced the government of Zambia to reject 10,000 TONS of corn given in aid to that country because it was GMO corn-and that it was poison. This is a country where people are starving to death-literally-and they convinced them to turn away perfectly safe food that is eaten every day in this country. To read more on this tragic story follow this link:

These same groups are the ones that are now going after local school systems and universities and state legislatures lobbying them to purchase a percentage of the food to be organic (at often much higher prices) than their existing sources.
If individuals for whatever personal reason they have choose to buy organic food I have no problem with that, but to ignore the science and require me to do the same, or institutions that I support either with my tuition dollars or tax dollars is not right.

Food scares are always good news for the organic food industry. Some groups have tried to use recent e-coli outbreaks such as the one on the spinach farm in California and others to make claims that “industrial” agriculture is somehow less safe. There is absolutely no research showing that organically produced food is any safter, and in many cases it seems to me would be much less. The ecoli outbreak on spinach was caused my animal waste washing into the irrigation system and getting spread onto the spinach. It seems to me that organic farms which must use natural fertilizers such as animal waste would be much more likely to cause ecoli than one using synthetic fertilizers.

Those who chose to grow organic or purchase organic products I am fine with that, if you perceive they taste better or it makes you feel better then by all means you should. But please don’t try to force others to follow more these expensive options that would result in more expensive food for those who can least afford it without the science to support it.

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