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Certified organic

New report says organic food is basically a ripoff

Organic or regular? It’s a loaded question that can mean many different things, sometimes all at once: Healthy or pesticide-drenched? Tasty or bland? Fancy or basic? Clean or dirty? Good or bad? But here’s the most important question for many customers: Is it worth the extra money? The answer: Probably not.

Higher price doesn’t really mean higher quality

It’ll come as no surprise to most shoppers that organic produce is typically more expensive than the other options. In March, a Consumer Reports analysis found that, on average, the prices on organic foods were 47% higher than on their conventional counterparts. USDA numbers bear out this difference too.

But this price difference does not just reflect the added cost of organic agriculture techniques: It’s also because people will pay more for the label—often without knowing what it means. “Organic” has essentially become another way of saying “luxury.”

As a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, the “premium” markup on organic food is 29-32%, when only a 5-7% markup would be needed to break even—making organic farms more profitable than conventional ones. (Of course, it takes three years of organic practices to get certified, so farmers may still be left covering their additional investment after that period.)

Organic produce is not necessarily better for the environment

There is little doubt that synthetic pesticides and fertilizers substances can have negative impacts on the environment, from potentially endangering pollinators to polluting natural waterways. But many organic farmers, especially the large ones, don’t skip pesticides and fertilizers—they just use natural options, which are hardly risk-free.

Organic farming can release even more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than conventional farming.

In 2010, a study found that some organic pesticides can actually have a worse environmental impacts than conventional ones. Plus, a recent study found that because organic agriculture is now done mostly en masse by big corporations (what’s known dismissively by advocates as “Walmart organic”), the lower yields combined with the use of heavy machinery means it actually releases more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than conventional farming.

Any health benefits from organic produce are teeny-tiny

The science available thus far says any additional nutritional benefits from organic produce, compared with conventional, are very small.

A 2009 meta-analysis said there was no nutrient difference in organic versus conventional. Since then, two larger meta-analyses have found slight differences, but ones that are probably too small to really matter. The 2012 study found slightly higher phosphorous levels in the organic produce, and a 2014 study found higher antioxidant levels and lower cadmium levels in organic foods.

But as Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University told NPR, because there are so many variations within organic and conventional production systems, drawing overarching conclusions about their products isn’t really methodologically sound. And any differences in nutrition are relatively insignificant. Ultimately, if you want more nutrients, eat more vegetables, organic or not…..

Quartz: Read the full article here

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