There has been much talk of organic products lately and there seem to be as many opinions as there are participants in the discussion. Thus, there is truly no easy way to judge whether organic is really the best way to go. However, the more information one possesses, the easier it is to make a decision for oneself.
Here are some issues surrounding the organic vs. conventional battle:
•Organic products are better for the Earth—this is one of the most important reasons to go organic since the certification criteria demand organic products to be grown promoting biodiversity, minimizing pollution and using agricultural methods promoting cultural, biological and mechanical means instead of synthetic materials. This means eliminating all chemical pesticides and fertilizers (that are harmful not only to humans but the animals and the environment in general) as well as incorporating methods improving the soil, e.g. using cover crops, manure and crop rotation, conserving water and energy, grazing animals on mixed pastures etc. However, transporting organically grown products emits nearly the same amount of greenhouse gasses as transporting conventionally grown food, which nearly defeats the purpose. Hence, the best way out is to find a local farmer’s market and find out what methods the farmers use to grow their produce. Chances are, most small farmers are responsible enough to use environmentally friendly methods.
•Organic food is better for the consumer—this is not quite so clear. While some organic products may contain more nutrients (e.g. organically grown kiwis have more disease-fighting polyphenols than their conventionally grown counterparts), others actually suffer a decreased amount, e.g. organic tomatoes may have less antioxidants. Thus, the jury is still out on that one.
•Organic packaged food is not better for the consumer—this is true in case of any processed, packaged food, be it organic or conventional. Usually processed food items are full of trans fats (to prolong their shelf life) and sugar, which is metabolized exactly the same way, regardless of its origins. Unfortunately, some companies use “organic” as a marketing device packing their products with organic high fructose corn syrup, which clogs the arteries the same way conventional HFCS does. And believe or not, HFCS made form organic corn falls under the FDA’s guidelines for organic!
•Organic produce taste better—again quite difficult to judge since so much depends on when the fruit or vegetable was picked. If it was picked in the height of the season after it had a chance to grow and ripen in the sun, then it will definitely taste good (whether organic or not). If, however, it was picked before it ripened and then traveled for miles to find its way to the supermarket, the taste may have a lot to be desired, even if we’re talking about organic products. Here, again, the best way to go seems to be finding a farmer’s market and purchasing your produce locally.