Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shut-up Stupid Sunday: Organic Foods

I grew up on an Organic Food farm, so you might find it strange that it is the topic of my Shut-up Stupid Sunday post. But the people who go to chain supermarkets and buy foods based on the “Organic” label have been duped by the hype.

Reasons people buy “Organic” foods.

1) They think it is better for the environment.
Fresh off the farm this is true. True “Organic” uses about 20% less fossil fuels to produce. However if that “Organic” food needs to be shipped across the nation then that advantage is quickly lost and if it comes from another country then its using a lot more energy than regionally grown “traditionally farmed food”. If you want to help the environment look to see where your food comes from it’s more important than how it’s grown. The best way to get food that helps the environment is to shop at the local farmers market, there the word “Organic” actually means something. The second best is find out which grocery stores buy from local farms and shop there on the day they receive the produce from them.

2) They think they are helping small farmers.
Like I said before I grew up on an Organic farm, the large food distributors don’t buy food from small farmers. They have Organic Mega-Farms that are every bit as brutal as the traditional farms.

3) They are worried about the chemicals in their food supply.
This is a semi-legitimate concern. The less chemical exposure you get the better. However the traditional farming has been around for over 60 years and most of that time it was well regulated by USDA. The chemicals they use for fertilizer are designed for the plants to break down quickly, they wouldn’t be much good if they weren’t. As far as the herbicides and pesticides, unless there is a pest panic they don’t spray these just before harvest and they are all water-soluble so a quick washing will get rid of it. As far as anything that is left, the pollutants in the air from our industrialized society pose a greater threat.

4) True Organic tastes better.
This I totally agree with, if everything else is equal. You can taste the difference in fresh true Organic crops and fertilized crops on the day they are picked. The next day not so much, three days later not at all.
At a Farmers market getting Organic food will make for tastier meals, in the supermarket if that Organic food has to be shipped across the country all that flavor will be gone.

5) They think the label “Organic” means something.
It doesn’t, there are organizations that certify “Organic” foods but a farmer doesn’t need to have that certification to place an “Organic” label on it. “USDA Certified Organic” has some pretty lax standards to for food to get that label but just an “Organic” sticker means nothing, and “Organic” from another country means absolutely nothing.
The best way to get something that is actually organic is to go to the farmers market and ask the farmer. The other farmers at the market will get pretty pissed if a farmer is passing off traditionally grown food as organic. Of course this self-policing only works at the very local level of a farmers market.

Pretty much all the benefits of “Organic” food are destroyed if it needs to be shipped more than a few hundred miles. Instead of buying food that has the “Organic” label on it, try to buy food that was grown in your area. Here is a tip for finding the freshest (therefore grown closest to you) produce. Look at it and feel it. With produce all the marketing in the world can’t replace your senses.

So to the people that only look for the “Organic” label and nothing else, I say, “Shut-up Stupid, looking for the label and ignoring everything else about the product usually undermines the exact reason you’re trying to buy organic food.”

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts

1 comment:

Stephanie Barr said...

As someone else who grew up on farms (and my father worked for EPA so we used "mostly" organic methods), I agree.

I have to make mention, though, that the recent issues with food poisoning we've had the last two years is a direct result of organic farming (spinach, tomatoes). Manure is about as organic as it gets, but there's a possibility for diseases one normally associates only with meat to be passed along to vegetables that may not be readily removed. This is of particular concern on those vegetables that are frequently eaten raw (as spinach and tomatoes both are).

For vegetables that will be thoroughly cooked, that shouldn't be an issue.

Just a point.