Organic vs. Non-organic Foods
There has been a considerable debate in the public arena and in academic realms concerning organic and conventional foods, anchoring on whether one should be embraced at the expense of doing away with the other. This has resulted in studies being conducted to evaluate public opinions on the issue, one of the most recent being the Stanford University study concluded in late 2012. Public opinion tempts to hold conjecture that organic foods are the healthy option, supported by the increased sales ads of organic foods and expansions in organic foods industry. On the other hand, critics have argued that organic foods produced from organic substances contribute to hazardous environmental outcomes, such as contaminations to the environment, which can lead to production of bacteria and toxins that can be immensely dangerous. These conflicting positions of opinions make the debate for either organic or non-organic foods an important one for it presents an important reference point for the public and the policy makers. While both sides of the debate on organic and conventional foods present strong points worth putting into consideration, the discussion presented here paper holds that non-organic foods are desirable considering nutritional factor, environmental concerns, and feasibility among other salient attributes.
The main arguments given for organic foods range from the environmental conservation to nutritional value of organic foods, which include the following: Organic foods help in saving wildlife; they help in maintaining a healthier environment; they do not contain genetically modified ingredients; they are essential in deterrence and mitigation of some allergies and diseases; and they offer higher nutritional value. For the argument of saving wildlife, the proponents of organic foods argue that methods and techniques employed in organic farming do not contain synthetic and toxic chemicals such as those used in commercial food production methods. As such, organic farming techniques are considerate to wildlife because other farming methods that use chemicals can leave traces of these chemicals, which in turn may easily harm any animal life or plant life that come in contact with them.
A healthy environment is a desirable feature of a healthy life and is one of the benefits that organic foods have. In light of the non-harmful procedures used in production of organic foods, the soil structure and content are preserved over time. Consequently, the environment is not thrown out of balance (Harper and Makatouni 10). In essence, a healthy an environment is also a salient feature in the health and wellbeing of both flora and fauna, attributes promoted through organic farming.
Besides promoting a safe and healthy environment for the growth and wellbeing of plants and animals, organic products potentially contain higher nutritional value. The question is; what more should humans, animals and plants desire from foods if not for the nutritional value? Proponents of organic foods posit that organic foods have higher nutritional value as compared to the conventionally produced foods. This originates from an argument that organically farmed crops contain higher vitamin content to the fact that natural practices of farming give allowance for the soil nutrients to build up (Brandt et al 179).
Moreover, when it comes to the ability of the foods to help in prevention of diseases, proponents of organic foods argue that these foods have higher levels of disease-fighting antioxidants and other essential vitamins that help in disease prevention.
One of the major strengths of the above arguments in support of organic products therefore lies in contamination. According to a recent research study conducted by various researchers from Stanford University, organic foods have 30% lower risk of chemical contamination specifically pesticide contamination (Brandt et al 184). However, the same study also established that these foods are not essentially absolutely free of pesticides. Moreover, besides organic foods, other foods were also found to have chemical levels that fell within permissible health or safety limits.
Meanwhile, there is no evidence from research that supports the claim that organic foods have any more health benefits than that derived from other foods. In fact, according to the same study referenced above, there is no significant difference between health benefits derived from organic foods and those derived from other foods.
Besides, the argument for wildlife consideration fails short of providing a strong point for an obvious reason that sprouts from the way the organic farming techniques are carried out and the requirements that come with it. Due to rotational nature of the technique, more land is needed and this means tilling more land and encroaching even into that meant for animals and wildlife in general. This is because the method cannot be used to feed the population of the earth sufficiently hence fails on feasibility grounds.
Another salient weakness of the claims about organic foods relates to their health benefits to human. This claim is flawed because it does not consider the fact that some of the greatest threats to human health comprise natural bacteria and toxins. An example is E. coli, which is found in the organic manure used and easily contaminates spinach and carrots (Winter and Davis 117- 124).
On the other hand, non-organic foods gain the favor of their proponents based on a number of arguments that indicate their advantages and merits. First, non-organic foods are cheaper and can be less expensive hence economically sustainable in these economically challenging times. Since conventional foods can be custom-grown, they can have supplementary nutritional components hence added health benefits to consumers. With proper pest and insect control, conventional foods have lower rates of insect bites hence diseases that can sprout from these pests are reduced. This pest control intermarried with use of fertilizers ensure high yield per acre hence use of less land thereby ensuring that the welfare of wildlife is catered for (Crystal 48-366).
Food production methods that are feasible and sustainable for health and environment are desirable to ensure that the population of the earth is sufficiently fed and the environment is kept in a balanced shape in terms of maintaining the vegetation cover that provides habitat for wildlife. Non-organic techniques ensure increased productivity per equivalent area of land hence less encroachment into wildlife habitat.
Additionally, use of non-organic techniques ensures no natural bacteria such as E. coli in the conventionally produced foods; hence, providing deterrence against diseases that can result from such bacteria. While there is strength in the use of pesticides and chemicals for pest and insect control, these chemicals must be used carefully so that they do not surpass the allowed safety threshold because they can be harmful to the environment and human health when used indiscriminately.
The two sides of argument above have two basic aspects that provide a common ground for both. One of these is that they both consider the environment as an important factor to be considered in food production methods hence both provide claims on being environmentally responsible. Another common ground for the two claims is the consideration for nutrition as a major concept for foods. However, proponents of organic foods argue that nutrients come naturally from the naturally-preserved soil properties. On the other hand, proponents of conventional foods argue that the extra nutrients can be supplemented as desired. So, while nutrition provides a common ground for both claims, the mode of achieving it provides a point divergence for both.
The conflicting positions of opinions on whether organic foods are better than in-organic foods present an important reference point for the public and the policy makers. Based on the evaluation of the proponents of organic and conventional foods in respect to their arguments, strengths and weaknesses of the arguments, it is evident that that both foods have their merits and demerits. It is however through assessment of these merits and demerits that conventional foods evidently outweigh the organic foods in terms of feasibility, sustainability, ability to supplement nutrients and consideration for long-term effects on the environment and wildlife.
Brandt, K., Leifert, C., Sanderson, R. & Seal, C. J. “Agro-ecosystem Management and Nutritional Quality of Plant Foods: The Case of Organic Fruits and Vegetables” Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, 30. 1-2 (2011) : 177-197. Print
Crystal Smith-Spangler et al “Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives?: A Systematic Review.” Annals of Internal Medicine 157, 5 (2012):48-366
Harper, G. C. Makatouni, A. “Consumer perception of organic food production and farm animal welfare”. Emerald 104, (2002)
Winter, C.K., and S. F. Davis.. “Organic Foods.” Journal of Food Science, 71.9 (2006): 117- 124. Print