The Common Good

Why We Eat Organic Foods (in Spite of Today's Headlines)

Hey, is this good news, or what?

Give up organic heirloom tomatoes at $4.99/pound!

Stop paying $5.99 up for a gallon of organic milk!

Buy cheaper ground beef than the organic grass-fed stuff at $7.99+/pound!

Slow down, folks. Read the articles, not just the attention-grabbing headlines. What the scientists discovered was basically this: Take two identical, ripe, juicy, fresh peaches, one of which was grown organically and one of which was not. Analyze the nutritional profile of each. You will find that one peach has just about the same vitamins as the other.

OK, and I'll bet they're pretty much the same color, too. And they probably weigh the same. And if dropped from a tall building, they most likely will go splat at about the same time.

Only thing is, that's not the point. Most of us don't buy peaches because of their airborne velocity or their weight or their color — or their vitamin content. We buy them because they taste wonderful and because they're good for us. The good news is, we can get good taste and lots of vitamins whether we buy our peaches at Jewel or at Whole Foods, though the taste is even better if we can get them right off the tree at a fruit stand or a farmers' market.

Still, some of us prefer to buy peaches that were grown organically. This has nothing to do with their vitamin content and not much to do with their taste. It has a lot to do with the fact that they're number 4 of the Dirty Dozen.

Peaches are loaded with pesticides (though not quite as loaded as apples, celery, or bell peppers). Some of us think that neurotoxins, even if they are "almost always under the allowed safety limits," as the NYT puts it, may not be as good for us as vitamins. Some of us suspect that future research may change the allowed safety limits. Call me paranoid, but I'd rather avoid those neurotoxins whenever I can.

A few other reasons to buy food processed according to organic standards:

  • The be-kind-to-animals reason. Animals involved in the production of organic meat, eggs, and dairy products are usually treated more humanely. They are not crowded in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which are the moral equivalent of puppy mills.
  • The good-for-you reason, continued. Just as organically grown plants aren't sprayed with pesticides, organically raised farm animals are not given antibiotics, which increase the prevalence of antibiotic-resistant diseases; or hormones, which may contribute to early puberty and even cancer.
  • The sustainable agriculture
  • reason.Organic fruits, grains, and vegetables tend to be grown in ways that enrich rather than deplete the soil.
  • The clean-up-the-planet reason. Do you have any idea how much pollution is generated by conventional farming methods?
  • The taxpayer revolt reason. CAFOs generate oceans of manure, far more than their soil can absorb. Much of it goes into our waterways. Some pollutes the air. Taxpayers pay billions of dollars to clean up after these farmers — and also to subsidize the corn they feed their confined animals. 
  • The bringing-down-costs-for-everybody reason.  Yes, supermarket food is cheap--but if you add in the tax burden and public health implications, it isn't as cheap as it looks. Sustainably produced food, over the long haul, could be almost as cheap. Once enough people who can afford to eat organically grown food start insisting on it, such food will become more readily available and the prices will come down. This is already happening: CLICK HERE to learn what organic products are available today at Wal-Mart.

And then maybe, just maybe, the Department of Agriculture will stop subsidizing harmful farming practices and teenagers will give up Coke and Pepsi and start eating organic peaches instead.

And organically raised pigs will fly.

LaVonne Neff is an amateur theologian and cook; lover of language and travel; wife, mother, grandmother, godmother, dogmother; perpetual student, constant reader, and Christian contrarian. She blogs at Lively Dust and at The Neff Review.

Photo credit: Organic tomatoes image via Foodpictures/Shutterstock.

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