Is The Organic Premise Right In The First Place?:
So, lots of people believe in food that’s uncomplicated and grown in ways similar to those of 100 years ago as the best path to good nutrition.
And recently, Organic seems to have taken that place at the grocery store for people who don’t hit up the farmers’ markets.
Many people even think that Organic means No Pesticides at-all and that it’s more natural, less dangerous to you and the environment, and ultimately healthier.
But is any of that true? -In this video, ASAPScience decides to find out…
No Pesticides? -Or Just Different Ones?:
So strangely enough, although people seem to think organic means No Pesticides, that’s not really true.
The fruit & veg are not artisanally-grown 1-by-1 by someone who looks like they’ve just migrated cross-country from The Dust Bowl.
Organic just means that they get to use Different pesticides. -Just not the ones that conventional farmers use.
There are actually several chemicals allowed for this use.
Though ASAP says the number is 20 for the US, others speculate that for the world that number is much higher.
Some of these come from natural sources like plants, but many others do not.
And surprisingly, some studies have shown that organic pesticides pose a more serious risk to health and environment than the man-made ones.
This might also be due to a lack of innovation based on restrictions.
-And as with supplements, just because something is “Natural”, doesn’t necessarily mean Safer.
So What Even Qualifies Food As Organic? Surprise!:
Not all foods with the name “Organic” on them are 100% so.
-Just like the discrepancy with the label “Natural” for beef, which is only as good as the producer’s word behind it.
-Or a car that can be -Assembled- in America, but Composed of mostly foreign-parts.
If the label says only “Organic”, the food only has to be made of 95% organic ingredients.
The next level down, called “Made with organic ingredients” means the product has a likely maximum of only 70% organic content.
Still further afield, we get to “Containing organic ingredients”, which means a maximum of about 50%.
*Only when a label says verbatim: “100% Organic”, does it actually mean only organic ingredients and nothing else.
Unintended Environmental Consequences:
As far as Productivity, one meta-analysis from 2012 found organic farming practices yield about 25% less than conventional ones.
On one side of that average, organic vegetables yield about 33% less.
As a result, this may require either more farmland on the environmental-side, or higher-prices on the consumer-side to account for the shortfall.
Usually as in all things, the costs are passed-down to the consumer as much as possible.
On another extreme, organic Legume yields for things like peanuts are only 5% lower as the fertilizers seem to work better in that setting.
BUT: Two procedures from 100 years ago of crop-rotation, & synergistic adjacent-plantings can often take up the slack for this lack of productivity, though.
-That-is, if the farmers have the time & energy to do it, instead of planting 1 giant field of only 1 thing, as big conventional farms do.
The Big One: Is Organic Food Really Healthier For You?:
In 2012, Stanford researchers looked at over 200 studies in a large meta-analysis.
And they concluded that organic food is Not more nutritious than regular food of the same type.
However, the Achilles-heel in this analysis (any any one on diet) is that few people eat 100% organic and most mix their food sources.
In-fact, the New York Times found at least one argument to counter Stanford’s claims.
Other studies have shown different results.
Some adults on (hopefully 100%) organic diets have shown higher levels of beta-carotene, polyphenols, vitamins C & vitamin E, Lower bad cholesterol, higher antioxidant-levels, improved immune-function from traces of soil on the food, and other benefits.
So far though, the differences are said to be so small they’re clinically-insignificant.
Pesticides Are Pesticides. You Pick Your Poison & You Take Your Chances:
Some children eating organic have lower levels of organo-phosphate pesticide-residues in their urine.
And though these are more easily processed by humans as large as children, they are not so with babies or developing fetuses.
Any citation of the dosage required for a correlation with harm seems wildly-misguided when mentioned in the same breath as Children.
In an earlier study, the minimum cognitive-deficit, as measured ONLY by IQ scores, to babies who were fed foods cultivated with organo-phosphates was 7 points lower.
Also A Few More Pesticide Notes:
1) Organic means no Roundup pesticide, which is increasingly looking like a carcinogen to California regulators.
2) Due to restrictions that may impact innovation, the pesticides on organic produce may actually be Harder to rinse-off than the regular stuff; -if they aren’t already absorbed into the flesh through the roots. So you may be eating more of them
3) There are several organic pesticides that are nasty chemicals by themselves, even if you do ignore the tantrums of crazy crackpots.
Just one type of this pesticide could increase the incidence of Alzheimer’s, according to the warnings on dietary Copper by Dr. Neal Barnard.
4) Some organic pesticides do in-fact Kill Bees, which are a gigantic unpaid agricultural workforce that fertilize basically all of the plants, and without them: No Food.
Bad Nutrition Is Still Bad Nutrition:
Though few people actually think like this, it’s still important to remember a food-source label doesn’t give you license to eat garbage & not get fat.
The organic label is not Calorie-Magic!
A bag of chips is still just a bunch of fried fast-carbs that add to nothing but your waistline.
Non-Chemical Food Safety. More Surprising Risks!:
Another surprising point is that organic food typically has a higher risk of being dangerous from a food-safety standpoint.
For example in 2015, they occupied only 1% of total agricultural acreage, their recall-rate was Seven-Times that amount.
-And that’s as a percentage of all food consumed!
Though there is some debate about their total recall-rate relative to standard produce, with the possibility of special-interests conducting smear-campaigns disguised as Science.
In one recall example, several CLIF bar-varieties were recalled from stores due to organic sunflower seeds possibly-contaminated with Listeria,
The Killer-Bacteria Is Organic, Too:
Which is a deadly bacteria that kills thousands of people each year and has a fatality-rate of 20%+.
Another study found traces of the bacteria E. Coli in 10% of all organic produce, compared to only 2% in the conventional stuff.
Anyone who ate at Chipotle in 2015 can probably attest to the potential risks of an allegedly-clean food.
And though this is likely due to the different types of fertilizers, it’s still a bit odd that the pesticides, germicides, and processing methods organic farmers do use, appear to be less effective than the conventional sort.
Perhaps Not A One-Stop Shop, After-All:
So despite the near-impossibility of perfect nutritional-studies, there is the possibility that eating organic food Can be better for you.
-It’s certainly better for pregnant-mothers, developing-fetuses, babies & very-small children.
There is an even-greater chance it’s more nutritious if you eat Seasonally & get the freshest stuff you can find. (which is another nod to the good old Farmers’ Market)
It might even be better on the environment in some cases, depending on which pesticides are used. (hopefully not copper-sulfate, methyl-bromide, Boron, Rotenone, or other nasties)
Broad-Generalities Might Be Unhelpful:
But a broad-brush treatment of everything currently-allowed under the “Organic” umbrella might not be the whole answer.
Production methods will always vary greatly between producers of every type from farmers’ markets right up to factory farms.
Maybe it would be best if someone could come up with a hybrid that is not-strictly-organic, not-strictly-conventional that just turns out to be the absolute Best Practices of both for everyone’s nutritional-safety.
No single method has to be the source of all evil, and each has their own drawbacks between something like the old Project-Tradeoff of: Speed, Quality & Cost (pick two).
Be Realistic & Wary Of Absolute Certainty, We’re All Still Learning:
Anyone who tells you they’re 100% sure that one extreme is definitively-better than the other is probably ignoring science, because the difference between the 2 methods is just not perfectly clear-cut.
-Regardless of vehement anecdotal-evidence from your crunchy-hippie pals.
And with new product-lines like Trader Joe’s Low-Pesticide vegetables, maybe 1 producer really is out there looking for that 3rd option, after-all.
But regardless of pesticide-quibbles and nutrient-density wonkishness,
Your total health picture comes down to something greater:
A Combination of Diet, Exercise, Lifestyle, Heredity, and Epigenetics. -Especially if you reconsider Dr. Barnard’s study on Alzheimer’s genes.
So get out there & make the best possible choices you can with the info we have right now.
As a doctor friend said about his 1st year med-school professor’s opening speech,
“Half of what we’re going to teach you is wrong. It’s just that right now, we don’t know which half.”
Check out the rest of the details at the Links:
Video, by ASAPScience
Photo “Cherries”, by Vivian Lynch
• Source: ASAPScience-Is Organic Worse For You?
• More Coverage: HT-Stanford Says Organic No Better | HT-EWG’s Most Dangerous Produce List | Find A Farmers’ Market Near You At LocalHarvest.org