Editor’s note: Last week, popular agriculture e-newsletter Growing Georgia ran a piece called “3 Myths About Organic Foods.” We took issue with it, and the good folks at Growing Georgia agreed to let us write a rebuttal, which ran two days after the piece in question.
It is a privilege to have choices, especially when it comes to food. If you’re trying to avoid toxins, you may opt for a label such as “Natural,” “All Natural,” “Hormone Free,” or “Antibiotic Free.” If you’re concerned about animal welfare, companies are now labeling their meats and eggs “cage free” and “pastured raised.”
But Certified Organic remains the most rigorous label in the country for those who want to protect their body and the land from harmful chemicals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In the spirit of public education and correcting the record, Georgia Organics offers the following myth-busting rebuttals to the CropLife America’s recent Growing Georgia piece, which provided misleading and incomplete information about organic foods.
Myth 1: Organic products are better for you than others.
Here’s the most important thing to know: by their very nature, organic foods are not doused with conventional pesticides and fertilizers that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed to be carcinogenic for humans. Undeniably, conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are far more likely to carry pesticide residue. What few long-term studies we have of the health impacts of low-level pesticide exposure is troubling, linking these toxins to cancer, endocrine system disruption, reproductive disorders, Parkinson’s disease, autism, ADD, and hyperactivity.
A 2012 American Academy of Pediatrics study said there is “robust evidence” that pesticides are associated with cancer, especially leukemia and brain tumors, lower I.Q., autism, attention deficient disorder, and hyperactivity. “In terms of health advantages, organic diets have been convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease,” that same report said.
In terms of nutrient density, a 2010 University of Washington study found that organic strawberries had significantly higher antioxidant activity and concentrations of ascorbic acid and phenolic compounds. They also had a longer shelf life, and their soil had more carbon sequestration, nitrogen, microbial biomass, enzyme activities, and micronutrients than conventional strawberry soil also tested as part of the study.
And organic agriculture doesn’t just produce food that’s good for the human body–It also produces food that’s better for the environment. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are also detrimental to water and soil quality, as well as pollinator habitats. Some of the most common pesticides used in Georgia, called neonicotinoids, were banned for two years in the European Union for destroying bee populations. Legislation pending in Congress aims to do the same thing here.
Myth 2: There are no similarities between conventional and organic farming.
Sure there are! All farmers want the same thing – nutrients in the soil, and minimal insects, disease, and weeds in their crops. Organic growers use biologically based and mechanical practices to do the kind of work that synthetic chemicals and herbicides do on conventional farms.
While conventional farming relies on Round-Up Ready plants, which can be sprayed with Round-Up, organic farmers are more likely to use integrated pest management and crop rotation to trick pests and build up a plant’s natural ability to fight off the pests.
But conventional farms use organic methods too, and as this Washington Post article from last weekend points, out, even large-scale conventional growers benefit from organic practices.
MYTH: ACTUALLY, WE AGREE THAT THIS IS A MYTH! WHO TOLD YOU THAT ONE, CROPLIFE AMERICA?!
Myth 3: Organic crops are grown without the use of pesticides.
This is partially true! Plenty of organic food is grown without pesticides of any sort. As we mentioned before, conventional farms use synthetically produced pesticides and fertilizers. Some organic growers do use pesticides, but they’re biologically derived, and are far less harmful to human and biodiversity than their synthetic brethren.
MYTH: THIS IS PARTIALLY ONE