Are Organic Products Overrated?
The Question of Going Organic
To buy or not to buy organic products? It is no question that in the last ten years, the consumption of foods and products labelled ‘organic’ has increased a lot. You probably noticed that organic products often cost double or triple what regular items cost. Likely this is also the reason why many people cannot afford to go organic. Even though they may want to.
The ongoing debate centers on the question whether ‘organic’ is really worth the extra money. Or if this is just another ‘fab’ that companies are using to drive sales. People seem very sharply divided over this issue. And there may not be a simple answer that satisfies everyone. How people address their health is up to each person. For a wide variety of reasons, people make different choices.
>> Have a look at the ToxicFree Foundation for helpful guidance
In order to offer some insight into this debate, let’s take a look at several important factors that go into the equation. Then, you can decide what makes sense for you.
What Do All the Labels Mean?
With so many products marketed as natural, non-toxic, toxic-free, organic, and certified organic, it’s hard to know exactly what you are getting. And what you should be spending your money on. Here is a brief run-down on the most common labels.
Overall, products marketed as ‘natural’ can still contain any number of harmful chemicals and toxins. Companies do not have to warn consumers about the health and environmental hazards. Nor the effects of chronic, or long-term exposure to chemical ingredients in household cleaning products for example.
If you buy fruits or vegetables at a grocery store, they do not come with a label of the pesticides the farmer treated them with. You have to rely on what the FDA (or equivalent organization in your country) deems safe amounts of chemical exposure. You can hope that your body can handle the cumulative effects of those chemicals over the span of your life.
There is an official definition for what a natural product is; however, the FDA has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances. There is no organization that actually tests these claims. So, the creator of the product is free to decide when to use the term ‘natural’.
Non-Toxic and ToxicFree
Non-toxic is another very misleading label. All it means is that less than 50% of animal test subjects died after being exposed to it. That is certainly an interesting way to look at it. Especially when considering items labelled ‘non-toxic’ may still have killed the other 49% of animal test subjects.
Toxic-Free is not officially government-certifiable. So, you may be getting a product that still contains harmful chemicals. The ToxicFree Foundation will certify products independently with their label. As the ToxicFree Foundation points out, the FDA does not certify organic or toxic-free personal care, household cleaner, or cosmetic products. Because of that the ToxicFree Foundation has stepped up to maintain a labeling standard.
If you see their toxic-free label, it means the product is completely free from harmful chemicals. Guaranteed. It contains only ingredients that are 100% natural and from the earth. And the product is made sustainably and is safe for the environment.
Organic and Certified Organic Products
Finally, there is organic and then there is certified organic. The difference between those two labels is actually quite drastic. Any product can carry the label ‘organic’ even if it only contains just one ingredient that is natural and unprocessed. That leaves the rest of the ingredients wide open.
The label certified organic requires a much more stringent set of rules. Anyone wanting the certified organic label must create their products through approved methods. It means there is a standard and a way to test and enforce this standard. That is what is lacking in most of the other labeling methods.
Further, there are strict rules for certified organic food:
- It must be grown in safe soil that does not have synthetic pesticides, bio-engineered genes (GMOs), petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers
- Farmers must feed certified organic livestock with organic feed without antibiotics, growth hormones or other animal products
Why Do Organic Products Cost More?
Think about the production methods and the testing and enforcement that goes into organic products. This will give you one clue as to why you are paying so much more for these products. It makes sense when you consider the more expensive feed or fertilizers farmers must use for example. And the money that is spent on having someone come out to inspect their farm or plant to ensure they are following organic standards.
There are several other reasons as well. Going back to nature means respecting the land. Back in the day, farmers rotated crops every season. With so little land today being available for organic farming (compared to conventional farming), rotating crops decreases production and increases wait times. We actually have to wait around for produce to grow, if it is not being pumped full of chemicals that make it grow bigger faster.
There is a lot of demand for organic food and having to wait for supply contributes to the higher prices. Not using those chemicals also makes it more likely for organic produce to fail (no pesticides=bugs, no antibiotics=possibly livestock may get sick). This is another thing to take into account.
Conventional Farming and Organic Products
Finally, conventional farmers who focus on greater production output, receive subsidies from the government. Organic farming remains dreadfully underfunded. If industrial farmers would receive the same funding as organic farmers, food prices would rise sharply even for non-organic food.
On top of that there seems to be some issues within the USDA as to how they allocate the funding they receive. A study conducted by Marcia DeLonge, Liz Carlisle, and Albie Miles discovered that the USDA allocated less than 2% of its 2014 education budget to agroecology grants, or awarded it to universities and other institutions. We should be looking to sustain organic farming practices and support this movement for us and future generations. But, we do not invest much funding in research for that sector. This could, of course, be due to the problem of underfunding the USDA in general.
What Do Organic Products Do for Me?
Let’s take a look at what organic actually does. Labeling practices are confusing and the prices are steep. Consumers need to be informed as to why they should even buy certified organic. And what it will and will not do for them. This has generated huge amounts of debate on either side. There is the issue that not enough research has shown that the nutritional value of organic food is any higher than conventional produce, for example.
The discussion as to what that means and whether it is correct is ongoing and the opinions differ sharply; however, let's assume that the soil in general is depleted and water and air is polluted. And let's agree that we simply cannot achieve the same nutritional value in produce as before. There still remains the issue of cumulative effects of harmful chemicals.
Choosing organic produce, cleaning, and care products will REDUCE the amount of toxins you consume over the course of your life. As far as we know, there is not enough research conducted yet to know exactly how the toxin levels and GMO products will affect us in 30, 40, or 50 years. But we can take an educated guess.
Going organic will not eliminate toxins and environmental exposure entirely, but you will lower the amount of overall toxins in your life. This will lower the cumulative totals over the span of your life. And it could possibly lower your susceptibility to disease.
So, is organic overrated? You may want to think of it this way: it is not possible to eliminate every single toxic item from our lives and our planet, but the organic industry is taking concrete steps in that direction. Is the process perfect? No. Is the labeling and marketing sometimes confusing to the consumer? Yes. Do some companies do a better job than others? Yes. But all those things are true for every industry out there.
If you are concerned about your health and what you are consuming, you may find that going organic is one major way to change a toxic lifestyle. It will take a chunk of chemicals out of your immediate environment. You will also be supporting a more sustainable way of farming and production for future generations. The answer also lies in the fact that if more people support organic practices, farmers can lower their overall production costs and share some of those savings with the consumer.
The bottom line is that we all have one body and live on this one planet and we need to preserve both the best way we are able to.
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