I was recently out shopping with one of my friends. I picked up some red grapes and immediately got chastised for my grape choices: “Are you really going to buy those grapes? They’re on the Dirty Dozen list. You should get organic. They don’t have all the toxins.”
I had the chance right there to get into an argument about whether or not I really needed to be buying organic, whether the toxins were actually killing me and whether I wanted to spend the extra dollar or more.
Organic food has officially become more than a shopping preference. It’s now a movement, a part of people’s identity.
It’s almost as if some people's sense of self worth is tied to whether or not the food they eat is organic.
Organic food isn’t cheap. For those of us who care about our health and the health of our bank accounts, knowing whether or not to spend the extra $5 on organic kale can be a pretty big deal in the long run.
These are the questions we keep contemplating, over and over again: Should we buy everything organic? Is organic actually healthier? Are toxins killing us? Does Monsanto pull the puppet strings?
The Downside To GMO/Conventional Farming
I’ll openly admit I’m torn about this topic.
I don’t like the fact that some of our foods are called “biotech” or innovations. I love capitalism, but I don’t like the fact that the giant food manufacturers have engineered Cheetos into the perfect junk food because they have the perfect level of crunchiness, cheesiness and mouth feel.
There are major issues with our current food system, like the subsidizing of certain crops and the growing lack of diversity.
The liberal use of pesticides on conventional crops is becoming more and more of an issue. The same way we’re at risk of developing superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics, we’re also developing super insects that are resistant to insecticides.
This is a major problem, and it’s not getting any better.
I also have a serious issue with animal factory farming and prefer to buy organic meat if for no other reason than the fact it was ethically raised.
I don’t like the idea of my steak never having seen a green pasture like I know the cattle on my grandparents' farm did.
Is Organic Better?
For those who don’t know what organic actually means, it means a food is certified to be free of GMOs, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge and some pesticides.
Once you know that, it automatically sounds like organic is healthier. After all, why the hell would I want my produce to have sewage sludge or pesticides associated with it?
However, that doesn’t mean organic automatically equates to better health. Organic simply means the food is grown or raised differently. And those differences probably won’t make any difference at all to your health.
Many people buy organic because they don’t want to ingest any bad toxins that are going to get them sick or fat.
The truth is, conventional foods aren’t bathed in toxins and those toxins probably aren’t killing us.
Organic Does Not Mean Pesticide-Free.
This is one of the biggest misconceptions about organic food.
Organic produce is still grown with pesticides. The FDA doesn’t approve or review those pesticides, and there aren’t long-term studies done on their potential side effects like the ones done on conventional crop pesticides.
While some GMO crops have far too much pesticide use going on, very little of that pesticide residue makes its way into the food. In fact, the level of pesticides on produce in-store is negligible.
The big issue with pesticide use in conventional crops isn’t the health effects of those pesticides, it’s the fact that those pesticides are harming our biodiversity and creating superbugs.
In fact, some of our conventionally-grown GMO produce has been modified to reduce the use of pesticides. This is a GMO innovation I think we can all get behind.
GMOs Aren’t Natural.
Debating the semantics about what natural means and doesn’t mean is pointless. The fact is, we’ve been eating GMO crops forever.
Another term for GMO could be considered evolution.
It’s nature’s job to genetically modify in order to survive and advance. Maybe you’ve heard of this? Some dude named Darwin is famous for getting it out there.
Some of the most popular fruits and vegetables found at Whole Foods have been genetically modified -- sometimes with our help, sometimes without. These include sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, watermelon, bananas and carrots.
In fact, we started altering the look of some of these years ago because it made them more appetizing, or because we didn’t want to deal with the seeds.
Yes, your organic bananas have been genetically modified to look the way they do.
Organic Foods Can Still Make You Fat.
It blows my mind that some people don’t understand this, but organic calories absolutely matter.
There’s a major misconception that you can eat as much as you want of something and not gain any weight because the food is organic. This is completely untrue.
If you take in too many calories, you will gain weight. It doesn’t matter if those calories come from the organic, grass-fed butter in your bulletproof coffee, or from cookies.
What Should You Do?
Make an informed decision about why you want to eat the way you do.
I understand what modern science has to say about organic versus conventional crops; however, I still prefer to buy organic meat and some other products. I also try to buy local as much as possible.
One of the most important decisions you could make would be to start supporting your local farmers. Support the people who supply produce and meat at your local farmers' market. Invest in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).
Hell, if you’ve got the room, plant a garden. It could be one of the most rewarding things you do and could also help you realize how difficult it really is to grow just a little bit of food.
Don’t buy all organic just because of the packaging, or because you believe it’s going to be infinitely better for you.
If you prefer to buy organic and you can afford it, more power to you. If you can’t afford organic, buying conventional produce is perfectly acceptable.
And, for the love of God, please don’t push the need to buy organic on every single person you talk to. You may feel like you’re an organic crusader fighting the good fight, but everyone else just sees you as annoying as f*ck.
That day in the grocery store, I chose to stick with my conventionally grown, pesticide-soaked red grapes. I decided I’d fight the organic battle later on down the line.
I did buy some grass-fed steak that day, though.