Organic vs inorganic food

There is much talk and discussion recently about the merits and demerits of organic and inorganic food, which one is better and which is more suited to a healthy and nutritious lifestyle. Each end of the spectrum is armed with facts and figures, and sometimes it gets a little mind-boggling to sift through all the fluff to get the information that really matters in order to make the right decision about your food choices. So let us break it down and make it simpler for you.

Coming to the first and foremost question: ‘What is organic food?

Organic foods are food items produced using processes without synthetics such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They are not genetically modified and do not contain chemical food additives or solvents. Organic farming does not allow the use of artificial or synthetic fertilizers, nor is it permissible to use sewage sludge as a fertilizer. Majority of synthetic pesticides are not allowed, and neither is irradiation to preserve food or to eliminate disease or pests. Genetic engineering, normally used to improve resistance to disease or pests or to improve crop yields is not part of organic farming and neither are antibiotics or growth hormones for livestock.

Organic farming practices are environmentally friendly whereby they encourage soil and water conservation, reduction of pollution, and the provision of safe and healthy livestock habitats. Farmers growing organic produce do not use conventional methods to fertilize or control weeds and insects. Rather they are only allowed to use natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost. Pests and diseases are reduced using insects and birds, mating disruption or traps. Farmers rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds, give animals organic feed and allow access to the outdoors. They use preventive methods such as rotational grazing, to help minimize disease.

 

So then ‘What is inorganic food?’

Inorganic foods are food products that use synthetics to produce the finished food products. This means, that the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides is common place. Additionally, producers often make use of genetic engineering practices to modify food items at a molecular level in order to improve crop yields, and producing qualities of crops that are more resistant to diseases and pest attacks. Cross-breeding of crops in order to produce hardier strains with higher quantities is also common place.

Due to the permissibility of using synthetic chemical fertilizers in order to promote plant growth, inorganic or conventional farming practices are not as environmentally friendly. The spraying of insecticides to reduce pests and disease and the use of chemical herbicides to manage weeds is also a common practice. Animals are often given antibiotics and medications in order to prevent disease and growth hormones to increase yield.

This brings us to another question: Is organic food safer or more nutritious?

There is quite some research to support that organic food is in fact a better option between the two. According to The British Journal of Nutrition, organic foods are the healthier option in comparison to inorganic foods because they contain up to 69% more antioxidants, as evaluated and concluded from 343 studies on the topic. Antioxidants have the potential to help in the prevention and successful treatment of chronic illnesses such as heart disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancer making it a strong case in organic food’s favor.  There are several other benefits include the following:

  • Studies have shown that organic food products have more nutrients compared to inorganic food products, especially certain antioxidants. They are also almost virtually free of food additives, processing aids and fortifying agents commonly used in non-organic foods, including preservatives, artificial sweeteners, colorings and flavorings, and the notorious monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Organic foods have a high content of omega 3 fatty acid owing to the feed used in organic livestock farming, such as the primary use of grass and alfalfa for cattle. Omega 3 fatty acid is healthier than other fats for the heart which have the potential of clogging up arteries, leading to cardiovascular disease of various kinds.
  • Since the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers is banned in organic farming, organic produce has significantly lower levels of cadmium metal compared to inorganic produce which is treated with synthetic chemical fertilizers.  Cadmium is a toxic chemical naturally found in soils and absorbed by plants.
  • Pesticide residue can greatly harm the health and potential health issues include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity, and is also linked with cancer and problems with reproduction and fetal development. Conventional farming allows the use of pesticides to protect crops from insects. Organic produce on the other hand carries significantly fewer pesticide residues than does inorganic produce.
  • Organic farming practices are overall more environmentally friendly compared to inorganic farming practices as it is aimed at reducing pollution and conserving water and soil quality. Less waste is produced and less energy is used. Synthetic substances commonly used in conventional farming can harm local wildlife and may cause long-term damage to the land, ultimately making the land less fertile or non-fertile.

Summing it up, there are quite a few facts about organic food items, as mentioned above, that give it a decided edge over inorganic food items. The benefits in terms of limited exposure to potentially harmful synthetics and an overall higher nutrient value make the choice between the two types sufficiently clear. Furthermore, an individual conscious of how human negligence towards the earth and its environment is creating havoc and disrupting natural cycles will understand how a simple act of choosing the morally right option between organic and inorganic food makes all the difference!

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