Organic food does not equal better food

By Parker Happ

Image is everything, especially for the food industry. Take a trip to Walmart and look at the many aisles of dairy products. Advertising portrays small town, independent farms with red silos statuesquely looking over full fields of neatly planted corn.

Back in the 1880s, the total population of the U.S. was 50 million people with 22 million Americans identifying themselves as farmers or involved in agricultural production. The picture of American farms today is slightly different. In 2008, the amount of agricultural workers totaled 821,700 out of a population of 300 million. With the advent of a mechanized, industrialized farming sector, production streamlined so much that corporate farming has taken the “mom and pop” farm complex and put it on steroids.

Despite achievements in methods of production and increased efficiency, there is a faction of Americans who are taking a different stance on food production. They are part of the organic food industry and it is a complete joke.

Why choose organic food?

“A lot of times, [organic food] is supposed to be more flavorful,” said Benjamin Lane, freshman English major. “Obviously, it doesn’t have pesticides on it or preservatives. Personally, I use some organic foods sometimes when I’m cooking just because it seems fresher.”

Stop! Just because a food is certified organic does not mean growers do not use pesticides. Organic food is simply an absence of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically modified food, irradiation or chemical food additives. Instead of using the same synthetic technology that allows higher yields and lower costs, organic farmers choose a different method of production.

Lane brought up another interesting point. “A lot of time, I’ll just use processed meats because, to me, that all taste the same. I work in a butcher shop, actually. We have some stuff that is organic, some that’s not. There’s a little bit of a difference, usually just the price. It’s all about money.”

In some parts of the country, a gallon of organic milk can cost as much as $7 because farms promise “no added hormones” to their product. They claim a safer product for consumers and many Americans buy into it. The fear mongering is absolutely ridiculous.

In order to protect our girls from growing up faster or going through puberty earlier than “normal,” many in the organic farm lobby point towards the increased use of hormones in milk production as the cause of this recent trend. However, these same individuals fail to mention the effects of human hormones from childhood obesity.

Twenty years ago, the highest obesity rate of any state was 14 percent. Today, 12 states have obesity rates higher than 30 percent. Additionally, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years from 6.5 percent among 6 to 11 year olds in 1980 to 19.6 percent in 2008. For all you nursing or pre-med students out there: What hormone levels increase in the body as fat tissue increases? The answer is estrogen. In case you were not aware that fat was doing more than just being unsightly, believe it. So, take the rising childhood obesity figures and increased estrogen rates in children, pair that with early puberty rates, and it seems that organic food has absolutely nothing to do with this debate.

Another component to the organic food debate is the idea you are helping small-town, mainstream Americans who are struggling in today’s corporate economy. Buying organic helps them! Unfortunately, the typical consumer does not shop at a Farmers Market where independent growers sell. Corporate interests are still being served.

Horizon foods, one of the nation’s largest organic food distributors, is owned by Dean Foods, the nation’s largest milk producer. Despite organic food sales cornering a 2 percent food market share, this still accounts for $13 billion in potential profit for the food giant.

“It’s not like you’re helping out the small farmers,” said Alexander Ernster, freshman business major. “[Dean Foods] obviously is just looking into another demographic so they can appeal to the organic market. I’m not opposed to business, but it’s a good point.”

Despite my opinion on organic food, there remains some common ground in the debate on both sides of the aisle: Americans need to eat healthier. How we go about creating policy for better eating habits is up to you.