Are you being duped by organic food? Certainly, the vague notion of organic in the minds of consumers—bucolic farms, no “manmade chemicals”—might seem appealing. But in reality, the “organic” label on food is little more than a marketing tool and ultimately has no bearing on food safety, quality, or nutritional value.
If anything, organic practices are holding agriculture back. As pointed out by Henry I. Miller, M.D. in the Wall Street Journal, due to organic agriculture’s lower yields than conventional agriculture (which can use synthetic chemicals or genetic modification to boost crops), organic fruits and vegetables are “wasteful of arable land and water.”
But what about chemicals in our food? The idea spun by organic food advocates is that pesticides are bad—which certainly sounds reasonable at first glance. But what people don’t know is twofold: First, that organic agriculture can use pesticides and second, that “natural”/organic pesticides can be more toxic than synthetic pesticides.
Further hammering the point home, one expert cited by Miller estimates that 99.99% of pesticides in the American diet are (natural) chemicals produced by plants for the purpose of defense. So the hubbub about “synthetic” pesticides should be washed away.
Another surprising revelation is that in a USDA study of more than 500 organic fruit and vegetable samples, 43% had detectable residues of prohibited pesticides. The most commonly encountered residue in organic food is copper sulfate, which the European Union has determined to be possibly cancer-causing.
And as for the health halo around organic food, a 2012 study took data from a whopping 237 studies and found that “organic” products are neither more nutritious than their non-organic counterparts, nor were the products any less likely to contain harmful pathogens.
Consumers want to know more about their food so they can make informed decisions. “Organic” is a sleek marketing label—the products come at a premium cost but are no more healthy or nutritious than their counterparts in the “non-organic” section.