One of the most common google searches related to organic food is: “Is organic worth it?” As the General Manager of a family-owned organic food company (Nature’s Path Organic Foods), you can probably guess where I stand.
I’d like to lay out seven things you may not have considered when asking yourself whether or not to choose organic. You might just discover something you didn’t know about your food!
Organic food is shown to have more nutrients
A major study done in 2014 concluded that switching to an organic diet can increase antioxidants in a person’s diet by 20-40%. That’s the equivalent of adding two daily servings of fruit and vegetables!
Yes, it is that easy. Plants are grown organically produce higher levels of nutritious compounds to protect them from pests and disease. Eating them increases their nutritional value.
In conventional agriculture, synthetic chemicals used to eliminate the need for plants to produce these natural defense mechanisms, therefore reducing their nutritional value. Why take away plants’ superpowers?
Organic food is the best way to avoid a headline-making pesticide linked to cancer
There aren’t too many household-name-pesticides, but glyphosate (the active ingredient in Round Up®), might just become the first. Apart from being the most commonly used pesticide in history, glyphosate, and the creators of it (Bayer/ Monsanto) are being held responsible for an increasing number of cancer cases in the United States. This past summer Bayer paid out nearly $11 Billion to settle thousands of lawsuits claiming glyphosate causes cancer.
Glyphosate, and other toxic synthetic pesticides like it, are strictly prohibited from use in organic farming. Also, the rapidly declining global bee population is mainly attributed to the use of glyphosate and other toxic pesticides. Bees of course, pollinate almost one-third of all our agriculturally grown food in the world.
So if the ever-increasing use of glyphosate (and other pesticides) on conventional food crops is alarming to you, choose organic whenever possible.
Switching to organic can reduce pesticides in your body in as little as 7 days
Glyphosate use is so widespread that it has become nearly ubiquitous in our food system and our atmosphere. We now know that the food we eat is the most common source of exposure to glyphosate.
But there is some good news about our body’s ability to eliminate this harmful chemical pesticide. New studies have shown that switching from a conventional to organic diet can reduce glyphosate levels in your body by 70% in as little as 7 days.
Organic farming can reverse climate change
Yes, you read that right. Not only is eating organic better for your long-term health, but it’s also better for the planet. Soil is one of the most important aspects of organic farming. In fact, one of the foundational tenets of organic farming is based around building healthy soil in order to nourish and grow healthy plants.
Healthy soil can do many things, and one of them is becoming a dark horse of the climate change reversal conversation — its ability to sequester carbon. When carbon has nowhere to go, it remains in our atmosphere or enters our ocean causing acidification of the water. Through a few simple organic and regenerative organic farming practices, (like using cover crops and crop rotation) enormous areas of farmland could draw carbon from the atmosphere and hold it in our soil – where it can be used to grow more healthy plants!
Organic farms have more biodiversity
At Nature’s Path, our mission is to always leave the earth better than we found it — organic farming makes that possible. Without the harmful synthetic chemicals used in conventional agriculture, life on organic farms has the opportunity to grow and thrive. From the tiniest microorganisms in the soil to insects, birds, and more – organic farms have been proven to have 30% greater biodiversity.
Why does this matter? Biodiversity doesn’t just make for a healthy farm – it makes for a healthy world. When species are given the chance to live in harmony, without intervention from deadly pesticides, a balance is achieved, and pests and disease are kept in check. Just like a house with everyone happy and constantly cleaning up their own rooms.
Organic food has the smallest carbon footprint
There are many factors to consider when calculating the carbon footprint of anything. When thinking about the carbon footprint of our food – people tend to focus most on the distance it travelled to reach their plate. But these “food miles” actually only account for 11% of its carbon footprint. How our food is grown, on the other hand, makes up the vast majority of its carbon footprint – at 83%.
Because of the lack of chemical inputs in the form of synthetic, petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, organic food once again comes out on top – even over local food – for carbon footprint. Not that we don’t love ‘farm-to-table’, because every bit helps, but now you know what is really making the biggest difference.
Organic crops are more resilient in extreme weather
There’s a long-term food systems study by the Rodale Institute that’s been examining organic and conventional grain cropping systems in North America over the last 40 years. It’s the longest-running study of its kind and, among other things, has shown that organic grains fare better, and produce 40% more in times of drought and extreme weather compared to conventional grain plants.
Looking into a future of global warming, this is something that deserves our attention. The way our food is grown greatly impacts its ability to withstand unprecedented and unpredictable weather patterns, and therefore survive until harvest in order to feed us, humans. Think about the regular stories on the news these days about drastic and irregular climate changes. For instance, in 2019 when Los Angeles experienced its first snowfall in decades. Organic farming is the best way to future-proof our food systems.
And a bonus: Organic is about so much more than just avoiding chemicals (although that’s good!)
Organic is about avoiding synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, GMOs, artificial ingredients, etc, and embracing soil health, the health of the planet, and your personal health.
But it also represents so much more. The Certified Organic logo in fact, covers hundreds of issues in the food production system.
It is regulated by certifying bodies with standardized requirements, so you can make one simple choice (Certified Organic) and feel comfortable your food was grown and produced with some of the highest possible standards on a wide variety of important issues.
I truly hope that if you ask yourself “Is organic worth it?” now, your answer is an unequivocal “yes” — for your health, the health of your family, and the planet.