Despite its continued support by a growing subculture of health food enthusiasts, the organic food industry in the United States and the rest of the world is still dwarfed by the ever-expanding monopoly held by intensive farmers and the retailers that supply their produce. Consequently, organic food – food grown naturally without the use of chemical agents – is often much more expensive to buy, and harder to find, than non-organic food. While most organic food supporters argue that these sacrifices are worth it, have they really researched the issue in-depth? Is organic food better for you than non-organic food?
Organic Food Versus Non-Organic Food
There are a number of reasons why some people believe organic food is healthier than non-organic food. Their argument is usually one or more of the following three points:
- The chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers used to treat non-organic food remains on the produce long after it has left the farm, and even after we have washed it in the kitchen. Consequently, people ingest small quantities of the toxic chemicals used to kill insects and other pests.
- The land on which non-organic farm is grown is gradually degraded and eroded by the aggressive equipment used to farm it. As a result, the quality of the soil decreases until it is barren. Poor soil quality produces poor quality crops, which can lead to nutrient deficiencies in the people who consume them.
- By purchasing non-organic food, people actively support an industry that pollutes the environment in which it operates and routinely bankrupts sustainable and family-owned farms that cannot compete against it.
Ultimately, these criticism are logical, scientifically-valid, and well-documented. With the noted exception of fruits and vegetables that are covered in skins or shells (e.g. bananas, pineapples, mangosteen, coconuts, melons, onions, oranges, etc.), the chemical agents used to treat non-organic food does remain in traces on the produce we consume, intensive farming does degrade the land (and thus, by extension, the nutritional value of its crops), and several intensive agricultural companies – notably Monsanto – are devastating the income of, or completely bankrupting, small organic farms. These are verifiable facts.
So it would seem, from both a health-based and moral standpoint, that it is better to choose organic food over non-organic food. But just how much better is it for us?
Organic Food’s Healthiness Is Verified by Studies
Many studies have shown that organic food is significantly healthier to consume than non-organic food. A recent study in the Journal of Applied Nutrition, for example, proved that organic potatoes, wheat, apples, pears, and sweetcorn contained the following improvements over their non-organic equivalents:
- 63% more calcium and 70% more boron, which help fight osteoporosis.
- 188% more lithium, which is good for treating depression.
- 390% more selenium, an antioxidant that prevents us against heart disease and cancer.
- 78% more chromium. A chromium deficiency increases the chances of diabetes.
- 138% more magnesium, which prevents muscle spasms and heart attacks.
Other studies have also linked the use of pesticides with a reduction in the crop’s vitamin content (especially crops with high amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene), and that organic food contained lower levels of heavy metals, which is essential if we wish to avoid heavy metal toxicity.