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Negatives of Organic Foods


vancanjay
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The implication of "organic" seems to be that it is more flavorful and more healthful. Is there a long term controlled study to verify that people are indeed healthier consuming organic food rather than the same food from conventional sources? As far as perceived flavor differences - maybe but I'd bet that small production and local sources influence flavor more than the lack of pesticides etc.

Personally I just love to have some cityboy droning on about benefits of organics and then explain the role of manure in the balance of nature.

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I don't find anything negative about the label "organic," as long as it's honest.

My view is probably very close, but I'd word it: "I have a slight preference toward organic, as long as it's not pure hype."

Organic-only snobbery is almost certain to turn me off.

The difference between theory and practice is much smaller in theory than it is in practice.

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My gripe is that while organics can certainly be of a higher quality than regular foods, they are almost certainly guarenteed to be vastly overpriced for the quality increase due to the number of people who buy it for moral reasons. Thus, I rarely ever find organics to be worth the price premium.

PS: I am a guy.

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To me, the only hype word that annoys me more than "organic" is "gourmet".

"Gourmet Olive Oil"

"Organic Toilet Paper"

"Gourmet Chocolate"

"Organic blah-blah-blah"

If given the choice between a conventional and organic foodstuff, I almost always buy the conventional. As someone mentioned, the vast price difference is rarely worth it. And it makes me feel like a poser, like I really care about stuff like that :biggrin:

"It's better to burn out than to fade away"-Neil Young

"I think I hear a dingo eating your baby"-Bart Simpson

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I guess for people who don't believe it makes any difference to try to avoid certain kinds of pesticide residues, there's no up side to organic products. For those who do believe that makes a difference, not all of a product's quality is visible and, arguably, some of it is not a tastable or smellable difference, either.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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The food editor of the houston chronicle did a great piece debunking the organic myths a few years ago, naybe in a new years resolution piece. I can't find that article but would love to see it again.

I'm neither pro nor con organic but it was an interesting piece nonetheless.

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I have no negative associations with it. At all. In fact, I try and choose organic foods whenever possible.

California has some of the strictest labeling laws in the country, so if it says organic and it came from California, it isn't just wink-wink-yeah-we-don't-use-too-many-chemicals.

I'm not too sure whether there are long-term studies that measure the effects of some of the natibiotics and chemicals found in non-organic foods on me. I'm guessing there probably are some, but personally, I think it's just common sense to avoid putting that kind of stuff in your body. I'm not waiting twenty years for a longitutinal study to come out telling me that a chemical causes cancer before I stop eating it.

The most important reason to choose organic for me is because I love this state I live in. I'm a native Californian, have lived here every day of my life, and care very deeply about keeping it the beautiful place that it is today intact for future gererations. To give you one example of what I'm talking about, DDT was once a widely used pesticide. DDT causes thinning of egg shells (I'm not sure what it does to humans, but IIRC-something nasty.) Its use almost wiped out the populations of many of our native birds, because the eggs would get crushed when the mother sat on them. Twenty years or so after it was banned, the brown pelicans started coming back. The first time I saw them, I had to ask someone what they were-I'd lived here all my life and I'd never seen one. Now they are all over the north coast, and they are the most majestic flocks of birds in flight. I can't believe we almost killed them off. There are many, many other examples of what "modern" farming does to the environment-everything you put in the soil runs off into a water source somewhere. Everything you spray in the air affects everything who breathes it.

Yes, organic costs more. It costs more to grow food without wide-scale spraying. Organic fertilizers cost more than chemical ones. All I have to do is think of those brown pelicans and I don't mind supporting the farmerswho want to keep California the beautiful place that it is today. As it is, small farmers can barely compete with big agribusiness; you can't expect them to absorb these costs without pasing them on to you. Farmers will only practice sustainable farming if you and I support it by purchasing their products.

And if you don't care about the envirnoment, well, as a generalization, organic food tastes better. You must care about eating good food or you wouldn't be reading eGullet.

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The cost of eating organic can be prohibitive. Also, organic fruits and veggies don't necessarily taste better.

But my main question about the whole organic thing is this: is there any health benefit to eating "partial" organic? IOW -- if I'm not eating totally organic, and I mean everything, does it make any difference to overall health if I buy, say, organic fruits and vegetables, but I buy conventional grains, meat, fish, poultry, bread that is not made from organic wheat, eggs, etc?

Maintaining an entirely organic diet is major work (and one that I would probably never attempt.) But I've never seen anything that discusses whether or not eating some organic items in one's diet will make a difference at all. Anyone know anything about this? Is it an all or nothing proposition?

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The cost of eating organic can be prohibitive. Also, organic fruits and veggies don't necessarily taste better.

But my main question about the whole organic thing is this: is there any health benefit to eating "partial" organic? IOW -- if I'm not eating totally organic, and I mean everything, does it make any difference to overall health if I buy, say, organic fruits and vegetables, but I buy conventional grains, meat, fish, poultry, bread that is not made from organic wheat, eggs, etc?

Maintaining an entirely organic diet is major work (and one that I would probably never attempt.) But I've never seen anything that discusses whether or not eating some organic items in one's diet will make a difference at all. Anyone know anything about this? Is it an all or nothing proposition?

As far as I know even the health benefits of a completely organic diet have not been established with any reliability.

If anyone has a pointer to some solid evidence one way or the other, I'd be interested to see it?

As for the taste difference, in my experience freshness is a much more important factor for things like eggs, salad vegetables and so on than whether it is organic or not.

Edited by balex (log)
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I have no negative associations with it. At all. In fact, I try and choose organic foods whenever possible.

California has some of the strictest labeling laws in the country, so if it says organic and it came from California, it isn't just wink-wink-yeah-we-don't-use-too-many-chemicals.

...

I think this points to the real issue. If you understand exactly what "organic" means for the produce you're buying, you can make an informed decision. But if the state in which you're purchasing produce doesn't control the use of that term as tightly as California does, you may or may not be getting something healthful.

I think the whole issue goes far beyond the term "organic." Years ago, a hairdresser was putting some henna on my hair, and he was waxing eloquent about how wonderful, natural, and organic it was. "See," he said, "it's totally organic." And with that, he dipped his finger in the bowl of henna and put it in his mouth.

"Horse manure is organic," I replied. "But I'm not gonna eat it."

Poisonous mushrooms that have no pesticide on them are organic, but we shouldn't eat them; ditto with many other things.

Vegetables that have been raised without pesticides and within certain other restrictions may be organic, but if they've been improperly handled along the way, including in your own kitchen, they could be contaminated with e. coli or numerous other things, and they could make you so sick that a little pesticide residue on the non-organic apple you ate yesterday, is the least of your problems.

I've always read that organic produce is not more healthful (other than the absence of certain chemicals, with the jury still being out on the impact that the small amounts of those chemicals may have) than other kinds, and that it may or may not have better flavor. I can't produce a source for that, though.

Overall, I think Planet Earth would be better off if we all did whatever we can to reduce the amount of pesticides being used. But when it comes to an individual's health, there are so many variables in the food we eat, that I think it would be very difficult to make a claim that people who eat organic produce are better off than those tho don't.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that my own negative connotation with the word "organic" is all of the fools who pay elevated prices for organic produce, and believe they're getting something that is far healthier and better than 'regular' produce, and who aren't considering all of the other issues in what that produce does and does not bring to the table, so to speak.

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No negative associations here either. I've known too many organic growers that grew such terrific quality products and cared tremendously about the health of their land and their workers to think, as some do, that the organic label is some kind of ruse.

There's a lot of sentiment here that the public is being hoodwinked into thinking that organic produce tastes better and is healthier (ie has more nutrients), but I don't think this is the case with most people. I used to work at a natural food market that sold mostly organic produce, and people bought these products for four reasons: 1) They objected to consuming pesticides/fungicides which may or may not cause them harm, 2) They were concerned about (well documented) environmental effects of pesticides on wildlife, birds, fish, groundwater, etc, 3) They were concerned about the (again, well documented) effects of pesticides on agricultural workers-it was a social justice issue for many people, and 4) As organic growers were often smaller and local, and people wanted to support family/sustainable farms.

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In my experience, organic fruit and vegetables for the most part do taste quite a bit better than their conventional counterparts. Organic strawberries in my area are noticeably darker and sweeter than the non-organic. I like organically grown tomatoes too.

Funny that I say "conventional counterparts" because not too long ago, organic was conventional.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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I'm with jgm. Just because something is organic doesn't necessarily mean it's good. For the most part, I don't trust organic food over non-organic food. I trust produce sellers that have good produce.

And from the experience I've had with a certain food stand at my local farmer's market, the food might LOOK good but it doesn't necessarily taste good or have a good texture and doesn't necessarily last as long as I would like and sometimes contains a rather large number of bugs. I tried to buy from them for a bit, just to support the local growers, but the quality of the produce did not make up for their obscene prices. If you don't mind these things then I say shell out the extra couple dollars for your produce if it makes you feel better to know they were grown organically. But for me, usually when I see organic I usually see it as an excuse to jack up the prices in one's supermarket or menu.

Believe me, I tied my shoes once, and it was an overrated experience - King Jaffe Joffer, ruler of Zamunda

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Marie-Louise did say it all.

I care a tremendous amount our state, and want the future generations of our family to enjoy our wonderful Cabin and environs in the same pristine state.

And, I love nothing more than supporting our local farmers. That's easier said than done on the produce front in January. I can't swear that the meat in our freezer is organic, but it is from Southern MN, and I know the farmers who raised it.

Further to this, I avoid processed food as much as possible because I don't think my kids need it. I have a child with disabilities (freak of nature genetics) who takes a tremendous amount of neurological medication every day to control seizures, and I just don't think she, or any of the other kids need any more chemicals in them. They need good, clean food.

And, once you've drank that wonderful Cedar Summit Farms organic milk we drink at home, the supermarket stuff just doesn't cut it.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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What makes an egg "organic"? (Is it organic if there are no antibiotics or medications in the chicken feed? If so, I only buy organic eggs, like Born 3 or sometimes Nature-Egg. The egg yolks taste a lot better than your regular supermarket variety.)

I would no doubt choose organic vegetables over regular vegetables if the price were the same. There was an article in the Vancouver Sun a few weeks ago that mentioned that the vegetables we currently consume are not as nutritious as those grown 50 years ago, since producers are most concerned with size and how long the vegetables can stay fresh through shipping. Also, organic vegetables were tested alongside regular vegetables, and organic vegetables were reported to be more nutritious.

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[...]To give you one example of what I'm talking about, DDT was once a widely used pesticide. DDT causes thinning of egg shells (I'm not sure what it does to humans, but IIRC-something nasty.)[...]

I'll address this side issue.

Here's one place you can look for information about DDT, DDE, and DDD. Here are some key points:

People who accidentally swallowed large amounts of DDT became excitable and had tremors and seizures. These effects went away after the exposure stopped.
A study in humans showed that women who had high amounts of a form of DDE in their breast milk were unable to breast feed their babies for as long as women [whose breast milk] had little DDE.[...]Another study[...]showed that women who had high amounts of DDE[...]had an increased chance of having premature babies.
Studies in DDT-exposed workers did not show increases in cancer. Studies in animals given DDT[...]have shown that DDT can cause liver cancer.

The results of other studies on animals are discussed.

What is not mentioned on this page is the number of human lives that were saved by the extermination of anopheles mosquitos. Malaria kills more human beings than any other disease, I believe (with the possible exception of infant diarrheal diseases), and I understand DDT is the only really effective pesticide, or at least the most effective pesticide against them. I'm not a scientist and can't vouch for the accuracy of this article, but here are some points from it:

To control Anopheles mosquitoes, DDT was sprayed on inside walls once or twice a year.[...]There was never any need to wear masks or protective clothing while doing DDT spraying. No adverse effects were ever experienced by the 130,000 spraymen or the 535 million people living in the sprayed houses.
Ross [Dr. Gilbert L. Ross, of the American Council on Science and Health] pointed out that “Extensive scientific studies have not found any harm to humans, even during the massive overuse of DDT in agriculture in the 1950s and 60s.” Furthermore, the scientific reports show that there is no indication of DDT use harming people, birds, bird eggshells, or other vertebrate animals.

Recently, there have been hopeful signs of an effective vaccine having been developed against malaria, though that won't help for a disease like dengue for which there is no effective prophylaxis or treatment.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I am for sustainability in agriculture and cutting out pestides but if I have to choose between organic and local, I choose local.

Ideally, local without pesticides. Organic has become a coopted marketing term. There are plenty of farms that are run as organic agribusinesses -- they just use organic inputs rather than pesticides. That said, I am glad that the terms forbids the use of pesticides.

I think varietal differences probably make more difference to taste than organic vs non organic. For example, non organically raised Earliglow strawberries are much sweeter than the huge organic strawberries you seen everywhere. And freshness makes a huge difference as well. Just picked salad greens from your local farmer are likely to taste much better than 5 day old organic greens trucked into Whole Foods from California.

But organic does not mean best practises in agriculture. Organic milk and beef and eggs may come from cows and chickens that have never tasted grass and only have "access" to open air, but have never chosen to take advantage of their open doors. They eat organic grains but they would be a lot better off eating grass. Organic chickens may never have been outside -- they can be organically raised in a large barn and rushed to maturity. All this is better than conventional chicken raising, but it is not going to provide you with the best flavours..

I was wondering what negative things people may feel when they see "Organic" on a product label or in a restaurant menu?

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No negative connotations for organic for me.

I would like to note that there is now a national organic standard and while it is not as strict as the California standard, at least one can know that the grower met certain criteria. You can read about the national organic standard <a href="http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/Consumers/brochure.html">here.

While I am not sure that eating organically grown foods will make me healthier, smarter and better-dressed, I do want to limit the amounts of man-made chemicals in my system. Maybe the air I breathe is polluted, but I figure eating "conventionally" grown produce with residues of pesticides and herbicides would just be compounding the problem.

Organic foodstuffs are more expensive for a variety of reasons. One is supply vs. demand, one is that most organic farms are smaller and therefore have more overhead, another is that many organic growing principles require more labor, and yet another is the shipping costs. My brothers farm small grains in North Dakota (God bless them) and for several years they were certified organic. It cost them a lot because they had to take the grains farther (the local grain elevator did not process organic grains), and because their yield was lower. However, not by spending $6000 or more a year on chemicals (for a very small farm) they ended up making a little money. In the end, the cost of transport is what made them return to conventional farming methods (although they do keep chemical use to the bare minimum).

Human and animal health issues aside, another thing to consider about conventional farming methods is the soil itself. Copious amounts of anyhdrous ammonia used as a fertilizing agent are making the soils of the Great Plains not so great. It seems that the anhydrous kills beneficial bacteria and other organisms in the soil. Without these buggers moving around to loosen the dirt, it compacts. Soils that have been farmed with anhydrous for many years are nearly hardpan. So, larger quantities of fertilizer are used to compensate for the poor soil quality. This cannot happen indefinitely. Monocropping, one of the standards of current conventional growing practices, also wreaks havoc on the environment.

These and other problems can't be solved by farmers just all going organic. Large scale farming is not suited to organic growing principles. Major changes in thinking about growing methods, plot sizes, and a host of other issues are needed before organic methods can replace conventional ones. I am not sure that we can actually produce enough food at this point using totally organic methods.

I just do what I can to support local growers and eat as much in-season produce as possible. (Luckily I don't live in N.D. anymore because what's in season right now is snow!)

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Are you suggesting we re-introduce DDT?

I'm not suggesting that, but others have, and considering how effective it was against malaria, it's not nearly as much of a slam-dunk to prohibit it as many people think. I have a strong suspicion of all sprayed pesticides, myself, and I'd rather coexist with insects if necessary than die fighting them. Plus, DDT is a very blunt weapon, killing the insects useful to the human race as well as our mortal enemies. But I don't know how comforting any of this discussion would be to someone dying of malaria or dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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