Should we eat organic? Becoming “planet organic” is definitely in fashion right now – and some would dismiss it as another “trendy” fad. It’s worth remembering that in fact until around the 1950’s, all the food we ate was organic and it’s the factory-farmed, pesticide-enhanced crops that are the newcomers – we’ve only been eating those for decades not centuries. So if organic food is in fact “normal” food; should we all be eating it, all of the time?
The number one argument is usually that organic food is better for you: it contains more nutrients, higher levels of iron etc. This may well be true. However, others would point out that a far bigger problem in the world today then the nutritional level of our food; is actually producing enough food for everyone to eat. Hunger is a greater problem than nutritional value and the large agricultural companies would say if we’re serious about feeding the world; then it just can’t be done without some chemical assistance.
Ah, chemicals. Of course organic food has got none of those dangerous ingredients that are lurking in genetically modified and chemically doused food. But at present, the jury is very much out on whether pesticides are harmful to humans. Some feel that there is absolutely no evidence to prove that organic foods are any safer or healthier than conventional foods. Consumers are assured that farmers and growers take human health protection very seriously and however powerful the drug companies are, surely no government would actually want to poison its own people? However, research by the Danish National Food Institute has recently suggested that even miniscule doses of chemicals in our food can have more significant negative effects on our health than was previously thought.
But surely organic food just tastes better? Many foodies would undoubtedly tell us that it does. However, apart from some major generalisations (i.e. downright harmful things such as bleach taste disgusting, and most humans like the taste of sugar); taste is highly subjective. Kate Moss may have said “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” but the millions starving in the world would say “nothing tastes as good as food” – whether or not it’s organic. Is the taste argument just an option for those privileged enough to be fussy?
Try for yourself – in blind tastings it is very hard to get a consensus among consumers as whether you can truly taste the difference between the organic and non-organic version. The one thing most consumers do know is that organic food tends to cost a lot more!
Is organic food better for the planet? Well, it is certainly true that organic food is better for the animals that live on the planet. Not just the birds and insects that are affected by the widespread use of herbicides, but also the actual livestock that we eat. The Compassion in World Farming, the world’s leading animal welfare organisation: “strongly supports organic as the best form of humane and sustainable agriculture”. So if you care about animals then you should make the organic choice. However, in terms of being better for the planet as a whole – then which of us can possibly know the answer to that? Caring for “the planet” as opposed to the people living on it, is a very new phenomenon in world history and it would be a brave person who could confidently predict what will truly be better or worse for the planet in the long term – i.e. over the next million years.
In short, you may feel that for your own taste buds, and your own health, you’d prefer to eat organic. However, you may also believe that in terms of providing the ever-increasing world’s population with enough cost-effective and adequately nutritious food; non-organic is the only realistic option.