In my two previous posts I tried to elaborate on what makes conventional food dangerous and why organic food is not perfect. My purpose is not to confuse the reader, but simply to offer enough information on both sides so that we can all make informed decisions about the food we choose to purchase.
We have established that conventional produce is full of deadly pesticides. Unfortunately we also discovered that organic has it’s own set of issues. Most organic companies selling at whole food stores have become too gigantic to still adhere to the same principles established at People’s Park in 1969. They are looking for ways to cheat the system and yet maintain the idyllic image of the hippie family farm. Still while organic has become corrupted over the years, the choices it offers are better than conventional. Even if some of the bigger organic companies use some pesticides, they can’t abuse them the way conventional companies like Monsanto do. Ultimately if stuck between two choices I would choose organic because it has less pesticides or if I get lucky none.
In another study whose findings are based on pesticide residue data collected by the U.S.Departament of Agriculture, organic fruits and vegetables were shown to have one-third as many insecticidal residues as their conventionally grown counterparts. Study data, which covered more than 94,000 food samples from more than 20 crops, showed 73% of conventionally grown foods samples had residues from at least one pesticide, while only 23% of organically grown samples had any residues. More than 90% of USDA’s samples of conventionally grown apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, and celery had residues.
George Mateljan, “The World’s Healthiest Foods”, Page 127
However, I would choose the big organic companies only if my choice had to lie between the two biggest agro-business rivals. If there is a farmer’s market or I can become a part of a food co-op or CSA, I would not think twice about choosing that instead.Their produce is cheaper, more delicious, and healthier even without the organic labeling. Most of the time farmers will invite you to visit their farm if you are interested and share with you the experience of growing the produce.These farmers are our modern day heroes for staying in business and defying the huge companies. They offer us the opportunity to remember what a carrot full of dirt looks like. There are no elegant packaging, no colorful labels or lists of ingredients that include “malodextrin, partially hydrogenated soy bean oil, natural and artificial coloring (including Yellow, Yellow 5, Red 40), mono sodium glutamate”, like the ingredient list on a Dorritos bag. Instead, farmers offer us real food that our bodies happily recognize and digest. With the quality of this produce our immune system is not desperately trying to rid our blood stream of toxic chemicals. In fact our bodies use the the anti-oxidants to fight infections, inflammation, and cancer in the body rather than pesticides we had for dinner.
Still, the ideal scenario is of course to have our own vegetable garden in our back yard or a food forest on our front lawn. It is the only way to get 100% of all the phyto-nutritients and vitamins from the plants. Once you transport produce it’s amazing powers start leeching away.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world where that is a possibility for everyone so we have to make do with other choices.
So is an industrial organic food chain finally a contradiction in terms? It’s hard to escape the conclusion that it is. Of course it is possible to live with contradictions, at least for a time, and sometimes it is necessary or worthwhile. But we ought at least to face up to the cost of our compromises. The inspiration for organic was to find a way to feed ourselves more in keeping with the logic of nature, to build a food system that looked more like an ecosystem that would draw its fertility and energy from the sun. To feed ourselves otherwise was “unsustainable”, a word that’s been so abused we’re apt to forget what it very specifically means: Sooner or later it must collapse. To a remarkable extent, farmers succeeded in creating the new food chain on their farms; trouble began when they encountered the expectations of the supermarket.
Michael Pollan, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”, Page 184
So I choose to shop at small locally owned grocery stores where I know local farmers sell their produce. In the summer time I try to do all my shopping at the farmer’s market. When I don’t have access to local produce from the farmers I opt for the “big organic labels”. Conventional produce is not an option in our family and when you think of the amount of medical bills one ends up paying due to eating so many chemicals and pesticides, the price of organic and local fare ends up being quite a deal.