Good News for Organic Food

This is an article from the Huffington Post and you can visit the site here.

Or just read it, here:

“A new Thomson Reuters poll [pdf] found that the majority (58%) of consumers prefer organic food to conventional food. This preference is particularly strong with those with a higher education, and those of a younger demographic. Sixty-three perfect of respondents under age 35 choose organics when possible.

Among those that prefer organic food, their primary reasons were broken down in four categories: supporting local farms (36%), avoiding toxins (34%), environmental health (17%) and taste (13%). Price was the primary reason that respondents preferred non-organic food.

Income was not a huge factor for organic food preference. In fact, those that made between $25,000 and $49,999 (61.2%) preferred organic slightly more than those that made over $100,000 (60.8%).”

The first paragraph of the article does not surprise me because typically the more people know about organic food, the more likely they are to support it. It is ironic to see that younger people have the highest percentage of respondents who prefer organic, because we have inherited a broken and poisonous agricultural system. And from whom did we inherit that system? The system based on exploiting farm workers, reliance on chemical farming, and deletion of biological diversity? We inherited the agricultural system from the same demographic who still now does not support organic food as much as our younger generation. I don’t know what percentage of over 35 year-olds responded that they support organic food, but I wish that they fully endorsed organic food. I think they should eat their mistake seeing as how it was their generation that heralded in much of the corrupt farming regulations with which farmers today have to contend.

I appreciate that the study broke down the respondents motivations as well, because the mental impetus behind the action–in this case– is critical to know. Respondents’ motivations illustrate what they have been taught about organic food and what people believe it represents. I love the first reason; I think supporting local farmers is an incredibly important reason to buy (local) organic food. (It is kind of funny that either the survey or the respondents assumed that organic meant local. I don’t know the details of the survey, but the two are not always co-present).

The second reason is brilliant, and organic food certainly does contain less toxins than conventionally grown, chemical laden foods. However, I wish that the third most popular motivation –environmental health– replaced “less toxins.” The chemical differences between organic and non-organic produce are perceptible, but statistically not much. All products grown in the U.S. have to be approved of the by the U.S.D.A., and that pertains mostly to the fertilizers and pesticides used. Many of the toxins are poisonous for the workers, animals in the area, and –in large quantities–bad for consumers; but generally, conventionally grown food will not have an adverse effect on your health. There are tentative studies suggesting that chemicals in food force puberty on girls prematurely and might lead to some cancers, but little unshakeable evidence has been published on the adverse affects of eating food with government-approved chemicals. We are fortunate to live in a country where the government (and many N.G.O.’s) serve as watchdogs for our health. The government will not let any farmer legally use chemicals that are proven to be bad for our health. Without question I support organic food and eating pesticide-free produce, but I do not think it should be more important than the environmental aspect of organic food.

In my paper, I reiterated that the single most important reason to buy organic, in my opinion, was for the environment’s health. Organic techniques cut down water pollution, soil pollution, soil degradation, drug-resistant bugs and viruses, health problems, fossil fuel consumption, and encourage biodiversity and sustainability. Farmers apply pesticides and fertilizers with the mindset “better safe than sorry,” and over 90% of the nitrogen based fertilizer seeps into ground water sources. The EPA estimates that 210 million pounds of fertilizer end up in the Gulf of Mexico each year, resulting in a 7,900 square mile dead zone that is so oxygen deficient that nothing can survive in it (Beavan). Agriculture in America is responsible for 17% of our total carbon-emissions, and it is also the leading source of water pollution, its biggest water consumer, and the main cause of soil erosion and the loss of grasslands and wetlands (Beavan) <<[from my paper, and the book No Impact Man]. Organic agriculture is important predominantly because it is the only form of agriculture that humans can continue to practice six hundred years from now. I hyperbolize, but I’d bet many conventional farmers can’t see their soil being fecund in six hundred years, nor would I bet we can continue to develop chemicals that can kill generations upon generations of super-bugs. Environmental friendliness is the most important reason for buying organic food, and everything else is gravy.

Including taste. Taste is gravy. Organic food does not always taste better than organic, and it is typically smaller food and less aesthetically pleasing. Organic is usually better for you nutritionally, and never worse for you, but taste-wise, organic got its reputation for good taste because it is usually fresher. Food bought an a farmer’s market that was picked the day before is almost always going to taste better than food picked two weeks before it is ripe and then driven in a car for two weeks to arrive ripe in your supermarket. I was glad to see “taste” last, with 13%.

But the reason I got so excited when I saw this article in the first place is the last paragraph. It says that “Income was not a huge factor for organic food preference. In fact, those that made between $25,000 and $49,999 (61.2%) preferred organic slightly more than those that made over $100,000 (60.8%).” That’s amazing! Price has always been the biggest road-bump to widespread acceptance of organic agriculture, and here we have it, in the flesh, tangible evidence that people are prioritizing their money and buying correctly grown food. Amazing!


Good News for Organic Food

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