Opinion

What’s the lure of organic?

New study claims organic food isn’t healthier than alternative

September 5, 2012
KEYWORDS organic
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crystal lindell
Crystal Lindell

The problem with organic food is that it doesn’t help you lose weight; it doesn’t support any farmers in South America; and now, it turns out, it isn’t even more nutritious than regular food.

A new study — published in the Annals of Internal Medicine — showed that organic food and non-organic food pretty much have the same levels of nutrients and contaminants, aside from a few exceptions. The risk for contamination with detectable pesticide residues was lower among organic than conventional produce (risk difference, 30% [CI, −37% to −23%]), but differences in risk for exceeding maximum allowed limits were small.

In addition, phosphorus levels were higher in organic food, but the difference was not clinically significant. And, antibiotic resistant bacteria tended to be higher in conventional chicken and pork.

But to sum up: Hey, sorry you just spent $100 more this week on groceries so you could eat organic peaches and organic chocolate. Turns out neither actually provides any more nutrients than the significantly cheaper regular peaches and regular chocolate.

The research is surely not the final word on the subject, but it’s a pretty big ding for “organic” nonetheless.

If everything in this research turns out to be true, the reasons to pay extra money for organic will have basically dwindled to: It’s good for the environment and pesticides might kill me in 70 years.

As someone on a budget, I have to say, I’m not buying it.

I mean, I wish I could shop the Whole Foods produce section every week, but I tried that once and went broke about four days in. Never mind the fact that organic candy bars tend to cost so much that you can’t even get change back from your five-dollar bill.

Now, I’m not saying I won’t pay extra money for food with a mission, it’s just that when I do I expect the price increase to be minimal and the impact to be tangible.

As in: “Yes, I will pay 30 cents more for a low-calorie, sugar-free gum that doesn’t leave an aftertaste.” Or, “Yes, this Fair Trade Chocolate bar is about $1 more than the other one at the register, but at least I know the people farming it are being given a fair wage.” Or even “Hey, this pasta is 80 cents more than the other one, but at least I’m getting all my fiber for the day.”

So I have a hard time saying to myself, “Wow, organic? Awesome. I’ll totally shell out $3 more for this candy bar because I know that the sugar used to make it was grown on soil 500 miles away that might be better off someday because of it.”

Soil. Really? We’re talking dirt. You’d like me to shell out more money so I can save some dirt?

Maybe I’m just too selfish to appreciate the significance, or maybe one day, when I have a child I’ll turn into one of those parents dead set against poisoning my kid’s body with anything that’s ever even seen a pesticide in the distance.

Or maybe, one day, I’ll be randomly wealthy and I’ll decide that the soil down south is more important to me than I once thought.

But as the world still struggles to get its groove back after the economic recession, I have a feeling helping to create good soil conditions on a distant farm somewhere will not be a top priority anytime soon for most people. Now excuse me while I buy 89-cent strawberries and a 79-cent candy bar at Aldi and then use the rest of my money to pay the rent. 

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