Organics: Redefining Food and Footprints

“Organic food” is a term that has always made me scratch my head a little.  The definition of organic, based on is as follows:



noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all other compounds of carbon.

So, based on the definition, everything you eat is organic unless you swallow pennies or eat paper clips. However, the term organic has evolved to define the pinnacle of food, both in price and shelf space in a grocery store. Some advocates for organic food have compared consumption of  organic  foods vs “conventional” food to that of breast vs bottle feeding in newborns. The same people will insist  you haven’t lived until you’ve had an “organism*” eating unsprayed papaya.

The breaking news yesterday was the study out of Stanford comparing organic and conventional food in terms of nutritional value, pesticide content and risk of bacterial infection. The shocking report confirmed what I  assume most people know already. There is no difference in the nutritional value of the food and there are more pesticides on the foods where pesticides were used.  Both groups were below the accepted level dictated by local regulatory bodies.  A small side note was the higher risk of bacteria resistant to three or more antibiotics in conventional versus organic food.

Simply stated, a strawberry is a strawberry whether organic or conventional.  The difference is one has pesticides on it.  That’s about it.  It may bring down the organic pundits a bit  but the controversy surrounding the acceptable level of  pesticides in foods was not addressed in this study which allows that camp to plant a very organic seed of doubt.

I’m not against organic food or organic food producers but I am against those who scold value conscious people and parents for not spending premium dollars to fill their families’ bellies with only the best, most nutritious food.  Another fact is that organic eating doesn’t necessarily mean healthy eating. The body doesn’t differentiate between high caloric  baked goods made with organic flour and butter and those which are not.  Too many organic calories will bulk the waist the same as consumption of conventional foods.

It’s also important to keep in mind that an organic banana may still travel the same distance as  the conventional banana and leave the same carbon footprint. I know…let’s call one the organic footprint and the other a conventional carbon footprint. Now I feel better.

Many restaurants are selling the  farm to table concept and rightfully so. It’s more about local and less about organic.  Local produce is abundant and in season right now.  In many cases, it has traveled less than 100 km to get the store or market.  It is full of colour and flavour.   Let’s just wash and prepare it properly and I think we’ll all be good whether it’s organic or not.

*-organism is a feeling close to sexual fulfillment brought on only by consumption of organic foodstuffs.

Appeasing the Organivores

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