Nutrition organic fruitbox

Published on October 19th, 2013 | by Joe Starks

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Fitness Jargonbuster: Organic

When it comes to organic food, opinions seem to be divided into two extremes. Many people have the opinion that organic food is just a cheap way for some farmers to sell second-rate products at extremely expensive costs to over-concerned orthorexic people. The other half seems to be adamant about how the consumption of organic food improves the environment and protects our health from modern farming technology. As in most such difficult cases, there is truth in what both sides believe. This is why we’ll have a scientific, cold look at the facts, so that everyone can make up their own minds with clear facts.

What is organic food?

Organic food is not an interchangeable term with natural food. Organic food is most often farmed, sometimes even on a very large scale and there is much intervention in comparison to how these plants and animals would live without human intervention. What makes organic food what it is, is that there is absolutely no use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers when these plants are grown and no traces of them in the foods that the animals consume.

Organic milk for instance comes from a mammal that consumes only plants that haven’t been treated with pesticides or fertilizers. The term organic is a badly chosen word sadly, as it is used for “compounds containing carbon”, which are pretty much in all our foods. It is most probably a marketing ploy to make organic food sound more consumable.

Nonetheless, even though it is pretty obvious from the facts that the difference between organic and non-organic food is pretty small, there are some benefits to each that we should have a close look at.

Benefits of organic food

There are plenty of benefits to organic food, but they have little to do with nutritional value. From what science has shown until now there is no noticeable difference between the nutritional value of organic and non-organic food. Here are some real benefits though:

  • It protects the environment of other species. Fertilizers don’t stay put on a farmer’s land. They are absorbed by the water in the soil and travel sometimes for miles. This can make plants grow faster where they should not; killing weaker species or even destroying the oxygen levels in certain pools, because plants over-consume oxygen in them and leave none for animals in those waters. Fresh water species might be wiped out in areas where fertilizers are used in over-abundance.
  • It is strictly regulated. In comparison to simple food, organic food is tested and regulated often. This diminishes chances of malpractice, like overusing fertilizers or pesticides, since they aren’t allowed at all. It is up to debate if that is the best solution to the problem though, since total abstinence often seems an extreme measure.

Benefits of non-organic food

Non-organic food has sadly more immediate benefits to human and less large scale benefits for the environment. This is why it often seems like a wiser, more ethical choice at first. Here is a list of those benefits:

  • Cheaper. It is very cheap to produce food with fertilizers and pesticides. The amount of food per square meter produced is the highest possible and this feeds many hungry mouths. The use of organic farming only could very possibly cause famine in some populations of the world.
  • Homogenous. The produce and animal products have a more homogenous taste and appearance, making them more appealing to many.
  • Easier. Insects and poor soil have been the bane of many farmers since humans first used a plow. People actually died from the lack of food these conditions brought with them and pesticides/fertilizers are the perfect solution. It is extremely hard to make soil fertile and insects harmless without the use of those chemicals, but it is not impossible.

As we can see there are very good reasons to support each of these types of foods and there is no clear moral winner between the two. This is an extremely difficult problem in our modern society and it would be wise of all of us to try and find a reasonable solution somewhere in the middle. The issue here is not about nutrition, but sustainability and survivability of our planet and the human race as a whole.

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