Friday, August 7, 2009

To eat organic or not to eat organic?

So you've heard that organic food is good for you. It's true. Organic food has higher levels of anti-oxidants, flavonoids, vitamins, and other nutrients (Pollan, 2008). And I agree with Rachel Carson that "no poison is safe or desirable on food: and a large-scale conversion to chemical-free agricultural methods is needed to stop these intolerable practices" (1962). However, I would argue that organic is not the be-all, end-all of food decisions. First, if you can't get organic, eat produce anyway. The conventional tomato is better for you and the environment than the organic processed food. Secondly, after a few days of transport, the nutritional edge that organic produce has deteriorates and is no better than the conventional, so organic AND fresh is important. The environmental value of organic produce decreases with transport as well. If organic produce travels 250 miles by truck or 3.5 miles by plane all of the CO2 savings of growing that produce is now equal to that of its conventional counterpart (Pearce 2008). Lastly, let me point out that many local farmers do not have organic certification (it's an expensive process), but are using organic methods regardless. Sam at the farmer's market never labels produce organic, but he will mark it 'chemical-free' and that's good enough for me. So next time you're faced with the decision about organic or not, let that not only be the ONLY requirement in you mind.
Carson, R. 1962. Silent spring. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, NY, 368pp.
Pearce, F. 2008. Confessions of an eco-sinner: tracking down the sources of my stuff. Beacon Press, Boston, MA, 276 pp.
Pollan, M. 2008. In defense of food: an eater's manifesto. Penguin Group, New York, NY, 244 pp.

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