THIS ARTICLE IS BRINGING UP SOME CRITICAL ISSUES THAT WILL SHAPE THE AVAILABILITY AND AFFORDABILITY OF “HEALTHY FOODS”….ORGANIC VEGETABLES AND FRUITS ARE VERY EXPENSIVE RELATIVE TO MORE COMMERCIAL WHOLE FOODS…THE RESEARCH SHOWS LITTLE ADDITIONAL HEALTH BENEFITS FROM “ORGANIC” FOODS…THE REAL BENEFITS ARE FRESHNESS AND LOCAL PRODUCTION….READ BELOW:
(From a Seed Magazine article) Closer scrutiny of these assumptions, however, reveals little to back them up. As Michael Specter points out in his forthcoming book, Denialism, mercury, lead, and asbestos are “natural” too, as are E. coli and salmonella. In 2009, a salmonella outbreak killed nine people, sickened hundreds, and triggered the largest food recall in US history. Meanwhile, genetically engineered products, despite having been on the market for more than 13 years, haven’t sickened anyone, Specter says.
Nutritionally, there is no clear evidence that organic foods trump conventional ones. In one recent study, researchers funded by Denmark’s International Center for Research in Organic Food Systems compared kale, peas, potatoes, and apples grown organically with those grown according to conventional guidelines. They also fed both organic and conventional produce to rats for two years. “Overall, there was no evident trend towards differences in element content of foodstuffs or diets due to the use of different cultivation systems,” they concluded in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. Neither the veggies, nor the rats nourished on them, turned out to be anything other than ordinary.
As for sizing up ecological footprints, the number of conflicting studies is dizzying, but organic farming tends to earn a slight edge over chemical-intensive conventional practices, primarily because it uses fewer pesticides and petroleum-based fertilizers. Cornell University ecologist David Pimentel, for example, has shown that crops of organically grown soybeans and corn produced the same yield but used 30 percent less energy than their conventionally grown counterparts. Scientists in Switzerland have found that cumulative energy inputs to organic farming are about half those of conventional farming and use 97 percent fewer pesticides—though yields are also dramatically lower.
Take into account the transit costs of food—“food miles”—however, and those eco-margins quickly evaporate. In 2005, researchers in the UK estimated the “environmental savings” of sourcing foods locally exceeded those of all-organic farming by roughly 2:1. That is, an organic Washington State apple trucked cross-country to a farmer’s market almost assuredly pumps more carbon into the atmosphere than a locally, conventionally grown Fuji purchased at a big-box grocery store.
Organic sources are often conflated with local ones, and with bucolic visions of small-scale farms and startup green businesses. Yet with the demand for natural foods soaring, Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Safeway, Stop & Shop, Kroger, and Publix are now leading the market with their own discount organic food lines. And giant food conglomerates like Kraft, Tyson, Pepsi, and Heinz have eagerly swallowed smaller organic ventures.
Disturbingly, the booming popularity of organics is coming precisely at a time when science must be leveraged to confront the truly Herculean task ahead: By 2050, the world’s population could swell to 9.1 billion from the current 6.8 billion. As incomes rise across parts of the developing world, people are consuming more grain-intensive meat; as a result, food demand is actually outpacing population growth: Experts anticipate that in the next two decades, global food production will need to rise by roughly 50 percent. Meanwhile, shrinking amounts of arable land and extreme weather associated with climate change are poised to make agricultural yields plummet: Multiple studies suggest yields for various staple crops could plunge by 20 to 30 percent by mid-century.
In short, from an ever-smaller parcel of land, amidst hotter and drier conditions, we must somehow eke out nearly twice as much food as today.