Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”
Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about Organic food?
A: Organic produce is grown using pesticides.
B: Organic food is healthier than non-organic food and it’s better for the environment.
C: Organic food is more expensive than conventional produce.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
When a food is labeled “organic,” it doesn’t mean the ingredients in that food were grown without pesticides. Organic farmers can and often do use pesticides. In fact, the USDA maintains a list of pesticides organic farmers are allowed to use to stave off bugs and weeds. The difference is that conventional farmers are allowed to use synthetic pesticides, whereas organic farmers are (mostly) limited to “natural” ones. The USDA even allows organic crops to be grown with the use of many synthetic chemicals as long as the organic grower has proven his use is essential. Yet “natural” pesticides are no safer than synthetic pesticides. In fact, in some cases, “natural” pesticides can be more harmful to the environment. For instance, rotenone–a pesticide allowed in organic farming–is far more toxic by weight than many synthetic pesticides.
Organic food is no healthier than non-organic food. In fact, researchers at Stanford University recently found no significant nutritional difference between organic and conventional food and that both contain similar vitamin and nutrient content. The researchers also found no significant difference in protein or fat content between organic and conventional milk. This study echoes many other studies that have found no significant nutritional benefit in organic food when compared to conventional food.
Organically grown food is not better for the environment. According to a recent study by researchers at the University of Minnesota and Canada’s McGill University, organic growing methods produce 25 percent less food than conventional farming on the same acreage. In addition, advances in agriculture—such as genetic engineering—has enable many farmers to adopt and maintain no- or reduced-tillage production systems, which results in important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
For a variety of reasons—including higher production costs and a smaller supply– organic food comes at a high cost. While prices vary from season to season and region to region, the USDA estimates that organically-produced food can cost anywhere from 30 to 60 percent more than conventionally-produced food.