Are there any benefits of organic food or organic products?
Is Organic Food more Nutritious, Healthier, Better?
I guess you must have heard these questions being asked before?
So, let us analyze the same and see what conclusions we come to:
Let’s start by comparing Organic versus non organic food in different facets:
So, what is Organic food anyway, (some might call this natural food) as opposed to non-organic food?
Wikipedia defines, Organic foods are those foods produced by methods that comply with the standards of organic farming.
For further details you can click on this link to take you to the Wikipedia website.
So, who decided if any food or product is Organic or not?
This is decided by regulating bodies in different countries.
For example, in the US a department called the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) certifies organic food.
The USDA defines Organic agriculture as follows:-
Organic agriculture produces products using methods that preserve the environment and avoid most synthetic materials, such as pesticides and antibiotics. USDA organic standards describe how farmers grow crops and raise livestock and which materials they may use. More information can be found on the USDA website
In India, the APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) decided the same.
Link to their website can be found here.
AEPDA defines organic products as follows:-
Organic products are grown under a system of agriculture without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides with an environmentally and socially responsible approach. This is a method of farming that works at grass root level preserving the reproductive and regenerative capacity of the soil, good plant nutrition, and sound soil management, produces nutritious food rich in vitality which has resistance to diseases.
Thus, Organic farming is farming that is carried out without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or introducing hormones. It is ethical farming methods which take into consideration conservation of soil, water and reducing pollution. Here farmers use natural fertilizers, crops rotation (to ensure the fertility of the soil), and organic pesticides (to prevent harmful organisms from destroying the crop).
So, does it really matter, you may be asking?
Please allow me explain further:
If you talk about the nutritional value of Organic and non-organic food, studies have found that Organic food is marginally more nutritious that there conventional counterpart.
In one study at the Stanford University, 250 students conducted experiments to check nutrient levels in organic and conventional foods. Pesticide levels were also checked in each.
They found that there was hardly any difference in the nutrient content of each type, but there was about 30% lower pesticides levels in organic food.
So, nutrition wise organic and conventional food might be the same.
But the main difference is that organic food has less of the unwanted chemicals, additives, preservatives and other unnatural unwanted components.
However, that being said there are no definite long term studies conducted to see the results of pesticide exposure to human health. Some people think that organic food does create its own defenses to fight off unwanted organisms. Some say this is beneficial to human and are antioxidants, whilst others think of these as toxins. Thus experts themselves have different views on the same subject.
What harm could Pesticides cause?
Some experts think that pesticides can cause various conditions like increased risk of certain cancers – such as leukemia, brain tumors, prostate cancer, lower IQ in children, etc. Also, Young children’s development might get stunted as well.
Pesticide levels have been studied by various people and organizations. One study is linked here:
“Study Finds Lower Pesticide Levels in People Who Eat Organic Produce”
In one of the studies, the researchers tested a few children who were consuming conventional food.
They found that there was presence of pesticides in the children’s urine. Then those same children were put on an organic diet and in a few days time, the traces of pesticides disappeared.
Further information about this can be found in a book by David Servan-Schreiber “Anti-cancer a new way of life”.
So if there are benefits of organic food consumption, why are more people not opting solely for Organic food?
The main reason is the price. It is more expensive to grow and maintain crops with only natural methods. Thus organic food tends to be more costly that conventional food.
Secondly, Organic food items might spoil faster as there are no chemical preservatives and additives present to keep them from going bad.
Washing and peeling. Does it help?
Washing all fruits and vegetables is a must irrespective if they are organic or otherwise. This is because the items might contain contaminants not necessarily from the farm but carried over from the delivery chain.
You should also rinse fruits and vegetables which have an outer skin or rind so as to remove contaminants. This is because otherwise, the contaminants might get into the food items, when you cut them.
You might think about peeling fruits and vegetables (which you can eat with the skin on).
However, by doing this you will get rid of the contaminants, but will also lose a lot in nutritional value.
Are the levels of contamination the same in all food items?
There is a non-profit organization called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) which releases a list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables. They have twelve items on their list and call this list the “Dirty Dozen”.
The list presently contains the following items:-
- Sweet Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
- Snap peas, and
In addition, on their website they have a list of 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data.
The Indian Perspective:-
If you remember, Star Network and Doordarshan’s DD National television channels aired a program called “Satyame Vijayde” (or for an English translation “Truth Alone Prevails” ), which dealt with various issues plaguing India.
In one of the episodes of Satyame Vijayde:
The host – Bollywood actor Amir Khan, talks about the issue of ethics being followed in cultivation of crops in India.
If you have not seen it, I have the link below for you. It is kind of long, but worth the watch:
Basically, in India the governing bodies do not regulate cultivation and farmers use their own discretion in the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. Thus, in developed countries even the conventional food would be within the acceptable limits set out by the governing bodies. However this might not always be the case in India, where there is a vast difference between Organic and Non-organic products.
The Bottom Line:
If you do decide to use organic food, I would say you are erring on the safer side. However it does not mean that you should be blind to conventional nutritious food.
A good idea would be:
First you should evaluate which of the fruits and vegetables have the highest contamination (as you can see in the list from the EWG, as defined earlier).
Then you can opt for the organic variant of such items.
At the end of the day you should get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet. This would ensure that the antioxidant levels in your body are high, to fight off illness and disease.
I hope this article has been informative. If you do opt to go in for Organic foods I have provided some links below which might help. Please subscribe to the newsletter if you like this article. Also, consider sharing with social media buttons below.