Is Organic Food All It's Cracked Up To Be?
July 5th, 2011
The last twenty or so years have led to an increasing number of people ‘turning organic’. As we become more aware of the chemicals used in the production of non-organic food, and the impact they can have on our health and the environment, the idea of eliminating such chemicals from our diets seems more and more appealing.
However, organic food is in general, substantially more expensive that its non-organic counterparts. Because of this we have to wonder – is organic food really worth it?
The unfortunate thing is that despite commonly held belief – organic food does not mean that no pesticides or herbicides are used in its production. They are just used in smaller quantities, a lesser number of products are approved for use and their use is more rigorously monitored.
However, the presence of chemicals in organic foods is substantially less than those produced in the modern fashion; and surely, anything we can do to reduce the chemicals we consume is beneficial?
We also need to consider the impact that the chemicals used in food production have on our environment and soil. Topsoil – the uppermost layer of soil which covers our earth’s surface, is vital to the successful production of nutritious crops. Yet the use of pesticides and herbicides is not only affecting the quality of the topsoil, it’s also affecting its ability to reproduce. This means that eventually our topsoil could run out and lead to a world food crisis. Increasing the amount of food that’s produced organically will help slow this process.
Another downside to organic produce is that it tends to not last as long as non-organic equivalents. However this is usually only an issue when concerning foods purchased in the supermarkets. The foods that line our supermarket shelves can be weeks and sometimes even months old. Non-organic foods are sprayed with preservatives in order to delay the decaying process and increase the foods shelf-life. This means that the organic foods, which have not been artificially preserved, will begin to ‘go off’ very quickly. This can result in supermarkets throwing food away, or it becoming unusable shortly after getting it home.
In a world where so much food is wasted, and so many people are starving, is it right to let food go off if we can do something to prevent it?
However, if you wish to enjoy organic foods that will not begin moulding the second you get them home, buying from a local farm or even growing them yourself will ensure that they are incredibly fresh, and will last a good amount of time before they start to deteriorate.
Yet if you are to grow organic food at home, it’s worth tending to the condition of your topsoil first. If you have never really cultivated anything in your garden before, your topsoil may be ridden with dead plants and weeds that will be ravishing it of its nutrients. Good quality, organic topsoil can be purchased from many garden retailers, so along with clearing your soil of any unwanted debris, it may be worth investing in this.
To conclude, whether organic food is ‘worth it’ is largely down to your disposable income, and how much you value the reduction of chemicals in your food.
However, it may be the case that in regards to purchasing organic food in the supermarket, it simply isn’t worth it. The reality is that we have little idea what chemicals have or have not been used in its production, and it may not stay fresh very long.
Yet if we have the facilities to grow our own food, or even purchase it straight from a local farmer, we can either have control over or ask about what chemicals are used and we can guarantee that it will be fresh, tasty and healthy.
This post was written by James Harper on behalf of Boughton Loam and Turf Management. James writes on issues relating to food and the environment. He is particularly interested in growing his own food.