Tackling the GMO Problem: Part 2, The Organic Push


Clarification: It is not the fault of scientists (Or even many journalist, since it’s really a systemic problem) that science in sensationalized in the news. It’s a byproduct of how news is distributed and produced, or the idea that news has to be flashy or no one will read/watch it.

Last time I tried to validate and begin to disperse the fears people might have about GMO foods. This time I will address some very problematic myths surrounding organic food as well as some of the good.

Now, organic foods are pretty nifty sounding, and when I first heard about them I didn’t have any issue with them. I thought what many pro-organic consumers out there think: that organic food uses little to no pesticide and herbicides, and that they have higher nutritional content. However, to my great displeasure I came to learn that this is not true.

Organic food can be grown using pesticides and fertilizer, and has no significant difference in nutritional content compared to non-organic foods. Though the specifics surrounding pesticide and fertilizer use is highly dependent on the area that you live in.

That’s right, organic foods have pesticides used on them and are fertilized, they are irradiated just like conventional crops. I pulled this off of the Canadian Organic Growers website, so you’ll have to check your local standards for what is and isn’t allowed, but don’t worry about irradiation: it just kills bugs and bacteria in the food, it doesn’t leave anything radioactive in the food. There is some indication that organic food now contain a percentage of GMO crop genes, though there is no research on the topic, so take this with a grain of salt.

I will now send you off once again to Healthcare Triage, who did another excellent video, this one on organic foods where they get into the data. I’d suggest watching this video, since they do an awesome job looking at the research while also staying easy to follow and listen to. Plus it saves me the trouble of having to write all the same stuff here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl5GXArC134

Welcome back. So I hope that video convinces you that there is no significant difference between the health benefits of organic foods. If you want good healthy food, grow your own or find someone nearby who does and buy some from them. A home grown tomato or carrot is immensely better tasting than something you by at the store, so it will be much easier to convince yourself to eat healthier. Though nutrient levels probably still don’t differ much.

Now there is another problem with organic foods and it’s this: they are just not sustainable or expandable to a massive scale. We need modern fertilizers and pesticides to get the yields we need to feed the billions of mouths that live today, and are yet to be born. Most organic foods use manure as fertilizer, but there just isn’t any way to produce enough from animals (since animals take crops to raise in the first place) to meet that kind of demand. Further more, many organic crops need to use more pesticides that conventional crops because they have not been modified to produce their own, and because some places limit the use of modern pesticides and force the farmers to use old technology. In Canada, for example, some synthetic pesticides are allowed while others are not.

According to one review (a scientific review is a research paper which looks at a large number of other research papers in order to draw a more conclusive conclusion), organics produce 80% of the yield of conventional crops, though the particular crop and field can vary from as much as 59% yield to 101% of a comparable conventional crop. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X1100182X

From this meta-data, it looks like organic yields are a great deal less certain than conventional yields, some times far exceeding conventional yields and others having yields lower than 50% of that brought by conventional techniques.

To end on a positive note, there are some notable positives to organic farming, though they are not limited to organic farming, just more prevalent within organic farming. Organic farmers are more likely to avoid monoculture (growing only one type of crop per field), and they are more likely to practice no till growing (not tilling the soil all the time causing soil erosion and soil compactions and nutrient lost). By using mulch and other soil covers they can reduce moister lost and reduce the need for irrigation.

All the above methods can and should be integrated at some level into the conventional farming methods, and, if anything good should be said about organic farming, it is that they have allowed for experimentation into better farming techniques, which is desperately needed in much of the world as resources are stretched further out among more people. Further more, many local farmers in your area are probably practicing sustainable farming while still falling under conventional farming methods.

My take always from looking at organics is, if you want better food go fresh food first, not organic. If you want to support organics, do it because local organic farmers in your area are pushing for better farming techniques and better treatment of workers, not because they don’t use GMO’s, or because it’s healthier (because it’s not). Get to know the regulation is your area before you make any decisions, and support your local farmers, especially those who are doing good for themselves, the community, and the world at large.

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5 responses to “Tackling the GMO Problem: Part 2, The Organic Push

  • nikeyo

    Not really a comment on the topics or arguments, just a personal thing.

    I don’t get the organic produce, but I do exclusively get the organic processed foods (frozen, packaged, canned, etc). Less preservatives, added crap, and much less slipped in animal products (vegetarian.) More and more articles I read attest to mainstream products slipping in animal broths or other products, and it not being labeled.

    I’ve rarely come across a certified Vegan/Vegetarian product that wasn’t organic. But fruits and veggies, I really don’t give 2 shits about it being organic most of the time.

    My 2 cents.

    Like

    • hessianwithteeth

      I did try to make it clear there are good reasons to pick organics in some cases, but your right I completely neglected to mention vegetarians and vegans. Though I will also say that processed food is not something to be trusted for quality. Sure it’s going to be edible the vast majority of the time like any food, but corporations are very good a slipping in all sorts of thing into the pastes and slurries they use to make the processed foods. Sad thing is, if you going to be certain about your food you have to make it yourself particularly when it comes to vegetarian (and especially vegan), or trust who’s making it, and you just can’t trust corporations to do anything but forward their own goals.

      Excellent point though, I will keep it in mind.

      Withteeth

      Like

  • aetherhouse

    Thank you for this. My boyfriend and I are both scientists (and he’s a biologist in particular) and we roll our eyes at the GMO thing all the time.

    On top of this, companies can actually lie about their products being organic, because the net profit they make is more than the FDA’s fine for false advertising….or they just slip under the radar for awhile until they get caught. I think buying local food from a farmer’s market is usually the best way to go. Maybe your local farmers don’t raise their veggies completely “organically” but at least you know they’re fresh and you’re supporting the local economy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hessianwithteeth

      Yep, agreed, I’d have said more, but I couldn’t find much on it, so it would have been dishonest. It really is the best bet to go fresh vs anything else. That way your eating what you buy, plus if your have a pantry or cellar, fresh veggies last a lot longer than store bought.

      Withteeth

      Like

  • johnspenn

    “By using mulch and other soil covers they can reduce moister lost and reduce the need for irrigation.”

    Should read “moisture” 🙂

    Sorry it’s the grammar nazi in me.

    Great article and informative. Thank you for doing the footwork!

    Like

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