This week I learned about hydric soils both organic and mineral. What stood out is the term “organic” which is bandied about in food markets. Organic foods are marketed to be pesticide free, richer in nutrition, and generally healthier.
Here is what really matters…in my humble opinion. Organically grown foods – if they are truly organic, that is grown with natural compost instead of fabricated fertilizer are said to reduce the carbon footprint or – reduce greenhouse gas which is a cause of global warming. So organic foods are not just more nutritious, they are also good for the environment. You can read more about this topic in many places on the web including this post by TREEHUGGER. To relate this to my Wetlands and Our Watersheds course… fertilizer can end up in our aquatic ecosystems and actually kill fish by robbing them of oxygen. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains this in simple terms. Fertilizer that makes its way to our watersheds can increase algae growth. When the algae decomposes, it uses oxygen and reduces oxygen available for fish and other aquatic life. So, buying organic foods is not just about your health – it can also improve the health of our watersheds like Puget Sound or Lake Washington.
The problem is cost… I am in a “dink” situation. This means dual income, no kids. Well, I have kids but they are grown. It is not difficult to make environmentally conscious choices when you are feeding just two adults in a two income home. People that have a house full of children and maybe a stay home parent – cannot necessarily afford to be environmentally conscious. Even as a dink – I find it difficult to go to a farmers market and pay $5 for a single lovely tomato. There are also those living on Social Security that do not have the luxury of being environmentally conscious.
My question is why is it so much more expensive? I love a good steak, but after seeing a classmate’s presentation on how beef is produced… I have decided less is more and I will choose (whenever possible) to buy grass fed beef rather than the much less expensive cuts that dominate the grocery stores. I could launch into federal subsidies for non-organic foods. A quick search told me this is a research paper and not a quick post on my blog. I do know that high fructose corn syrup is found in way too many foods… I try to avoid it.
I feel that organic food should be the norm – it is becoming more affordable but we need it to become mainstream. Organic should not be a luxury label for the dinks of the world; but rather the most common food available for both nutritional reasons and environmental initiatives.
Is this too much to ask?
The top five reasons that buying organic helps stop global warming
- The energy needed for organic farming is about 30 percent less than the energy needed for high-input conventional farming.
- Organic farming produces 48 to 60 percent less carbon dioxide than conventional agriculture.
- Organically farmed soil holds more carbon. It is about twice as efficient in temperate climates at sequestering carbon, keeping it from contributing to global warming as carbon dioxide.
- Organic farming produces less nitrous oxide (another greenhouse gas) due to less nitrogen fertilizer use, less mobile nitrogen concentrations, and good soil structure.
- Organically farmed soil holds more water. It requires less irrigation, which conserves water and energy.
One of the primary arguments for non-organic farming is cost and the ability to feed many people who are in lower income groups. This is a poor argument because typically very poor 3rd world people are subsistence farmers who do not get the benefit of being able to afford the costly chemical fertilizers etc. So, non-organic farming is a 1st world problem. Just from a health perspective I would say the organic produce is worth the cost vs. the cost of health issues encountered later in life from eating foods soaked in chemicals that we don’t have good long term health data documented. Keep in mind some pesticides and food additives that were used are now banned, DDT, for instance. Who knows what will be banned in the future?
The environmental aspect is an even harder one to quantify, but, definitely worth considering as a cost factor.
If you can afford organic products, do it, if not, try buy them when you can. It’s worth it to bring the market around, encourage produce suppliers to offer as much organic produce as they can to bring the prices down and make it mainstream because we are after all, a 1st world society.
Great points Donovan, especially about organic farming being a 1st world problem.