Organic

I do not trust organic food. One reason was the lack of oversight or certification in the early days. Certifying organizations exist now although the movement still looks like marketing hype to me. The other reasons involve its benefit. Other than the rich taste of wealth in every bite, I doubt that it is nutritionally very different from other food. Other than the premium cash collected by farmers, I doubt that it is any better agriculturally. I was amused by this article in The New York Times a while back. It summarizes an article from The Economist that does not seem to be freely available online. I do not know whether the findings will stand up as true after scrutiny, but I can imagine that they will. Cost exerts some pressure to minimize agricultural land use. Getting more food from less land leads to higher profits. Other pressures are at work, though, and the Economist opinion could turn out to be wrong. I definitely worry some about whether the pesticides, herbicides and antibiotics used in agriculture ultimately will harm us. The social status of the organic foods makes me doubt their environmental benefit. Organic foods are luxury items. How often are luxury sales engines of benefit to the general welfare?

1 Comment »

Michael M. on January 2nd 2007 in General

One Response to “Organic”

  1. rebecca responded on 04 Jan 2007 at 12:30 am #

    My view on this matter have flipped quite a bit in the recent past. Having thought organic food was mostly a waste of money for a while – part of a general “change the image and charge more” scheme designed to suck money out of people with more of it than they need – I have changed my views for a number of reasons.

    One is that I’ve seen more evidence that “small” amounts of contaminants in your food can hurt you. Part of this is that I’m doing all this work about lead poisoning (not something in your food, necessarily, but an example of something you can’t detect yourself that can still dramatically damage your children and about which corporations lied and cheated in order to make sure they could still sell it to you for years beyond when they should have known better). Part of it is random articles I’ve found both in the popular press in and in PubMed – things about, say, sperm count as a function of pesticide exposure (a study done entirely in Missouri, it turned out).

    Another thing is that my general level of trust in our government’s approval system for toxins in our food has been severely downgraded over the past couple of years. This, again, has come from a variety of sources – my realization that the level of toxins in the fish I eat are a much bigger threat than I’d been assuming, reading more about examples of the political battles that have gone on when scientists have approached regulatory bodies with clear evidence that a pesticide is a danger to humans, etc. (Also, I’ve discovered that many “safe” levels of toxins are set using the average consumption level (eg, “the average american eats tuna 2x per month, so we can set the maximum level of mercury allowable in tuna to be the safe level for humans per month / 2) – which, if I were an averaged American, would be fine… but since instead, I’m someone who picks 5 foods and eats them over and over for long periods of time, is disastrous for me!)

    Finally, of course, there’s the little addition of it’s finally occurred to me that I hope to have kids in the next 5-10 years – and it’s become clear that our ability to assess what health risks a compound poses for a developing fetus is even worse than our ability to assess it for ourselves (and that the risks are, on balance, far higher). And it seems overwhelmingly clear that the acceptable levels of risk calculated

    Taken together, these lines of evidence have made me much less willing to assume that whatever the government allows them to spray on my food is probably fine.

    Not that I’ve become a whole foods addict, by any means. But, between all of this + my obsession with trying to decrease fuel usage, I’ve started getting most produce at the local farmer’s market months when it’s open, and buying organic things that are available at our normal grocery store when I can….

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.