Organic: Yay or Nay?

Search “Organic food” into google and you’ll find a million articles explaining why you should only eat organic, but you’ll also find another million articles explaining why you shouldn’t. It’s a massive worldwide debate, with no clear answer. Whats the big difference between organic and conventional food? Some believe it’s the effect on your health.


However, most people believe the main difference is the cost; aka, why pay $6 for a bag of organic carrots when standard carrots cost $2?

Being a university student, my eyes tend to fixate on whatever is cheapest, and having ‘time’ to think about what I eat seems impossible. So, lets dig a little deeper into this debate.

First, lets start with the basics…

What is organic food?

Organic does not refer to nutritional value, health effects or sustainability. According to Australian labelling law the word ‘organic’ may be used when “a producer or manufacturer is selling foods that have been grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.” However, there are many loopholes to this definition. In fact, organic farmers CAN use pesticides on their crops to stop them being over run by insects, they just cant be synthetically made.

And yes, people are buying it. In 2014, Organic packaged food sales reached 42 $Billion worldwide and this year sales are expected to scrape in at $49 billion (AUD) in 2018.

A recent study revealed that consumers believe if something is marked as organic that it tastes better; therefore they should buy it.

Why (you may ask) does Organic food cost so much?

 

Perhaps you like the idea of eating ‘Organic’, but you can’t stand the thought of your grocery bill getting any bigger. There are many reasons as to why organic foods have extremely high prices, and it’s not to make a profit. The Organic Farming Research Foundation explained that the high price tag is due to the high costs of growing the food. Instead of using intensive chemicals they use more labour in order to look after their crops. There is also a higher cost to fertilise organic crops, and organic food grows a lot slower than conventional food.

So maybe you’re on the organic bandwagon, or keen to give it a try, or maybe you don’t mind the thought of some harmless pesticides and enjoy saving the money. Sometimes we need a few more facts before we try to force ourselves to eat ‘healthier’.

Lets take a look at what science says shall we…

A 2014 US study revealed that organic fruit had higher levels of antioxidants than conventionally farmed fruit. Do more antioxidants make it worth those few more dollars? Perhaps. However lets keep it local and look at some Australian research before we make our minds up.

Professor Samir Samman, from the School of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Sydney, has concluded that with Australian farming, there is  little evidence to suggest that organic food is nutritionally better than conventional food, especially when analysing fruit and vegetables. The study conducted by Professor Samman looked at the multitudes of research declaring that organic food has more benefits. But by only focusing on high quality scientific research, there are no clear conclusions that organic food is more nutritious and beneficial.  Therefore, it is recommended that consumers stick with commercially grown fruit and vegetables because they are cheaper and, therefore, people can eat more of them.

Actress Zooey Deschanel made headlines earlier this year (from releasing a docu-series called “Your Food’s Roots”all about organic eating. However, it did not make headlines because it was interesting and factual, it made headlines because it was full of errors and misinformation.

She explains that if you cannot afford organic food, you should give up 12 certain vegetables (“The dirty dozen”) that contain the highest amount of pesticides. The Dirty Dozen is a list of twelve items that is released annually by the Environment Working Group (EWG). The group’s methodologies, which haven’t changed in several years, have been widely discredited in the scientific community. Many studies have taken place, but despite claims, scientific research that compares the nutritional value of conventional with organic food remains open-ended about the differences between the two.

So in the end it is ultimately your personal choice. Growing food organically doesn’t affect its taste, or have major effects on your health.  But if you desire to give organic a go, check out this link for some money saving tips on 15 non-organic but pesticide free foods!

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