Advantages & Disadvantages of Organic Foods

Grocery
Organic vegetables for sale at a farmers market. (Image: Magdalena Jankowska/iStock/Getty Images)

Once only found in health food stores, you can now buy organic foods in mainstream grocery stores. Independent and large manufacturers crowd store shelves with organic products. In addition to organic produce, milk and meat, you can also buy organic cereals, sauces and even snack foods, such as tortilla chips. As their popularity increases, debate continues about the advantages and disadvantages of organic foods.

Fewer Chemicals

Some conventional farmers use sewage sludge, harsh chemical pesticides and ionizing radiation to grow their produce. They may also use hormones to stimulate their animals to produce more milk or eggs than normal. The pesticides and fertilizers may leave residue on the produce and the hormones and antibiotics may leach into the milk, meat and eggs. Organic farmers do not use chemical means to process their products, which eliminates most of the residue on your foods. They also do not use synthetic fertilizers to bulk up crop size, which makes organic farmers crops smaller than those produced by conventional farmers. Organic regulations also prevent the use of artificial sweeteners, chemical preservatives and other additives found in processed foods. However, without chemical preservatives, organic foods may spoil faster.

Higher Price

Because organic farmers do not use artificial means to grow their crops, they tend to produce less. The additional manual labor required to pull weeds and rotate crops versus the cost of using a chemical weed killer reduces production and elevates the costs of organic farming. Lower production rates and higher overhead makes organic products more expensive.

Environmental Effects

Organic farming protects the environment by removing chemicals and other artificial farming methods from the equation; it saves soil and water and reduces pollution. Organic farmers use humane methods for producing meat, eggs and other animal products. For those concerned with the environment or the methods used to raise the animals they eat, the extra cost they pay for organic products buys peace of mind.

Nutrition and Quality

Little difference exists between the nutritional qualities of organic food versus conventional food. Even the United States Department of Agriculture makes no claims that organic farming methods produce safer foods with higher nutritional value compared with conventionally produced foods. The September 4, 2012 issue of the "Annals of Internal Medicine," contains a review of studies conducted over a 45-year period. After reviewing 17 human studies and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods, researchers found little evidence pointing to superior health benefits in organic foods versus conventional foods. Although they discovered no significant health differences, researchers contend consuming organic produce may reduce your exposure to pesticide residues. Eating organic meats, such as chicken and pork, may reduce your exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

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