Organic vs. Conventional Foods
Please review my essay for flow. I'm writing about the cost of organic certification vs the impact on effects of organic vs conventional farming on human and animal life as well as the environment.
ENG102 J. Chandler
Brown, Celeste 22 May 2019
Is Organic Farming Worth the Cost?
Whether organic farming and organic food is worth the cost is in hot debate these days. Many believe organic farming and eating organic is worth the cost due to the positive effects on human and animal health while many supporters of conventional farming practices might say that organic food has not been shown to be healthier, and indeed there haven't been significant findings stating this is the case. Mayo Clinic states, "The difference in health outcomes is unclear because of safety regulations for maximum levels of residue allowed on conventional produce" meaning the government allows so much toxic residue to legally be consumed that no studies have had the longevity to decide the long-term health hazards of accumulated toxic pesticides. On the other side of this coin, no studies have had the longevity with conventional pesticides to truly weigh the negative consequences on human consumption.
At the top of the debates are pesticides, cost of certification, and actual impact on the environment. Many rumors and "studies" that would debunk the quality of organic for health and the environment are being proven biased and unsubstantial. Pesticides are neurotoxins designed to kill insects. When those neurotoxins enter our body, even in small amounts, it changes the chemistry dramatically in our body, and affects the way neurons function. These neurotoxins also accumulate in our bodies creating an ever-growing problem. Organic food is less apt to contain large amounts of pesticides and what is present is organic and edible in small amounts. "Overall, the USDA found 225 different pesticides and pesticide breakdown products on popular fruits and vegetables that Americans eat every day." After washing and preparing fruits and veggies as one might normally do, large amounts of pesticides were still found on the products. Eating pesticides however even when deemed okay in certain amounts, isn't healthy for anyone. The FDA deems what amounts of toxic pesticides are legally safe for consumption in human and animal food.
Not only are the American public consuming toxic pesticides in their grocery store bought food, but also in the foods served in restaurants and fast food joints and from the meat we consume that is not fed an organic diet. These micro amounts of toxic chemicals begin to build as our digestive system doesn't know what to do with them. After years of eating non-organic plant and animal based food and processed foods made from non-organic plant and animal food; people have a generous stock pile of neuro-toxins left in their body. The health hazards of having standing amounts of toxins in our systems is yet to be thoroughly studied as GMO's, pesticides, and synthetic (often toxic) chemicals have only been introduced into the food supply since the 1960's (Wright). As of now there are a multitude of biased "research" studies on the internet that are being debunked daily over whether or not organic farming is worth the cost.
Andrew Pisher is an organic farmer and advocate and back in the 1990's worked on his best friends' organic family farm run by the friends' grandfather. This was when news regarding GMO's and toxic pesticides had started becoming public interest. "I had a gut feeling that these things were bad and when I asked the grandfather about them and asked why he didn't use them, he told me that they ruin the land and if you don't keep using them you won't be able to grow food. Many of his friends had lost their farms after starting to use these types of chemicals." (Pisher). This could be due to the increase in toxic metals in the topsoil such as cadmium. Cadmium is a toxic heavy metal attributed to cancers of the prostate, lungs, and testes as well as causing apoptosis (programmed cell death [Oxford Dictionaries]) at the cellular level (Bertin). Heavy metals are some of the most toxic pollutants in the environment and can be poisonous depending on the pH levels, concentrated amounts, and state of oxidation (Morkunas). While many metals are safe for consumption and are in fact necessary for optimal health, other heavy metals such as lead, cadmium, and arsenic are known to accumulate in the soft tissues as our bodies have no need for them. Organic certification requires the land sit for long enough not growing any produce until all levels of nutrients and minerals of the soil are far below the deemed levels of safe amounts of toxic metals among other pollutants that are left from conventional farming.
Organic farming practices can also restore micro-biological assets to topsoil, creating a natural compost and water reservoir which preserves large amounts of water used normally for traditional irrigation. Traditional farms that only grow or raise one taxa decimate the land to a black baron waste of dirt, unsuitable to sustain a variety of life. All nutrients except for UV rays from the sun must be added to the earth surrounding the plant along with toxic chemicals to keep away weeds and insects. The plants themselves are sick with growth hormone and insect killing chemicals that are constantly fed to the plant. Before conventional farming, these same species of plant grew in abundance amongst a largely diverse ecological system complete with insects, invasive plant species and intermittent rain. Conventional farming groomed away the diverse environment for one plant to grow on hundreds of acres of dark, synthetic, dead, and toxic earth that is now seeping into every vein of the plant as it itself becomes a toxin to the insects that once thrived on this plant and poisons the animals and humans that feed on the plant. Essentially, conventional farming isolates one plant, then makes the plant toxic and kills the earth it is grown in and sells this plant to American consumers, but only in "safe" amounts deemed by the FDA. With organic farms, the earth is kept rich and full of nutrient and mineral dense top soil that naturally keeps the plant cool and feeds the plant all the natural nutrients it needs as it needs it, without synthetic materials or on a watering time table. Natural hedge lines regulate water distribution to the crops and the root systems filter water supplies before it gets to the crops to keep away any undesirable chemicals that could harm the crops. The instillation of natural hedge groves creates suitable habitats for pollinators such as bees and butterflies (Bunin) as well as creates desirable habitats for rodents and birds. Organic farming re-introduces bio-diversity onto the land being used for the farming as well as conserving water. "Habitat extent, composition, and management on organic farms was likely to favor higher levels of biodiversity and indeed organic farms tended to support higher numbers of species and overall abundance across most taxa." (Fuller).
The elimination of synthetic chemicals produces richer tasting food, higher (albeit slightly higher) nutrition levels and healthier conditions for farm workers (Fuller). Without the gargantuan amounts of gas-mask worthy pesticides being used, farm workers are enjoying better health and higher wages while organic farmers are enjoying larger profits due to the upswing in organic popularity. Steve Reuter, a dairy farmer in May Township, Minnesota says, "It was worth all the trouble. If I'm going to do all this work, it's nice to get paid for it." When his cows were certified as organic this year, the price for his milk almost doubled (Organic Farming Boom). Most grocery stores have an organic section, indicating the growing popularity has reached a significant level, Kroger with "Simple Truth" and Safeway's "O Organic." These products go on sale just like all other items in these grocery stores. These cheap organic options are helping more people be able to afford organic. Many people are starting gardens at home like Ron Wright who find it more financially suitable than shopping organic, however he will supplement by shopping organic in the grocery store. People who eat organic say they feel better about what they are putting into their bodies and feel better health wise.
The popularity of organic farming would create competition in the marketplace, decreasing cost for the consumer while bringing in bigger profits for the farmers and livestock men. Popularity is key, by making organic products more affordable and presenting them as a viable option, both farmers and consumers will benefit greatly. Organic will no longer be just for those that can afford it but for every health-conscious consumer. Farmers would be encouraged to convert to organic, and the environment will benefit. Costs of certification would go down as well due to upward trends.
The government agency United States Food and Drug (USDA) issues certification and the privilege of sporting their organic labeling for anywhere between $200 and $1500 depending on size of production, not to mention the amount of time of land recovery after conventional farm use (3 years) (USDA). The government wants to make money as well, and they know that organic farming will make the farmer more profits because its popularity is only increasing. The normalization of organic farming would bring down certification costs for farmers, offsetting the settling time of the land. Despite organic and healthy lifestyles being advertised and put in the spotlight in social mass media, up to 90% of Americans are unhealthy and sick with chronic disease. Many chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease are directly linked to the American diet.
The mentality that goes with finding organic worth the extra cost tends to accompany better eating habits in general, not to mention that organic tastes better than conventionally grown food. Organic farming improves air quality for the farmers and surrounding areas. Conventional farming utilizes large area sprayers as well as aerial crop dusters. If even the slightest breeze comes through while the chemicals are being deployed, they spread to the surrounding areas and habitats. How safe can these chemicals be if the administers' are wearing full protective body suites and gas masks? The fumes are poisonous to everything, not just insects and rodents (bunnies are considered rodents.)
Nobody is safe from toxicity from pesticides, not even the family pet. Fido and feline can become sick from ingesting pesticides or ingesting other living creatures that have been exposed to pesticides. Small children cannot play in their own yard at the farm without risk of exposure to toxic pesticides or heavy metals. The cost of organic is less expensive than the cost of negative medical issues brought on by the accumulation of neurotoxins in our tissue, the destruction of the land, and the elimination of thriving habitats for many species of animals and insects.
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Oregon State University.
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Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety
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Pisher, Andrew. Personal Survey
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Wright, Ron. Personal Survey.