December 2, 2010

Organic: Missing the Point.

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.

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