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Organic foods - Hoax or are there true benefits?

Discussion in 'Society and Culture' started by Biker, Mar 18, 2010.

  1. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    There seems to be a large misconception regarding organic foods and whether or not they truly are benefitial. In the past, there were no standards set on labeling food items as organic, and it was pretty much a crap shoot on whether the item you were purchasing was truly organic or not.

    To be truly, 100% USDA approved organic, the grower has to follow a strict guideline in order to label it as such. This means the food was produced without antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, irradiation or bioengineering. Organic farmers must also follow a specific set of methods in soil and water conservation as well as humane treatment of animals.

    Now... Does 100% organic mean it's healthier? Who knows? One would think that since you aren't ingesting antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides, that you would indeed be eating healthier.

    The Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations are the governing rules for enforcing organic farming and labeling.

    In order to be able to display the USDA seal, you have to ensure the following:

    • “100% organic” - single ingredient such as a fruit, vegetable, meat, milk and cheese (excludes water and salt).
    • “Organic” - multiple ingredient foods which are 95 to 100% organic.
    • “Made with organic ingredients” - 70% of the ingredients are organic. Can appear on the front of package, naming the specific ingredients.
    • “Contains organic ingredients” - contains less than 70% organic ingredients.

    It's all in the labeling. Make sure you look for the USDA seal. If it's there, chances are the operation is inspected and is following the USDA guidelines and requriements for organic labeling. Without the USDA seal, it's a crap shoot.
  2. cmhbob

    cmhbob Did...did I do that? Staff Member

    My question is how they define "bioengineering." Are hybrid plants considered to be bioengineered?
  3. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    And where is the consideration for transportation? Organic produce that's been transported 1,000 miles and was picked a week ago has lost a lot of nutrients.
  4. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Depends on how the hybrid was created.

    And what does transportation have to do with whether something is organic or not?
  5. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    Why, nothing at all, but that's not the subject of this thread. The subject is "are organic foods better"? So, transportation has a lot to do with it.
  6. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    It is? I could have sworn I typed "are there true benefits".

    Transportation would apply to any produce, so it's a non-issue as it applies to everything that's shipped "fresh".
  7. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    But isn't the gist of your argument is in the mislabeling? Pollan's second book, "In Defense of Food" covers this topic.

    I remember his one liner that begins the book, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

    Food is emphasis but read his intro to the book: http://www.michaelpollan.com/in_defense_excerpt.pdf
  8. tke711

    tke711 Oink Oink Staff Member

    While we do consume our share of "organic" items, I really think the whole industry of "organic" is much more about marketing than it is nutrition.

    What we really need to do is eat less processed food (organic or otherwise) and go back to eating real food. This means making your own scalloped potatoes instead of getting them in box, making your own spaghetti sauce instead of buying it in a jar, etc.
  9. Biker

    Biker Administrator Staff Member

    Not only the labeling, but also the requirements that organic farmers MUST follow in order to use the USDA seal for "organic".
  10. Greg

    Greg Full Member

    If all that stuff is bad for you then why does the gummint let them use that? And if it's not bad for you then why would organic be better?

    What it really boils down to is "if you don't pay us extra money we're going to poison you." Except nobody knows if the poison is really poison, or there is no common agreement. Meanwhile if you want to be sure then you have to pay the extra charge to get the stuff they claim isn't poisoned.
  11. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Exactly what Pollan states.
  12. Greg

    Greg Full Member

    It's an interesting comment: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. To that I'd add "Exercise."

    I've been wondering how closely we should aspire to eat the sort of diet we evolved eating. A healthier version of course, but more or less the same sort of diet of meat, fish, vegetables, fruit... I've been thinking lately that our diet varied throughout the year. Should we try to do the same? For example, fruits and vegetables were plentiful through summer and fall, but during winter the fruits are not fruiting and most of the vegetables are not plentiful either. It must have been necessary to eat more meat and other animal foods (grubs etc.). It seems natural that our diet shifted from fruits and vegetables during warm months and meat and fish during cold months. Is there any advantage to that in terms of our physiology or is it simply that we had no other choice?
  13. Steve

    Steve Is that it, then?

    It's not a non-issue. I'll take "non-organic" produce picked this morning, purchased at a roadside stand, over any "organic" food that's been a week in transit. "Organic" does not, in and of itself, confer any true benefits. Food production and consumption isn't that simple.

    "Organic" food (thinking of produce, mainly) costs so much because there are huge losses due to pests, disease, etc. The base cost of planting organic produce is identical, or less, to that of non-organic; it's what happens to the plants once they start growing that makes organic produce so costly (plus some marketing, of course ;))

    Anyway, the real question is: where are the scientific studies that show the use of pesticides, hormones, etc. in food production are harmful to humans?
  14. Copzilla

    Copzilla dangerous animal Staff Member

    There are a few instances where there are measurable benefits to organic food. This is by far the exception, and not the norm. In most instances, with regards to nutrition and toxins, food that is not "organic" is identical or superior to "organic". And food "toxins" pretty much aren't. The harmful pesticides of yester-decade are not used any more.

    What is being sold as "organic" typically is a bill of goods that simply makes people think they're eating better, and so they like to purchase it. Many places that sell the same thing repackaged for more get the business simply because people want to think they're getting something better. With "organic" foods it's the same thing. Many "organic" foods are not really organic by way of federal definition. They're swapped out in transit, in packaging, just to turn higher profits. It's a racket.

    Now I say with a few exceptions, because there are of course instances where "organic" is a preferable product. A fish caught in the wild will not have as high a fat content as farm raised fish, and will taste leaner and better. An "organic" fish has to be wild, if I'm not mistaken. Of course, you could just buy fish that you knew was wild but not marketed as organic; this is what I do, buying red snapper right off the boats for a song, $3.85 lb for filets. But by and large, organic foods are a hoax in my opinion. As the Penn and Teller clip on organic foods indicates, organic food does not taste better for the most part, and there is the placebo effect with people who eat organic food - they think it will taste better, so it does taste better, even when it's the other side of the same banana.
  15. Morg

    Morg The ultra-moderate

    What I want to know is where can I buy inorganic food?
  16. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Bad term, I know, Morg. ;)
  17. Morg

    Morg The ultra-moderate

    Swampy would probably say my species eats inorganic food. :haha:

    That whole term has always bothered me; do people believe if it's not labled organic that it's inorganic?
  18. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    I hope not.
  19. Domh

    Domh Full Member

    Lets work with strictly vegetables for now and leave meat etc. out of the discussion until later.

    An organic vegetable is grown in soil that is tested and guaranteed to not be contaminated with pesticide, fuel, sewage, industrial seepage etc. Organic vegetables are grown from seeds that are tested and guaranteed to not be bio-engineered, that is, genetically modified in a laboratory. Organic vegetables are watered from a source that is tested to be clean and free of toxins and pollutants. I believe that fields that are proven to receive excessive acid-rain are not allowed to be certified organic production areas. Organic vegetables are processed in a manner that ensures they do not come in to contact with toxins, pollutants, fuels etc.

    I am curious why one would think that a vegetable produced in a conventional manner would be identical or even superior, with regard to toxins especially, to an organically grown vegetable. Conventional gardening utilizes very simple natural non-manufactured elements to produce food. Clean earth, clean water and clean seeds. Conventional gardening modifies this simple process to ensure large yields that are not subject to destruction by naturally occurring disease and predation. It seems patently logical that when a natural process as simple as agrarianism is subjected to sewage (know to be harmful to ingest) fuel (known to be harmful to ingest) or manufactured chemicals (many of which are know to be harmful to ingest and all of which are extremely difficult to test and ensure 100% safety for consumption) the product of that process would be food that is less safe to consume and, as studies clearly demonstrate, contain less of those compounds considered critically nutritive for human consumption.

    If a vegetable is grown in an environment where it is exposed to toxic materials, it only stands to reason that it will, when harvested for consumption, contain more trace elements of toxins than a vegetable grown in a non-toxic environment. I think it is illogical to consider that a vegetable grown in a potentially toxic environment could be in any way identical or superior to an organically grown vegetable unless, of course, consuming toxins is to be considered superior to not consuming toxins.

    As regards current pesticide use, first world nations including the USA continue to use and develop compounds that are extremely dangerous. While some of the "harmful agents" of 10 years ago are no longer legal to use in the US they are still used illegally. DDT is only one of a myriad of toxic agents that have not been used on crops in America for a relatively short period. That said, it takes many decades for these chemical compounds to fully leave soil. It is for this reason that organic farms are required to prove that no pesticides have been used on the property for decades.

    Toxic and deadly pesticides are also widely used in nations who ship food to the US market. Enforcement of foreign farms is clearly not a legal option and comprehensive testing of all imported foods to ensure safety is attempted but almost impossible due to the sheer magnitude of the market. If every tomato arriving from Mexico were properly tested for dangerous compounds, the cost of tomatoes would be hundreds of times higher than they are today. The US Federal government does a commendable job of attempting to control and contain the use of dangerous pesticides, herbicides, fungicides etc. but is fighting a losing battle. The use of toxic agents to produce a salable product as quickly as possible, and one that will return maximum profit, is alive and well all over the world including the USA.

    A critical problem in this debate is the consideration of why food is grown. Modern industrial agriculture creates food as a means to produce money. Organic agriculture produces food first as a means to produce a critical element of survival and secondarily as a means to produce money. It is cheaper, faster and easier to farm conventionally. Organic farming is difficult and expensive.

    For thousands of years humans have planted seeds, tended crops, harvested their produce and lived their lives on this planet. The process is tedious and laborious, but simple. Modern science has made attempts to improve upon this process and in a great many ways has succeeded. Unfortunately, modern science has also critically effected agriculture in a manner that, in pursuit not of healthier and safer food but of a healthier economy, has had a deleterious effect on human health and safety.

    Fact: Vegetables grown in potentially or known to be toxic areas can have a higher concentration of toxins than organically grown vegetables and are therefore less safe to consume and less nutritious.

    Fact: Vegetables grown organically contain a superior nutritive content compared to those grown conventionally.

    Limbaugh Fiction: Organic vegetables are a hippie rip-off and are actually nutritionally inferior. There are no dangerous toxins in your food or water. Everything is fine just the way it is because man is constantly improving on nature.

    For an excellent summation of the topic and defense of some of my points read:

    1 person likes this.
  20. Greg

    Greg Full Member

    I take issue with the lofty motivation that you attribute to organic agriculture businesses. They're just playing a different strategy for making money, their version of "quality" at a higher price. They believe they'll make more money following that strategy. If they were altruistic they'd give the food away.

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