On any day at the supermarket, consumers have the option of buying foods from conventional produce farms that use chemical pesticides and herbicides or organic foods grown on farms that use only natural products to keep pests and weeds away from the produce. Organic foods are clearly more expensive and some consumers wonder if the extra expense is worth it.
While foods not grown using organic techniques definitely will contain residues of one or more types of pesticides, one study done in 2002 revealed that organic produce routinely contain pesticide residue as well, but only one-third as much as conventional produce. Even so, the potential for ingesting pesticides from organic foods still exists so this type of food needs to be washed just like other produce. Unfortunately, no standards exist as to how much pesticide consumption is tolerable.
Another important point that detractors of organic produce make is the finding that up to half of all “natural chemicals” used in food production have been found to be cancer-causing when tested in a laboratory. Chemists debate whether any chemicals put on foods is safe and there are those who doubt that any chemical food residue truly has the ability to cause cancer regardless of whether they are organic or conventionally-grown.
There are those who are actively looking at organic foods and their ability to sustain the population of the earth. Some of these researchers feel that organic agriculture alone is incapable of keeping up with the world’s food demands. In addition, some agriculturists feel that the soil benefits found in organic farming is solely due to good crop rotation and has little to do with the actual organic techniques.
Organic farmers have a greater time keeping their crops free of mold, pests and other diseases, resulting in a lesser quality of produce and in greater crop losses by the end of the growing season. One researcher claimed that growing only organic tomatoes, for example, would consume more than 600 percent more land than tomatoes grown using conventional methods.
Most people believe that organic produce is completely free of pesticides and that no pesticides are used in the growing of organic crops. This is, in fact, not true. Organic farmers aim to use as little pesticides as possible but such chemicals are still used to some extent. In addition, some organic pesticides contain an excess of copper a heavy metal. Copper leaches into the soil, builds up and can cause health problems just like other pesticides.
Other pesticides approved for use in organic farming have some toxicity as well. The pesticide known as sabadilla has been shown to be toxic to honeybees and is being studied as a potentially toxic substance in larger animals and humans.
Interestingly, while organic pesticides must be extensively tested before they are allowed to be used to grow produce, “organic pesticides” do not have the same requirements and may be as toxic as their conventional counterparts.
Organic foods are more expensive to grow and are thus more expensive to purchase than regular foods. This means that organic foods are less available to individuals living at lower income levels. The cost difference for organic foods is approximately ten to forty percent higher in average cost when compared to olrganic foods.
Every family has to make its own decision as to whether or not to go “organic” and buy only organically grown foods. Some experts feel it is worth the extra cost to consumers to buy organic foods, while others question the actual benefit of buying them.