Is organic food truly “organic,” or is just a label slapped on food in order to hijack the price?
Whether a food is considered organic or not has largely to do with how that food is grown and processed. Supposedly, organic farmers do not use pesticides, antibiotics, or growth hormones. The USDA provides this overview of the practices necessary to get an “organic” badge:
“Organic crops. The USDA organic seal verifies that irradiation, sewage sludge, synthetic fertilizers, prohibited pesticides, and genetically modified organisms were not used.
Organic livestock. The USDA organic seal verifies that producers met animal health and welfare standards, did not use antibiotics or growth hormones, used 100% organic feed, and provided animals with access to the outdoors.
Organic multi-ingredient foods. The USDA organic seal verifies that the product has 95% or more certified organic content. If the label claims that it was made with specified organic ingredients, you can be sure that those specific ingredients are certified organic.”
Eating food whose growth process didn’t include the presence of “sewage sludge” certainly sounds more appealing than the alternative….But according to 2015 research from Mintel, 51% of Generation X sees the label as little more than a big price tag. Just 39% Gen X actually trust that organic-labeled products are actually organic (actually adhering to the regulations and requirements that the USDA presents).
Terminology is another sticking point. Foods that carry the label “100% organic” are foods that really are made up of completely organic parts. These foods are usually singular foods, like an apple, peppers, or other various fruits and vegetables. However, a label that says “organic,” only needs to be made up of 95% organic origin, leaving room for questionable practices.
Even the Mayo Clinic has weighed in, noting in an article on organic foods that “organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content.”
However, nutritious value aside, some researchers are concerned that the growth hormones utilized in raising livestock have adverse effects on human. Livestrong collected reports from several different researchers that found risks for early onset puberty in girls, increased risk of breast cancer, and increased risk of prostate cancer when consuming meats that had been treated with growth hormones.
The debate about the true worth of organic foods can be framed in a multitude of ways: nutritional content, environmental impact, health impacts on humans, animal welfare, and the effects on our bank accounts. Ultimately, we think health experts from Cornell University got it right: they recommend increasing the amount of fruits, veggie, and grains while consuming lean meat and dairy products in moderation.
Happy eating! Let us know if you choose to go organic — or not — and why.