Tuesday, July 19, 2016

If The Food You're Eating Is Too Cheap Then It's Not Organic

A recent item in the news  (NY Times, July 15, p. B6) that has drawn attention is the finding of an analysis by Consumer Reports that the price of organic products has risen 47 percent higher than that of conventional foods. (The CR did note their result was a bit skewed by things like organic meats which cab be a factor two higher than conventional).

This is useful to note given that at the same time "almost every consumer says he or she wants organic - but the recent for no purchase is the price". Which makes about as much sense as wanting one's cake and eating it too. The fact is, because of the rigorous controls and regulations imposed on organic foods the prices are bound to be higher.

In fact, despite the costs consumer demand is accelerating.  As noted in the piece (ibid.):  "Sales of organic products grew 11 percent last year to $43.3 billion or roughly four times the growth in sales of food products over all according to the Organic Trade Association."

There is a good reason for this: more and more Americans are opting to ingest a much lower toxic chemical load - which is typical for conventional products - as well as leave out the GMOs, which as my friend John Phillips observed have been associated with increased risk of Alzheimer's disease. See e.g.  http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2014/03/alzheimers-epidemic-fro-eating-gmo.html

As a person who only recently has begun to eat organic, in order not to add even more toxic chemicals to the ones that may have incepted with my cancer, I'd  like to examine some of these. Before getting into particular regs let me note that the amount of land allocated to organic farmland currently is tiny.  According to the Times piece (ibid.):

"In the most recent government tally, in 2011, organic farmland used for grazing was less than 1 percent of crop land in the United States."

Some of the specific regulations directed at all organic products (ibid.):

-  Organic growers are prohibited from using all synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and instead must rely on practices like crop rotation, cover crops and composted manures to enrich the soil  and prevent insects and weeds.

- Federal regulations also prefer the use of organic seeds which ae hard to come by, while prohibiting the use of any and all genetically engineered seeds, microbes or sewage sludge. (The latter use finally exposed in the book, 'Toxic Sludge Is Good For You')

- Forever after organic growers must file a management plan with their certification agency and keep meticulous records to maintain that certification once it has been achieved.

Organic growers interviewed in the article further pointed out that labor costs can be up to three times what they are for other ordinary crops. This is because weeds must be eliminated by hand rather than just spraying herbicides like Roundup.

The biggest challenge of going organic, according to at least one grower interviewed, was "the three years growers must spend managing land in transition under organic regulations before crops grown there can be designated organic."

The very nature of the stringent rules governing organics as cited, ought to make people realize that if their food is pretty cheap it's not likely organic. This is important because a lot of confusion remains on the differences for example, between natural and organic.   As I noted earlier (Jan. 5 post):

Natural" generally refers to foods that have no preservatives or anti-biotics. Generally, you have to look beyond the wrappers with the healthy leaves and trees on them to the actual contents. If you see a lot of chemical names - which you can't pronounce- then it's not really "natural".

"Organic" (according to the USDA) means producers must keep out most synthetic pesticides and certain fertilizers and that animals used to produce these foods (e.g. chickens) are able to get outdoors year -round and aren't given anti-biotics.  In addition, organic means rigidly non-GMO.

It is clear then that 'natural' foods will always be cheaper than organic because the regulatory obligations are a lot less.  Basically, producers need only meet relatively weak conditions compared to organic, to be called "natural".

If you eat "natural", "that's fine. Just don't believe it will be the panacea to get you to a lower chemical load and fewer health problems in the future.

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