There has been much discussion on the matter of organic products. Although it has become common to treat organic products as “better” ones, the problem is that little thought is put into understanding how exactly organic food is better than non-organic and whether it is worth the money it costs. There is a growing concern that what people call organic might be neither healthier nor more natural than the products not labeled as such. Firstly, chemical pesticides are not the biggest problem in the food industry; secondly, it is often hard to define whether food is really organic or not. This paper provides some details and facts on the topic.
For a start, the term “organic” means that no chemical pesticides, antibiotics, or fertilizers were used in the environment where the product developed. There is a large list of those pesticides that are prohibited under Organic Foods Production Act, which are opposed to organic pesticides. The main problem is that 99.99% pesticides are produced by plants for the sake of their self-protection, which makes only 0.01% of all pesticides non-organic. Besides, organic pesticides might be toxic to humans as well. It turns out that there is little difference between the two in terms of health risks. For example, in 2013, it was found that approximately half of illnesses caused by food came from vegetables, with 20% from leafy greens such as spinach. Examples of the most common bacteria to cause diseases include salmonella and campylobacter. Legally, food safety is not the area of concern of those who maintain the standards of organic goods.
The National Organic Program led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture ensures that the products are organic, meaning that no prohibited substances or practices are used when producing it. There is also the 1999 Organic Foods Production Act which lists all prohibited practices, pesticides, antibiotics, fertilizers, and the like. USDA orders and conducts testings of organic products to see whether they meet the standards or not. Certifying agents that work under the Department are obliged to test 5% of the products annually. Such tests are expensive, which makes the “organic” products costly. Indeed, the market of agricultural goods has increased over 1,000 times in price during 2010-2014. The biggest problem is that, after the products were certified, farmers can shift to non-organic production anytime and market it under the organic label. The whole system is trust-based, and the customer may even not know that he or she consumes non-organic products at the price of organic ones.
To illustrate the point, here are some facts. In 2012, 571 product samples were tested by the USDA. Of this quantity, 43% contained traces of substances that were prohibited by the Organic Foods Production Act. Some products were really organic but came into contact with non-organic pesticides, and the rest of products were simply mislabeled as organic. Moreover, almost 47% certifiers with USDA between 2005 and 2014 failed in their role to provide organic standards.
While there is still discussion going on regarding whether organic food is healthier than non-organic food, it might be the case when people are creating the problem out of nowhere. There are natural products which can cause more harm to the human body than chemicals. On the other hand, it is hard to be sure that certain products are really organic. While budget money is spent on tests and certification, and people’s money is spent on food labeled as organic, there is no guarantee that producers are not using this low frequency of food testing to their advantage. The issue must be studied more thoroughly; until then, “organic food” is mostly just a trend.
- Canavari M, Olson KD. Organic Food: Consumers’ Choices and Farmers’ Opportunities. Springer Science & Business Media, 2007.
- Eves A, Lumbers M, Morgan J. “Factors Influencing the Consumption of Organic Food.” Marketing Trends for Organic Food in the 21st Century. World Scientific, 2004.
- Reed M. Rebels for the Soil: The Rise of the Global Organic Food and Farming Movement. Earthscan, 2010.
- Freyer B, Bingen J. Re-Thinking Organic Food and Farming in a Changing World. Springer, 2014.
- Strom S. “Recalls of Organic Food on the Rise, Reports Say.” New York Times, 20 Aug 2015.
- Roberts JL. Organic Agriculture: Protecting Our Food Supply or Chasing imaginary Risks? Twenty-First Century Books, 2011.
- Langley A. Is Organic Food Better? Heinemann Library, 2009.
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