So, Is Organic a Scam?

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Over the past several weeks, I’ve laid out a considerable amount of evidence showing that there indeed are substantive differences between organic produce and conventional produce. Organic is often more nutritious, with a greater concentration of phytonutrients (contrary to what the popular media has been saying). Conventional produce shows up in your kitchen with far more pesticide residues, and these residues appear to be especially harmful to youngsters, babies, and fetuses (feti?). Antibiotic resistance, which is on the rise, is partially attributable to the widespread usage of antibiotics in conventional agriculture; organic agriculture forbids their usage. Many studies have also shown organic farming to be better for the environment, the local ecosystem, the renewability of the farm, and the health of its workers. Organic food is usually more expensive, but the research tends to suggest that you’re getting something extra out of it.

That’s all well and good, but should you buy organic? This is the real question that needs answering.

I don’t think there’s a single answer. It’s contextual (as it always is). So let’s look at a few different contexts.

Who should probably spring for organic?

People who are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. Fetuses are particularly susceptible to the effects of pesticides and reliant upon the nutrients from high-quality plants.

People who are going to be feeding small kids. Humans develop slowly, especially when compared to other animals, and the first five years are especially crucial to the health and long term development of children.

People who eat a lot of a particular type of produce. If you’re making kale chips by the pound on a daily basis, get the organic kale. Spread the potential damage around.

People who eat from “The Dirty Dozen.” Check out the list of the twelve most pesticide-ridden examples of produce of 2012 (plus the 15 cleanest counterparts that don’t necessarily need to be organic). I have to say, though — doesn’t it seem like they’re shortchanging us for a cutesy rhyme? I find it hard to believe that there are only 12 “dirty” and 15 “clean.” What about number 13? Number 16? At any rate, the lists are helpful tools.

People who have the money. Organic can be more expensive than conventional. You don’t want to be the guy eating organic golden beets down by the river, but if you can afford organic food, I’d suggest doing so.

Other motivations may not involve your immediate personal health, but they’re also good reasons for going organic:

To support the health of agricultural workers. It can be easy to forget about them, but they’re people who deserve the ability to make a living without constant exposure to dangerous chemicals.

To support improved sequestration of carbon into the soil. If we’re all about paying homage to our Primal roots, we should acknowledge that the earth used to sequester a whole lot more carbon into its soil before we began altering its surface through agriculture. Its Primal roots are lots and lots of carbon sequestered in its soil!

To support the maintenance of healthy soil and biodiversity. Healthy soil means healthier, more nutritious plants. A biodiverse farm uses fewer pesticides and requires less labor to repel invaders.

To prevent the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I’ve explained how antibiotic resistance impacts our health before.

However, when it comes down to it…

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