Organic: Missing the Point.

Via on Dec 2, 2010

I was stirred by curiosity to answer this question: does being certified organic really get at the heart of what this movement is all about?

What I mean to say is that while it is great that fruits and vegetables are being grown without the use of harmful chemicals, should other factors be included in judging how healthy the produce is?  Let’s think about it this way, does organic make a huge difference if your apples came from the other side of the world?  You may not be getting the chemicals used to grow the fruit but you will be living with the carbon dioxide and emissions that came from the shipping of that fruit to your local supermarket.  So is it worth it?

Animal welfare is another issue that needs to be addressed as there are no standards in the organic definition that say how animals should be treated, they could live in the same crummy conditions that their hormone fed peers live in.

If this organic movement is about living a healthier lifestyle shouldn’t those factors be included too?

Inspired by this New York Times article called “Eating Food That’s Better For You, Organic or Not” we read that:

But they still fall short of the lofty dreams of early organic farmers and consumers who gave the word “organic” its allure — of returning natural nutrients and substance to the soil in the same proportion used by the growing process (there is no requirement that this be done); of raising animals humanely in accordance with nature (animals must be given access to the outdoors, but for how long and under what conditions is not spelled out); and of producing the most nutritious food possible (the evidence is mixed on whether organic food is more nutritious) in the most ecologically conscious way…

The disconnect continues…

The government’s organic program, says Joan Shaffer, a spokeswoman for the Agriculture Department, “is a marketing program that sets standards for what can be certified as organic. Neither the enabling legislation nor the regulations address food safety or nutrition.”

So maybe we need a new word for it, maybe a new definition, all I see is a disconnect between the ideals of the movement and where it stands right now.  That is a problem.

Thank you Discovering Poetry for the featured image.

About Jeff Meyer

Jeff Meyer is a recent graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Philosophy program, an avid reader, and cyclist—both mountain and road. When not reading or writing, he spends his time as a teacher’s aide, a soccer coach, or catching up on his favorite sports team.  You can visit his blog if you want to read more.

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5 Responses to “Organic: Missing the Point.”

  1. CherylCogley says:

    As with all marketing and governmental regulational labeling systems there are pros and cons both for the consumers and the sellers. Mostly it seems it makes it possible for seller to show that they have a safer product available thru regulated standards so the consumers who they marketing to can more easily if not mindlessly purchase these products and feel reassured that they are making better choices. In reality there is almost always more that should be considered (like the distance shipped, animals living environments, the workers who harvested wages, and more). Permaculture, buying local, gmo's, water rights, human workers/harvestors rights and so much more should actually be considered. We must all become more conscientious and take action to become more informed in all aspects in order to facilitate real change.

  2. [...] and why. It is up to you to decide what you ingest, and, first and foremost, I would suggest to eat local, organic, and real food, instead of packaged “food” from China. Also, make sure to read the [...]

  3. Mel says:

    Hi Jeff
    I just want to make the point that Australian organic standards do involve animal welfare issues, their treatment and protection from the elements. Not sure about the rest of the world, but they exist here.
    Cheers Mel

  4. Try going a little deeper… It is not only about nutritional health benefit for humans. You have addressed a couple aspects which shade the argument whether meant or not toward acceptance that GMO if they are grown or raised locally are more acceptable than organic food source raised in unknown conditions far from the consumer. I hope this was not your intent. The only solution which benefits all parts of the system is trying to mindfully secure and encourage the production of organic food sources closer to home and ultimately within one's own community. Acceptance of GMO's and willingness to tolerate the over use of chemical substitutes for what the organism (plant or animal) can be encouraged to develop itself (pest-resistance and increased nutritional value) through selective breeding is not a proper solution. But this requires persistent and mindful care, attention and effort. We have grown too used to short-sighted short-cuts that make a few rich and impoverish and imprison the rest of us.

  5. And for those food sources that cannot be secured within one's own region, standards need to be set high enough (and not get watered down by government agencies or big business interests) so that all parts of the system are protected.

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