Why I Don't Worry About Feeding My Family Organic Food
I grew up the kid of California health-nut parents, especially my dad who could never figure out why two caring hippies like Ben and Jerry could feed people so much butterfat. Now that I'm a parent, I want to feed my kids healthy food too, but these days the question of what is healthy seems so much more complicated. Organic? Natural? Non-GMO? It's not always clear what's best for our kids. For a long time, I thought I had to feed my family organic. After all, isn't organic food less toxic, more nutritious, and better for the planet?
A few years ago I learned that most of what I believed about organic is wrong. For example, I thought organic produce always meant pesticide-free, but it turns out organic farmers use pesticides too. So what's the difference? Well, the pesticides used in organic farming are mostly natural, rather than synthetic, but the law regulating organic food even allows some synthetic pesticides too.
Since these organic pesticides are natural, that must mean they're at least gentler and less toxic, right? Not necessarily. Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's less toxic. There are plenty of natural things that can make you sick, like hemlock and cyanide. Sometimes even squash.
Every year, an organization called the Environmental Working Group puts out a list it calls the "Dirty Dozen," the 12 "dirtiest" or most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables EWG says you should try to buy organic and not conventionally grown. For years, I shopped by the Dirty Dozen list, but then I learned what EWG never tells you: pesticide residues on all of these so-called "dirty" fruits and veggies are well below the "tolerance" levels or the amount of pesticides scientists say can be safely consumed. So, yes, there are pesticide residues on these fruits and vegetables--on practically all commercially grown fruits and vegetables, in fact--but these pesticide residues are in very miniscule amounts that the USDA says aren't going to harm you or your kids.
Well, you might still be thinking, at least organic food is free from glyphosate, that scary, cancer-causing ingredient in Roundup pesticide. It's true that organic farmers don't use Roundup, but I don't think that's a reason to buy organic food either. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the European Union Food Safety Authority both reviewed the evidence on glyphosate and determined it's likely not carcinogenic. Now, it's true that the World Health Organization's cancer research agency or IARC disagrees, calling glyphosate "probably carcinogenic," but keep in mind that same agency has concerns about red meat and hot beverages too.
Still, organic food must be the more environmentally friendly choice, right? Not necessarily. It's true the organic movement was founded on principles of environmentalism and that many organic farming practices today benefit the environment, but unfortunately organic farming still requires more land than conventional farming to produce the same results. In some ways that makes organic farming less sustainable, not more.
But what about antibiotics in conventional meat or milk? I know some parents buy organic meat because they're afraid of feeding their kids meat pumped full of antibiotics, but the truth is, well, that's not true. While misuse of antibiotics is a legitimate concern about our food system (broadly speaking, misuse of and over-reliance on certain antibiotics in agriculture has contributed to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria), it's important to note that the conventionally raised meat on your plate does not actually contain antibiotics. There are strict rules about how antibiotics are administered to animals, and the drugs must clear the animal's system well before the animal is processed. While it's laudable that organic agriculture advocates want to reduce antibiotic use, the downside is some animals suffer without treatment or even end up receiving natural or homeopathic remedies that aren't proven effective.
So maybe what you're really worried about is GMOs (genetically-modified organisms). Well, it's true that by law, organic food can't include genetically modified ingredients, but I don't think there's any reason to avoid GMOs either. The overwhelming scientific evidence suggests GM foods are just as healthy as the non-GM version of these foods. And if you think GM foods are "unnatural" because they were created with scientific tinkering, check out seedless watermelon and ruby red grapefruit. These two bred-by-science crops are welcome in organic agriculture because scientists just happened to use a different method to create these seeds.
Finally, most studies have shown no substantial nutritional difference between organic and conventional foods, so that's not a reason to buy organic either.
Now, I'm not saying I never feed my kids organic food. Sometimes the only option is organic, or the organic option is cheaper or it happens to be fresher that day. In that case, I buy organic, but most of the time I'm more than happy to feed my kids conventional produce, milk, and meat, and I feel great about that decision. I know I don't have to buy organic to make sure my kids are safer or healthier. Organic or conventional -- the important part is just getting your kids to eat those fruits and vegetables in the first place. That's a tough one, I know. My daughter is six now and she still refuses to eat anything green and leafy. Please don't tell my dad.
Shame on you for publishing this article. Your logic is ridiculous and how can you even trust the USDA to get accurate information? "Now, it's true that the World Health Organization's cancer research agency or IARC disagrees, calling glyphosate "probably carcinogenic," but keep in mind that same agency has concerns about red meat and hot beverages too."Read More
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Being an educated consumer is most important. Knowing where your food comes from. I think the best thing we can do is become more self efficient. Growing your own food leaves no question as to how your food was grown and if any pesticides were used. Also, if everything you stated in your article is true, can you answer one question. Why does organic food taste so much better? I bought conventional produce most of my life until my crohns remission ended. I changed my diet and went organic and mostly raw. There were notable differences in taste, color, and quality. I just couldn't afford organic everything. I started growing my own produce so I could still afford organic meat, grains, and some dairy.Read More
Organic might be less polluted in some situations and might have other benefits. But I will point out to something additional why buying organic does not necessarily translate into caring for the environment. I used to work in cosmetics industry and I used to be shocked seeing that exactly the same material from the same supplier in organic quality costs you exactly three times more. Not joking. Then I investigated what makes up the cost. Sure the lower yields and a risk of loosing the w[filtered] crop is factured in. And sure the cost of certification and multiple audits (usually from abroad when you talk about organic farmer based in Africa) is included in the price tag. Now, imagine the cost of travelling, the cost of time dedicated to conducting the audits. The fuel wasted on such trips. Now let's say someone buys the product or the raw material at 3x price. That someone needs to earn this money back. Ok, someone will pay the higher price and that is ok in the market economy. But the people paying the higher price need to earn the money too. Do they earn their money in an environment friendly way? Chain reaction. Organic is a good idea, but I would love it way more if the movement would not bring so many leeches with it who are profiting and ruining the pure idea of eating fresh, clean, safe, sustainable. Why people cannot just do organic without the need of being controlled? That would be ideal. But it's not how it is.Read More
The comments regarding this article show the level of "research" most individuals have done. Reading a few blogs on "organic" food and falling prey to the panic that special interest groups spread doesn't necessarily qualify as being informed. As someone who has been a certified organic grower for over 10 years, I can tell you everything this author stated is the truth. It's easy to verify, simply contact your local extension office or USDA office and ask what the requirements are for 1) being a certified organic grower 2) selling certified organic food products. Then contact the commercial BUYERS and ask what their minimum requirements are before they will buy the product. Yep.....it boils down to what the majority of the market wants and the almighty DOLLAR! Most people will NOT buy food that is misshapen, full of worms, covered in scab and undersized.....you can claim you prefer it but you would be in the minority...the dollar has spoken. Frankly, I would be more concerned about WHERE my food comes from since most imported produce is from China and South America. Both countries still use chemicals that have been banned in the US for over 35 years i.e. DDT, 2-4,D and PCBs to name a few....this is the produce, imported from these countries, you enjoy out of season in the US.Read More
I think I will use my common sense and buy Organic! I know I will not buy parent magazine anymore, if they will print this I do not trust anything they print.Read More
I agree with you! I will never pick up another one of these magazines, Smh! They've just lost my trust too!
How much did Monsanto pay you to print this piece?
You forgot the part about synthetic food dyes not being in organic food stuffs.Read More
As a certified organic farmer, for well over 10 years, regarding w[filtered] organic foods......synthetic pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are used by organic farmers. Please get your facts straight. Once a food is processed it is no longer a certified organic w[filtered] food. Organic farmers do NOT have control (unless they are doing the processing) over the processed after market product, i.e. certified organic oats does not guarantee the loaf of w[filtered] grain oatmeal bread is completely organic nor does it guarantee there aren't some artificial ingredients included. However, that loaf can and most likely will be labeled "organic". Organic farmers sell a w[filtered], certified organic product. And there are many processed "organic" foods on the market that contain artificial food dyes. If the dye content falls below the national standard of measurement it does not have to be included in the label. Labels like "organic", "all natural", "sustainable" on food doesn't really guarantee the quality or content. Anyone can use these labels to sell anything. The only way to guarantee the content and quality is to buy from the source or grow it yourself.
Organic uses pesticides GMOs are safe Everything is made of chemicals. Denying science means you are basing your beliefs on faith-food woo is your JesusRead More
Organic cant use synthetic pesticides. Everything is not made of man made chemicals.
I'm a bit surprised. This article seems like industry propaganda. I also note that there is no mention of hormones when she talkes about meat and animal products. As a parent, I have spent significant time investigating what is best for my children and I buy organic and non-GMO as much as I can. This article and the meager sources she cites do not change my decision. I have seen similar industry type articles trying to discredit EWG and the organic and NonGMO movement. If someone dosent choose organic or can't afford it, that's okay, but don't publish propaganda in your parents magazine.Read More
Additionally, you do realize that the organic industry has its own propaganda machine, right? They have to support their product just like producers of GM crops do. It just so happens that I believe the GM side has much more robust research backing them up. Don't get me wrong, though. Conventional farmers can learn a lot from sustainable husbandry practices.
Out of curiosity, what is your threshold for number of sources? What journal impact factor do they need to have? Should they all be from blogs or from propaganda machines that support the organic industry? Why can't science that is not supported by the organic industry count? Or maybe I'm making too many assumptions, but nothing you've posted here has convinced me into going solely organic. I much prefer having pesticides on my produce that have low LD50s, don't you? I also like having actually data on how much is being used. Organic farmers don't have to submit that info to the government. And please actually address what is mentioned in the article instead of diverting to hormones. At the very least, if you're going to throw out a straw man you should cite some references that support it. Otherwise, you're just as guilty as the article writer for using "meager sources." By the way, they used hyperlinks to cite. I'm sure this comes across as rude, but when I see all of the misinformed comments below it really upsets me. I know you all care about your kids' health, but so do the scientists working on genetically modified plants, animals, and so forth. They have kids, too. End rant.
I think you should re-visit your claims about glyphosate! You are giving some pretty dangerous advice in my opinion.Read More
the author states that sometimes she buys organic if it's cheaper, that shows there is no discrimination whatsoever only whatever is cheaqpest.Read More
No, it shows you live in a country that provides you with the safest, most affordable food supply in the world and options. Lot and lots of options. How spoiled we are. Buy what you want but don't judge and insult others for their choice. I applaud Parents for posting this article.
Most people don't realize that the end result of genetic modification is the same thing that we've been doing with food for generations through cross-breeding. The difference is that GM is more precise, while with cross-breeding you're throwing two things together with desirable traits and crossing your fingers for a good outcome, sometimes using mutagenesis (irradiating seeds) and hoping for a desirable effect; kinda like the difference between surgery with a scalpel vs. a chainsaw. Some of the pesticides used for organic have a much higher toxicity (Rotenone, copper sulfate) than synthetics, though in the final product for both the levels found on the produce is negligible. Conventional farming leaves a smaller carbon footprint, making better use of the land by producing better crop yields, and at times even being more nutritious than organic counterparts. GM foods go through a lengthy approval process, and they must be shown to have at least an equal nutritional value to organic. Enjoyed the article, thanks for speaking out for science :)Read More
Genetic engineering can combine unrelated organisms, something not possible with traditional breeding methods.
GMOs are not just any food. The conventional food we eat has been tested by evolutionary forces for thousands of years and have been consumed for millenniums with out harm to humans. GMOs are cobbled together in a lab from the genes of unrelated organisms and they have not been through evolutionary pressure and they are released to the environment with out any safety testing.
YES to your w[filtered] comment and thank you!