Fooled by the “Health Halo”: The Truth About Organic Food

organic-foodArnav Srivastava ’19
EE Co-Opinions Editor

As 2016 is speeding by, the trend of supporting and purchasing organic foods is becoming stronger and stronger. However, as many recent studies are starting to show, organic foods may not be as heavenly as we all had assumed.

The organic food business is definitely a booming industry. Numerous stores are stocking their shelves with this “healthier,” “cleaner,” and simply better food as the multi-million-dollar agricultural field is increasing in size by around 10% per year. In fact, with these flattering associations to these products, people are willing to pay 7% – 47% more to purchase organic foods compared to regular food items. The willingness of so many customers paying extra for organic has been dubbed as the “Halo Effect.” In spite of that, this extra cost may be going in vain.

Recent studies have revealed the shocking news that organic foods are not more nutritious compared to the average food one would find in any local food store. Stanford School of Medicine, The School of Agricultural, Forestry, Food and Environmental Sciences, University of Basilicata, Italy, as well as many other food-related scientific studies are telling us the same thing: both types of food are nearly identical in composition and act within our bodies the same way. After careful inspection it has been shown that there are no differences in the protein, fats, vitamins, and other nutrients. It now so happens to be that organic food being lower in calories and superior in nutrition was merely a myth.

Furthermore, it turns out that the environmentally superb aspect of organic food has its flaws too. Organic food brags using less energy and releasing less greenhouse gasses during production of crops. However, this is actually not entirely true, as some products such as organic cereals and milk yield higher levels of greenhouse gases than conventional cereals and milk. Meanwhile, organic food is purchased because it is renowned to be free of the chemical pesticides. Instead, they use “organic” natural pesticides. In spite of this, it was found that these “better” pesticides can damage the environment as much (and even more intensely) than regular pesticides. For example, Cornell University reports common natural pesticide copper-sulfate to be lethal to many fish.

Finally, organic farming has also shown to use 82% – 84% more land than regular farming methods. People are using up a significantly larger portion of land to farm in a method that does not seem to advantageous. With our world’s booming population, we soon may not be able to afford wasting so much land in such a manner, not to mention less food production overall while food is still increasing in demand.

Overall, it is safe to say that organic food is not as great as the reputation it carries. It is not nutritionally better, not environmental friendly, and inefficient compared to the conventional farming system that seems to have supported us for so long. Of course, organic food is not unhealthy or anything of the sort. However, it seems that the organic food “halo effect” may be driving society two steps backward for what seems like a lunge forward. So, what food do you choose?

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