A New Look at Organic Foods

The backstory to this week’s column. . .

Hi – I decided to write about organic foods, and key off yet another piece, this one from TIME magazine, that questions whether there are any benefits to eating “organic.” As usual, when some basic beliefs are questioned, whether man-made/devastating global warming, the value of recycling, or in this case the health benefits of organic foods (and the “harm” of conventionally farmed produce) people take it personally – and I hear from them!

I wanted to write about this issue because the value of organic foods has taken on a spiritual import that’s way outsized to any benefits! If people want to spend more on the stuff, that’s their deal. But slogans like “think locally, act globally, buy organic” quite literally make no sense. There’s just no reason to believe that organic farming – definitions of which vary widely – or widely used “natural” pesticides and fertilizers like manure, are any better for the earth than their man-made counterparts. (We do know that organic farming takes a lot more farmland to produce the same amount conventionally farmed land does – I’m not sure how the environmentalists feel about that.)

Further, I think a lot of times the major producers of organics, I mean the big corporations that are now selling heavily processed organic anything and everything (worthless but more expensive) are really exploiting people’s fears.

The evidence is piling up that organic foods offer no additional health benefits, and that the trace amounts of pesticides etc. from the conventionally farmed (and much cheaper) variety does us no harm. And if eating organic means people “feel” good, so then they decide they’ve done a healthy thing and now they don’t have to do truly healthy but more difficult things like exercise, stop-smoking, or lose weight, then the organics have done some harm.

I guess I just think the whole organic boom is another all-American “easy” fix – that doesn’t fix anything. Thanks for reading!

Betsy Hart and No Organics Here!

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68 thoughts on “A New Look at Organic Foods”

  1. If you don’t mind just one more Bible reference, in an article on environmentalist Dr. David Suzuki’s lecture upon receiving the Roger Tory Peterson Award from Harvard in 2006, it said: “(Suzuki) invoked the biblical stories of Joseph, protecting Egypt from famine by storing excess grain during seven bountiful years, and of Noah building his ark to protect a remnant, at least, of life on Earth from the flood.”

    I.e., God helps those who help themselves. (Yes, I remember that Joseph said to his brothers later that God forced him into Egypt to save his brothers’ lives, but the point was that ignoring nature is hardly about following the Bible’s teachings.)

    You can read the rest here, if you like:

    http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/03.23/01-suzuki.html

  2. Actually, Im not interpreting anything. I speak of the Word of God plainly, as it is. I read from the 1526 William Tyndale translation of the Word. No interpretation is needed, it is plainly understood.

    God told Israel what foods were ok to eat, and what wasn’t. Modern science has backed up the reasoning why God told these people, why they should not eat specific foods, such as pork, and non scaled and finned fish.

    With all the drugs(synthetic) that are prescribed, yet scientists overlook the obvious benefits of using herbs, that heal over time. They just capitalize on the ‘now now now’ mentality of everyone. If it doesn’t work in 15 min, people think it’s a complete failure. The Lord taught patience, and this is sorely lacking in society.

    I take absolutely no drugs(prescription, non prescription) and only use a few type herbs in different forms(no, not pot), that have been known to cure certain diseases.

    Unlike the FDA that made a law stating it’s illegal to say anything other than a drug can cure or prevent a disease. It’s ludicrous, because people have been sued over claims of saying one herb or another can cure a specific disease, and tests have shown that it does, and yet, since the Drug companies are in bed with the FDA, what can you do? Follow the money.

    Besides that side rant of truth, Gods word is plain as day. No interpretation is needed and isn’t warranted.

  3. Robert,
    I give up now that I know from whence you come. There is no reasoning with a fundamentalist or literalist, no mater if they are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Atheist or any other philosophy. The Word of God was not written by Him. It was written by men. And please do not give me the inspired by and with the guiding hand of God response. I have studied the history of the bible extensively. And although I am a believer, I can assure you it initially was passed on by word of mouth long before it was put into writing and the original written documents have been translated into many languages, the Good Book does not contain everything. The bible again contains that which was selected by men. Being mankind as they were and we are, they and we are fallible, whether it be intentional or unintentional.

  4. Jeff:

    The agribusiness lobby in this country is enormous — who do you think is responsible for trying to loosen organic standards? Who do you think is responsible for getting products like high fructose corn syrup classified as “natural”? Who really believes that seeds should be patented or made sterile? Who has fought tooth and nail to prevent truth in labeling so that consumers know what’s in their food? When big money is involved ethics and community responsibility flies out the window. The world would be a better place if local farmers using organic methods fed their local communities. I grew up with seasonal foods – and I don’t ever remember feeling deprived. Who needs strawberries in January or tasteless tomato tennis balls that need to be sprayed to turn red? I grew up canning and freezing so that we could have fruits and veggies in the winter. Massive use of pesticides and petroleum (for transport)is not good for the world environment and it is not good for local economies.

  5. Judy,
    tasteless tomato tennis balls that
    need to be sprayed to turn red?”
    Exactly WHAT do they spray them with? Ethanol? Wait, we want the farmer to grow corn so we can make ethanol? It’s safer, right? Or you could take your greenish tomatoes and put then a bag with a green apple and they will turn red. Ethanol is a NATURAL thing.

  6. Your columns on organics are just simply too vague and full of holes. The first commenter summed them up pretty well.

    Big farma and even organic suppliers have totally watered down the standards of organic farming. You failed to address this issue. For me and most of the people I know, it’s all about keeping chemicals out of one’s body.

    You could’ve just kept your column short and said “just because it’s “organic” doesn’t mean it is. WF and WO helped lower the standards of labeling. Done.

    Schmearing the small, local farms shows who butters your bread. I know exactly where my food grows. It’s less than 2 miles from where I live, and some of it is within a 30′ radius of my suburban house.

    One other thing then I gotta feed my kid some home grown organic meat. You reap what you sow. Well, not you personally because you’re in denial. A simple biological fact about the food chain you’re on: There are more prey than predators. Prey can multiply faster with less energy and resources because they’re smaller. Predators re-populate much slower and in fewer numbers. So when you apply pesticide to any crop you guarantee that the pest you want to eliminate will in fact not be eliminated and you ensure that much more of them will exist in the future. And further, they will develop resistance to your pesticide of choice.

    This man-made created cycle is exploited by the chemical companies. They know this. That’s why they create new chemicals every year that are designed to solve the problem they helped create. Pesticide crops need more and more pesticides, each and every season without fail, or else the crop will not do well.

    These pesticides build up in the soil and deplete them, which brings the big farma manage to a decision point: how to improve the soil? Ah, how about more chemicals? You betcha.

    Usually within 7 years a farm has become artificial and unsustainable mess with nutrient-deficient crops. And that’s where your thoughtless column veers into blithe carelessness. You’re comparing marginally pesticide crops that someone gets away with calling organic just because they can with a heavily pesticide crop that can’t go much lower in terms of nutrients.

    And you call this best for your family. And label organics a myth. And ignore the practical realities of big farma in order to collect a paycheck and drive down the stock price of WF. It’s irresponsible of you. I don’t mean that in a judgemental, harsh way, Just a pure common sense fact; you’re the kind of person my dad warned me about: snake oil marketer.

    When I showed your article to my local farmer, he just smiled, sighed, and said “People eat the food they deserve.”

  7. Peter

    What you’ve written is wonderful and informative. I particularly liked, “People eat the food they deserve.” It is the best comment of any on this blog. That local farmer is a very wise man (or woman).

  8. I am glad that so many people want to talk about the subject about local and organic food. Even though I don’t agree with one word Betsy said, I appreciate the opportunity to express my point of view on her blog. Free speech is a wonderful thing!

  9. The following is a letter I sent to Betsy, which she did not even have the decency to reply to. Clearly, she is only interested in one-way communication.

    Dear Mrs Hart,

    My apologies for contacting you so late. I am responding to a column of
    yours from about two weeks ago, and I’m sure you’ve moved onto other
    things. But I did want to share some thoughts.

    After reading your article on your opinion of organic foods, I did visit
    your website to understand your perspective on this subject. I was
    quite surprised to learn that you and I have some things in common! I,
    too, am a devoted mom (of three!) and a Christian. As a result, I was
    even more perplexed by your article.

    My husband and I are working very hard with our Ministry to get
    Creationism included into the curriculum of our local school district.
    We do not doubt that all of the earth’s bounties and intricacies were
    created by God. But then doesn’t it stand to reason that the next step,
    as Christians, is that we have a duty to care for that Creation? To be
    stewards of His generosity?

    If you don’t agree with the logic there, then it is abundantly explained
    in scripture.

    “Hurt not the earth, neither the seas nor the trees…” [Rev 7:3]

    In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There
    is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond
    number—living things both large and small. . . When you send your
    Spirit, they are created, and you renew the earth. [Psalm 104: 25, 30]

    The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it
    and take care of it. [Genesis 2:15]

    The time has come for … destroying those who destroy the earth.
    [Revelation 11:18]

    Yet, if scripture still doesn’t compel you, then basic facts should. My
    husband is a university researcher and I can tell you there is an
    abundance of quality, peer-reviewed studies on the advantages of organic
    foods to both the individual’s health and to the environment. The
    chemical and agri-business industries are quite strong and influential
    in the U.S. and do an excellent job of clouding the subject.

    Lastly, you must recall, Mrs. Hart, that this so-called debate between
    “organic” and “conventional” farming is a modern phenomenon. For
    thousands of years, farmers already practiced what today would be
    considered “organic.” They rotated crops to protect and nourish soil;
    they grew a variety of crops which severely cuts down on pests; animals
    roamed in the pastures, and their waste nourished the soil and crops.
    It’s really quite simple. It is only in the 20th century that we have
    introduced mass scale mono-species fields, chemical pesticides,
    synthetic chemical fertilizers and genetically modified foods.

    I read some of the comments on your blog and it seems many of your
    followers also disagree with you. Some raised the suspicion that you
    are somehow tied to the chemical industry which, I admit, I considered
    after reading your tome on DDT. Another post suggested you are merely
    intentionally writing on a controversial matter to generate a “buzz” and
    thus enhance your image as an attention-grabber to your editors and
    those publications which carry your syndicated column.

    Whatever the reason, while I understand your opinions are your own, I do
    not appreciate you speaking as a Christian in such a wonton and reckless
    way about God’s creations. While none of us can speak for the Lord, do
    you truly believe that Jesus would have wanted an ostrich gene inserted
    into corn DNA, or to have His creations driven into extinction, and to
    have the earth spoiled for generations?

    I do hope you will find the time to reply to my letter.

    Thank you.

    Janine Perris
    Scottsdale, Arizona

  10. Janine, while I dont agree with your understanding of Rev 7:3(This is the future and the earth will be destroyed by God, which is what the prev. and after verses suggest),,

    I agree that people dont understand that ‘organic’, is the way people have been raising our food supply, since the beginning of time in the garden of eden.
    Yet, the scare mongers that profit from all the chemicals and genetics that are put into the food supply, have grown to an astronomical scale. They have the money to back their claims because, unfortunately, truth can be concealed with enough money.
    Even the new scare about almonds, now no one will be able to get an organic almond, because every bit of them will be irradiated. I bet this is why my local publix supermarket has taken organic almond butter off the shelves, which is sad.
    It wont end until everything organic, becomes chemical and hormone laced.
    Folks, forget the hype and scare tactics, do the research, wake up and realize the conventional food supply is poison, and now they are trying to poison the organic supply too. http://www.organicconsumers.org is a start. Get educated on what your eating for heavens sake.

  11. Betsi,
    A 4-year study was just published in the UK this week about organics. They are better. Here’s a quote from the Times ONline. “THE biggest study into organic food has found that it is more nutritious than ordinary produce and may help to lengthen people’s lives.
    The evidence from the £12m four-year project will end years of debate and is likely to overturn government advice that eating organic food is no more than a lifestyle choice.”
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/health/article2753446.ece
    Have a look!
    Julie

  12. Hello again Betsy,
    I’m back with more evidence that organic food is better for all than non-organic.
    First, being a Christian, the Bible speaks of eating natural whole foods. Therefore, I am surprised that you espouse eating chemical laden produce.
    In addition, if you like the science, yet another study came out recently carried out by Professor Carlo Leifert, at the Tesco Centre for Organic Agriculture at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.
    According to the four-year study, the organic foods contained up to more than 40 percent more antioxidants than non-organic. Leifert said the difference is equivalent to eating an additional serving of fruits and vegetables each day, and could reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. The study also found high levels of minerals such as iron and zinc in organic produce.
    With milk, the advantage increases, with organic milk providing up to 60 percent more antioxidants, as well as more of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

    I’m not sure how anyone can put her/his head in the sand any longer on this issue. I encourage you to study this issue more broadly before you make such brash and unsubstantiated statements on a topic that is not your expertise.
    Thank you.

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  14. Hello Betsy–
    More evidence that organic food is healthier than non-organic.

    Scientists Agree That Organic Farming Delivers Healthier, Richer Soil and Nutritionally Enhanced Food
    BOULDER, Colo. – February 25, 2009 – Six encouraging conclusions on the impacts of organic farming on soil quality and the nutritional content of food were reached by a panel of scientists participating in a February 13, 2009, symposium at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

    The symposium was entitled “Living Soil, Food Quality, and the Future of Food” and was held as part of the largest scientific meeting of the year that spans all disciplines. The AAAS meeting was held this year in Chicago, IL.

    The panel of scientists included Dr. Preston Andrews, Washington State University, Dr. Jerry Glover, The Land Institute, and Dr. Alyson Mitchell, University of California-Davis.

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_17106.cfm

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