Organic foods refer to vegetables, fruits, fish, dairy products and meats that are grown naturally or through organic farming, and are not processed or refined. It is one of those food sources that promote ecological balance, biodiversity conservation, and recycling of resources. In terms of chemical composition, it has 17% higher concentrations of polyphenols compared to conventional grown crops, 69% higher content in other nutrients, such as flavonols, phenolic acids and anthocyanins. It also has 69% higher flavanones.
In terms of chemical composition, studies showed that it has higher concentrations of nutrients, lower levels of anti-nutrients, and reduced detectable pesticide residues. Overall, it is not only environment friendly, but also healthy. Despite of all these, some people still question the advantages that organic foods offer. Nothing is perfect, after all. Moreover, certain countries, such as the United States, European Union and Canada, require farmers and producers to obtain certification before they can grow or market their products, which are both good and bad, depending on who you are asking. So anyone who wish to switch to organic food must weigh their advantages and disadvantages before making a decision.
List of Pros of Organic Food
1. Healthier to consume
Proponents may claim that organic foods are more nutritious than the non-organic variety, but scientific studies showed that there is little difference in nutrient content, except for phosphorus and total polyphenols, which are significantly higher. Organic chicken also contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids than its non-organic counterparts. So what makes naturally grown foods healthier? It is the fact that they are organically farmed, free from any pesticides and herbicides that may have harmful effects. This results in a more energetic and stronger body, with a reduced risk of disorders, illness and disease.
The absence of preservatives also enables you to control and keep unnecessary weight off the weighing scale. So even if nutrient and vitamin-content doesn’t have a huge difference, organic foods are healthier overall.
2. Better tasting
Some non-organic foods contain additives that can alter the taste, nutritional value and may even lead to weight gain. All of these are not found on naturally grown food items, which mean taste is better and more natural. Recent studies also showed that organic food has more healthy chemicals and mineral salts that increase nutritional value and quality.
3. Higher level of antioxidants
Organic fruits and vegetables contain 40% more antioxidants according to research. As an element that the body needs to keep the system healthy and free from disease, having more antioxidant is sure to be beneficial. This is because it reduces the risk of heart diseases, stroke and cancer. So, organic foods play a role in preventing terminal and life-threatening diseases, particularly heart problems since they also contain salicylic acid that keeps arteries from hardening.
4. Promotes a healthy family
An article on Cord Blood Test Results showed that a newborn baby’s cord blood contains traces of more than 200 harmful chemicals and 21 pesticides. So it is no wonder that conventional food practices have been closely associated with birth defects, ADHD, autism, childhood leukemia, learning disorders and nervous system disorders in children. Why put yourself and your future children at risk by eating non-organic foods?
5. Safer to eat
The use of chemicals and pesticides has been linked to a wide range of diseases, such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, infertility, cancer of the breast and prostate, Parkinson’s disease, and immune and endocrine disorders. Herbicides and fertilizers, on the other hand, can lead to immune disorders, heart diseases hypertension, cancers and other numerous diseases. So taking all of them out of the equation makes the food you eat a lot safer. Most importantly, it is nothing like genetically engineered foods or meat sources that have been given appetite enhancers and synthetic hormones.
In the United States, organic meat certification help ensure that farm animals meet the U.S. Department of Agriculture organic protocol. This enhances safety, as regulations require that animals are fed with foods that are certified organic and do not contain animal byproducts. No antibiotics or growth hormones must be used on them as well. Also, animal production must not involve genetic engineering or irradiation.
6. Protects the environment
Organic farming uses manure instead of fertilizers, crop rotation in place of single crop, weeding for herbicides, and nitrogen-fixing plants instead of nitrogen fertilizers. Without the chemicals, growing organic foods protect the environment from pollution and contamination of nearby bodies of water. Organic farming also conserve water and soil. And, compared to conventional soils, organic soils contain more micro-organisms that store carbon in the ground, helping maintain global climate. So, when you eat organic foods and support their growth, you are, in a way, doing your share in environmental conservation.
7. Promotes improved animal reproduction
Research showed that animals that feed on organic foods reproduce more compared to their non-organic food-eating counterparts. Apparently, animals also suffer infertility due to a large consumption of food items grown with chemicals, similar to humans. This results in lower levels of reproduction.
8. Supports the local economy
When you buy organic foods, you support local farmers and their organic farms. When the rest of the community does the same thing, there will be more farms and more jobs will be created. These, in turn, support the community’s local economy.
9. It is cheaper
Buying organic food may be expensive initially, but you will save money in the long run. Remember that whole foods prevent major and minor diseases, lowering health care costs because you are unlikely to get sick and be confined in a hospital. Moreover, you won’t miss work and your income will remain intact.
Once your body is accustomed to eating organic food, your taste buds and your body will develop a certain aversion to junk food, which would result in you not investing on them and be able to maintain a good and healthy weight.
Organic foods are also of high quality, which means you get exactly what you paid for. And if you still think it is too expensive for your grocery budget, you can always grow your own organic vegetable garden and then barter with other farmers. You can also try to barter goods or services in exchange for organic food.
List of Cons of Organic Food
1. More expensive
It is true that you will be able to save more money with organic foods because it prevents a lot of diseases that could send you to the hospital where your finances is highly likely to be used up. But when the concern is about the cost of initial purchase, naturally grown foods turn out to be not as cheap as proponents would have you believe. Because organic farmers do not use chemicals or artificial methods to grow crops or livestock, production is much lower. Add to this the extra manual labor, and the costs of organic farming are surely elevated. The only way farmers will make a profit is to sell their products at a higher price.
2. Doesn’t last longer
Because natural foods do not contain preservatives, they have shorter storage life and tend to spoil faster than conventional foods. If you have to buy them more than once or twice a week, you would have to double your grocery budget for food. In the end, you don’t get to save money.
3. Not widely available
It takes twice as long to produce organic crops than the conventional kind. This means organic foods are not always available in stores, and especially because only a few local farms are adapting organic farming. Some communities, however, are luckier than others when it comes to supply of naturally grown foods.
4. Takes a lot of work
Organic farming may have benefits, but before anything can be harvested, farmers have to go through a lot of work and face plenty of challenges. Using manure as fertilizer, for example, is difficult to apply, and even more difficult to control the mineral content. Weeding, on the other hand, is more labor intensive than using herbicides, and when nitrogen-fixing plants are used as part of crop rotation, the area available for growing crops is reduced significantly.
Crop rotation is also one of the techniques that organic farmers use, which is beneficial since it reduces plant disease and minimize damage to soil composition. Unfortunately, this results in lower production and an inefficient method of growing different types of crops.
5. Doesn’t live up to the hype
Organic foods are said to be more nutritious than the conventional kind. Unfortunately, scientific studies don’t back up this particular claim. There may be certain nutrients that show significant difference but only a few, which can be a letdown, considering that proponents of organic foods use high concentration of nutrients for promotion.
In terms of the bacterial contamination, the difference is not statistically significant either. What is even surprising is that the prevalence of E.coli is higher in organic produce than its conventional counterparts, 7% and 6% respectively. Organic crops also have a 5% greater risk of being contaminated. This may have something to do with the use of manure as fertilizer. So clearly, organic foods don’t live up to the hype.
Organic food certainly has many advantages, but it’s not all that perfect. Whether you are a consumer or farmer, it will bring pros and cons to your plate. Organic tomatoes anyone?
What is Organic Farming?
Organic farming is the use of agricultural production systems reliant on green manure, compost, biological pest control, and crop rotation to produce crops, livestock and poultry. Organic centered agricultural production system fosters the cycling of resources to conserve biodiversity and promote ecological balance. The use of green manure, cover crops, animal manure and soil rotation to interrupt the habitation of pests and diseases, improve soil fertility, and maximize the soil’s biological activity are the primary aspects of organic farming.
In other words, organic farming does not allow the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, herbicides, or pesticides. Thus, the objectives of organic farming is agricultural production of fibers, grains, vegetables, flowers, fruits, foods, and animal products such as milk, eggs and meat in the best natural way.
Unlike other agricultural practices, organic farming performs better with regards to water and soil conservation, maintaining ecological balance, and utilization of renewable resources. On the contrary, it also has its drawbacks. Here are the pros and cons of organic farming.
Pros of Organic Farming
High nutrition values
Organic food products contain very high nutritional content because they do not contain modified ingredients compared to the conventional agricultural food products. Another factor that makes them highly nutrition is that they are given time to develop and are provided with the best natural conditions for growth. The vitamin and mineral content of organic food products is always high as the soil life and health offers the most suitable mechanism for crops to access soil nutrients. Plus, healthy foodstuff simply means healthy people and better nourishment for a better living for both people and animals.
Apart from nutrition, the mineral and sugar structures in organic foods are tasty because the crops are given more time to develop and mature. The use of natural and environmentally friendly agricultural production techniques is revealed to be the reason for the better taste in organic food products. It is commonly reported that the taste of organic vegetables and fruits are of higher quality compared to those that are conventionally grown.
Improved human health
Organic produce offers the safest products for human consumption compared to any other available food products. Organic products are high in nutrition content, they contain lower levels of chemicals, and they do not have modified ingredients. Besides, organic standards have set strict regulations to ensure all products that are labeled organic are truly organic in production and processing which ensure that they are free from synthetic chemicals components and genetically modified production technologies. Accordingly, organic products can improve human health by ensuring that the risks to diseases like infertility, cancer, and immunodeficiency are minimized.
Achieving tremendous environmental sustainability mileage is the dream of every nation in the world. This can be partly be achieved by the use of organic farming. Research reveals that organic farming can provide impressive mechanisms for advancing ecological harmony, biodiversity, and biological cycles which are environmentally sustaining. For example, the primary objectives of organic farming are soil management and conservation, promoting nutrient cycle, ecological balance and conserving biodiversity.
On this account, it is evident that organic farming has the best interest of preserving the natural environment. Furthermore, since most organic farming production methods are energy efficient compared to traditional farming, it saves energy. The use of natural methods in place of chemicals also saves the worlds water sources and lands from contamination and pollution.
The demand against the supply of food has always been disproportionate due to the effects of climate change and poor farming practices that cause poor crop produce. Various people around the globe are facing starvation and lack enough food supply as there is a general shortage of safe and nutritious food to satisfy food preferences and dietary needs for a healthy and active life.
This means that many people risk suffering the consequences of food insecurity. In the pillars of food security, a recent study in Science-Digest stressed that promotion of organic farming can intensify yield production particularly in poor countries where inputs for conventional agriculture are highly expensive, thus contributing to increased food security. This is attributed to the fact that organically grown plants are more durable, have higher resistance to pest and diseases, and are equally drought tolerant.
Organic products are poison-free
Organic farming does not use any kind of dangerous chemicals to keep away pests and diseases. All the practices are natural and thus do not harm the consumer. Aspects such as biomagnification is lessened via the practice of organic farming as chemical pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, and artificial growth hormones are all prohibited on an organic farm. Therefore, organic food products are free of contamination with health harming chemical substances.
Lower input costs
Organic farming does not involve the use of expensive agrochemicals as they are highly forbidden. Organic crops also have better resistance to pest and diseases. When these components are combined together, they considerably save farmers on the costs of using expensive fungicides, pesticides, and insecticides. Fertilizers are created by green manuring or composting and yields are increased by the use of crop rotation, cover cropping and soil rotation. These practices typically lower the costs of crop and animal production unlike the case in conventional agricultural production techniques.
Better soil conservation and management
Organic farming highly relies on nourishing the soil naturally by the use of compost, natural powders and green manure. Crop rotation, intercropping and minimal tillage is also used to improve soil fertility, structure, and water holding capacity in organic farming. As a result, it helps to support the soil microbial activities that transform and release soil nutrients and conserves the soil in the long-term by cushioning against soil degradation.
Cons of Organic Farming
Diminished productivity in the long-term
The contemporary world agricultural production goal is superior productivity. While organic farming promises improved and healthier produce, it is only beneficial in the short term as the massive inputs such as machinery and chemicals are out of the picture. By contrast, over the long-term, the productivity advantages diminish. As the soil health and fertility declines over time in organic farming, so does the yields and this happens when the soil reaches the point where it can no longer convert the existing humus into soil fertility.
As a result, productivity starts to diminish and farmers resort to boost it by adding chemical inputs. It takes time for the soil to regenerate and restore after a growing season in organic farming. Hence, when the soil is utilized over the longer time frame then it cannot produce enough produce that can support the survival needs of the world’s population.
It requires a lot of commitment, patience and uphill struggle to effectively grow crops organically. Organic farming needs a high amount of interaction between a farmer and his/her crops or livestock. Whether it is ensuring the crops are pest and disease free in an organic way or the use of natural methods to control weeds or raising animals in an organic way, the process is highly time consuming.
The farmer has to spend most of the time, day after day, observing and catering for the needs of his/her crops and animals with utmost care in the best natural way. This makes organic farming to be more labor intensive compared to the conventional mechanical or chemical agriculture. Higher yields can be produced industrially as opposed to the sole practice of organic farming owing to its time consuming nature.
More skills are needed to farm organically compared to mechanical and chemical agriculture. This is greatly associated with the fact that the definitive aspect of organic farming maintains the use of natural inputs and close observation of the production process. Organic farmers lack the convenience of using mechanized or chemical techniques to fix every problem that is encountered.
Instead, they have to employ careful observation and superior understanding of the production process so as to realize the most suitable natural farming system that will correct the production problems rather than attaining short-term solutions. On this basis, the bigger concern is the duration it takes to develop the appropriate skills to wholly understand how to build a healthy farm ecosystem while at the same time seeking for valuable and high productivity.
Organic products are extremely expensive
Organic foods are the most expensive agricultural produces in the market. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that organic farming is not fully supported as not so many people realize its great benefits. In the supermarkets, for instance, organic vegetables and fruits cost as much as 20 to 40 percent more than their non-organic equivalent. The consumers pay the price and this is said to be one of the major disadvantages of organically produced food products. The exorbitant prices of organic products are linked with the notion that organic farmers do not yield as much out of their farms as conventional farmers do.
Lacks the flexibility of utilizing GMO advantages
The classic nature of organic farming is the complete avoidance of any sort of genetic modification. Well, despite the fact that this helps to bolster healthy lifestyle, organic growers miss out on significant genetic engineered technologies which can assist crops to better resist pests and diseases or tolerate weeds. Convectional farmers have the flexibility of taking advantage of genetic modification, which is generally lacking in organic farming.
Image credit: stevepb , pineapple
Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.
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