Have you been hearing that organic fruits and vegetables are way better for you than conventionally grown ones? Are you scared of pesticides? You better read on to find some answers, because some of the things I’m about to share with you might just blow your mind.
Is organic really better?
Nowadays, people think organic is the way to go, especially for fruits and vegetables. Some people go so far as saying that the pesticides in non-organic fruits and vegetables can kill you. But what is the difference between organic and conventionally grown? Is organic really better? And how do we qualify what “better” is?
Let’s consider five categories in comparing organic versus conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Here are the categories: nutritional content; pesticide content; taste and appearance; the economics of the farming methods; and its impact on the environment.
Let’s start with the first category – nutritional content. There are several studies on this subject, where various foods grown in different ways are compared in terms of the amount of micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, inside them. Now for some of these studies, there’s also some meta-analysis, which basically compares several studies together to see what they say overall. And according to these, conventional is a little bit better than the organic – though it only has a slight edge.
So there’s no big difference – some have a little bit more sugar or a little more calcium, some have less, but again, the difference is not dramatic. It’s not something that’s gonna make a huge impact in your life from a nutritional standpoint.
Now let’s talk about pesticides. This is probably the number one thing people talk about when it comes to organic farming as related to conventional farming. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that organic farming doesn’t use any pesticides, and that’s just not the truth. The reality is there are more than 40 different types of pesticides registered to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as viable for organic farming. Pesticides are necessary in making sure to get rid of all the pests that destroy crops.
The pesticides used in organic farming are not very potent. So typically, pesticides are still used, but larger amounts are needed since it’s not very strong. On the other hand, conventional farming uses very strong and concentrated pesticides so less amounts are used. So they both use pesticides, but just in different potencies. In the end, conventional is pretty much equal to organics here.
Now that we know that pesticides are used on both, we as consumers would not want to have those pesticides getting concentrated inside our bodies and causing health issues. Typically, manufacturers are good at cleaning that stuff off the produce and making sure they’re all clean by the time you get them at your store. But if you’re still worried about this issue, wash your fruits and vegetables before eating. You can use a little baking soda and water mixture to wash them off real quick to get rid of pretty much a hundred percent of any pesticides remaining – if there’s even any on there after they’ve been shipped off to the local stores.
So it’s a non-issue really, conventional and organic are pretty much equivalent in this category, which is good to know.
Taste and Appearance
The next category is taste and appearance. A lot of people make claims of being able to tell the difference, but when it comes to an organic apple versus a conventionally farmed apple, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference visually. The apples will look the same.
Now, as mentioned back in the nutrition category, sometimes there is a slightly higher amount of sugar in conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables, and naturally, more sugar would mean it tastes better.
So, when it comes to the visual appeal, they’re pretty much equal, but when it comes to taste, the conventionally farmed ones have a slight advantage because they tend to have a little bit more sugar.
Most of the time, price is the most important factor when purchasing, both for consumers and farmers themselves. When it comes to the economics of the farming method, the difference is not even close – it’s a complete blowout.
Organic farming would cost you 25 to 40 percent more for purchasing the same exact apple as opposed to a conventionally grown one. Now the conventional one tastes a little bit better, and even has a little bit better nutritional value, but it costs 25-40% less!
Organic food is so expensive because organic farming costs a lot more. The USDA puts a lot of criteria in place for organic farming. First off, the bigger the farm, the harder it is to maintain in keeping with the criteria. Second, there are special facilities needed to make sure that they’re not getting overspray from conventional farms nearby – they have to maintain certain distances between the farms, or use certain equipment. Finally, the cost of organic pesticides is actually higher, and since they’re not as potent, a larger volume is needed to get the same effect as a smaller concentrated conventional pesticide.
All those added costs of organic farming are the reasons why it is far more expensive to buy organic.
It’s just not a fiscally viable thing for the farmers and/or the consumers to feed the planet when things cost significantly more in that organic situation – especially when it doesn’t even taste better and has a little bit less nutritional value. So that’s definitely something to consider.
Finally, environmental impact is also something a lot of people really take to heart and are very concerned with, just like pesticides, which are also part of the environmental impact. Now, in terms of the impact on the ground and how the earth is affected, conventional and organic are pretty equal in different ways.
Conventional farming has a greater ability to produce a larger number of crops in a smaller piece of land. So conventional is better when it comes to land use – you don’t have to use as much land, but you get way more food out of it.
On the other hand, organic farming is much more effective when it comes to the impact on the actual land. Though larger amounts of pesticides are used, they’re not as concentrated and potent, so it’s not as negatively impacting or stripping the land off its nutrient value.
So there’s a little bit benefit for land usage for conventional, while a little bit better land impact when it comes to organics – ultimately they sort of even out and are pretty much equivalent as far as how it affects the environment.
But just to keep in mind, while the organic side is better for the land itself, there are conventional farming techniques that may just be good for the land as well. Some farmers rotate crops through the same land to make sure the nutrients are being used for a certain type, then switch it out with some other crops, and cycle through that.
While it’s been hundreds of years that we’ve been farming on large capacity scale, the population explosion has necessitated and demanded that we get better at our conventional farming, which is the vast majority of how we get fruits and vegetables. So those conventional farming methods had to be really good at using the land in a manner that’s sustainable, long-term, and purposeful. That means, for example, that farmers can plant corn for this season, then rotate to a totally different plant the next season, so that they’re not stripping all the nutrition out but rather rotating the value prospect in the land that is being used.
It’s Not Feasible to Go “All Organic”
It was mentioned before that it is impossible for us to feed the entire Earth with just organic farming by itself, considering the land needed and the costs of organic farming, especially since there are still a lot of countries that are wanting in food supply. So wanting to go all organic – it’s really not feasible.
Now it’s really challenging for us Americans to wrap our heads around this food problem especially since in America, 7 of the top 10 causes of death are lifestyle-attributed – most of which are caused by eating too much food.
We also have great businesses and environments around us where we don’t have to move too much – sitting at a desk most of the day doing computer stuff. Now if you go to the gym or do all kinds of physical activities to take care of your body, kudos to you. But that’s not the average American. Most of the deaths attributed to lifestyle come from too much food and not enough movement.
Setting America aside, the rest of the planet’s number one cause of death is famine, or not enough food. Even with our current conventional farming – which is the most efficient and effective type of farming from an economic standpoint – we’re still not feeding everybody. So imagine if we were to switch to “all organic” all over the planet… millions and millions more people would die of starvation because it’s just not a viable means of feeding the masses.
So that is something to consider when hearing of altruistic belief systems – wanting to feed as many people as possible with as good a quality of food as possible. We have to take into consideration that it’s not viable to be able to feed the number of people we want to, using organic farming methods.
So there you have it – conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are not gonna kill you.
1. While conventional has a bit of an edge, there’s not much of a difference between organic and conventionally grown in terms of these categories:
- a. Nutrition Content: Conventional has a little bit more micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals.
- b. Pesticide Content: They are pretty much equivalent and both farming styles use pesticides – organic farming uses less potent pesticides but in larger amounts, while conventional uses more concentrated pesticides but in smaller amounts.
- c. Taste and Appearance: They look the same, but conventional tastes a little bit better because it has a little more sugar.
- d. Economics: Organic is significantly more expensive because organic farming costs a lot more.
- e. Environmental Impact: Conventional is more efficient in terms of land use, while organic tends to have lesser negative impacts on the land’s nutrition content.
2. There are conventional farming techniques however, that make efficient use of land without stripping it out of all its nutrients.
3. While people mean well when they want to go “all organic,” it is just not feasible to feed the whole planet’s human population by a significantly more expensive farming practice, especially since even our current, significantly cheaper, and more efficient conventional farming is not enough.