Unlike their conventional equivalent, organic food is not sprayed with chemicals, synthetic pesticides and antibiotics. Costing up to 100 percent more than regular produce, organic is the healthier choice that many of us simply canâ€™t afford to buy on a regular basis. Why pay more to eat organic? Is it really that much healthier than regular food?Â
Organic foods have a highly favorable reputation. Most people believe that they are safer and probably more nutritious than food produced by conventional farming methods. A new report from Stanford University tends to cast doubt on that assumption.
Confusion often arises about the difference between all-natural foods and organic foods. Organic foods are all-natural, but they meet much higher standards than all-natural foods.
All-natural foods do not contain added substances such as preservatives, color, flavors or sweeteners. Substances that do not occur naturally in the food cannot be added.
Organic foods are all-natural but must also be produced under the auspices of the USDA National Organic Program. Their production uses methods that promote sustainable agriculture. Genetically modified seeds, synthetic insecticides, synthetic fertilizers and growth hormones are not allowed.
These practices must be followed for three years before the crop can be certified as organic. The time period allows most of these materials to leach from the soil. Antibiotics are used only to cure disease and are not fed to all animals solely to produce growth.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a growing concern. The ultimate form is the infamous flesh-eating bacteria that often results in the amputation of limbs or death. The conclusion was that the risk of exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria appeared to be reduced when organic chicken and pork was consumed.
The Stanford study concluded that the difference health-wise between organic and conventional food is small. They examined numerous research studies and selected the 237 most relevant.
The study did not find that organic food is â€œalways healthier and more nutritious.â€ A definite weakness in the study is the fact that it contained no long-term studies of any differences in the health of people who consumed organic food compared to consumers of conventional food. Those studies would be considered the gold standard.
The study does admit that organic foods are 30 percent less likely to result in pesticide exposure.Â Airborne pesticides can drift considerable distances. Although organic foods are grown with no use of synthetic pesticides, exposure can occur by pesticide drifting from neighboring fields.
The authors dismiss this danger by saying that pesticide residue on foods is usually within FDA limits. Being comfortable with the FDA safe limits and consuming a chemical that will kill insects is a matter of personal preference.
Organic feed is fed to animals classified as organic. The feed is raised to organic standards and contains no animal by-products. Animal lovers and animal rights advocates will be gratified to know that animals grown with organic methods must be allowed access to the outdoors.
The premium paid for organic food helps provide humane treatment for the animals. Your eggs will no longer be produced by laying hens that are confined to a small wire cage for their entire adult life. Your pork chops will not come from a hog confined to a pen that is too small for the animal to turn around.
Free-range chickens only means that the chickens have the option of running around in the grass and chasing grasshoppers to their heart’s content. The eggs or meat will not be certifiably organic unless the other organic standards are met.
Consumers must decide whether these differences between organic and conventional food justify the premium price.