Organic Food: A Fad or a Revolution?

Let’s face it! The world is changing. The weekdays are getting short while the weekends are getting even shorter. Trying to lead a life, in a metropolitan, especially in a developing country is very difficult, which is exactly my case. There are a lot of things which you feel are out of your control, most importantly – your health. Ever since I moved in search of a job, life has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride.

Sleeping late, waking up early, travelling in heavy traffic to work and back, and hogging on junk food had become my routine. A few months in and my unhealthy habits started taking a toll my body. I knew I had to do something. I couldn’t really control the pollution or my sleep (sometimes my job demanded that I work longer hours). So I did the one thing I could do – manage what I ate. This was a tricky business because once I told my peers that I was starting a healthy diet, advice and tips started pouring in. Although all the suggestions were different, the theme was same – ‘organic’.

At the time, and as a matter of fact even now, I don’t really know if I should take up an organic diet or not. There are arguments for and against it which have put me in bit of a dilemma. So far, I have stuck to conventional food (although my diet now contains more fruits and vegetables and less of junk) only because of the cost factor. Since many people have the same doubts as I do, I decided to put forth the arguments of both the sides in the hope that everyone makes an educated decision.

Organic food – The Saviour

Over the past decade, the consumption of organic food has been steadily on the rise. In many South East Asian countries, especially India, the reason seems to be the health factor. As of 2016, there were 400,000 – 500,000 organic consumers in India, a number which is growing by the day.

For years we’ve been consuming food that has been treated with synthetic chemicals which are unfit for the human body. The chemicals also have a negative impact on nature. It pollutes both land and water. In comparison, organic food is a much better option or so people claim.

In 2007, the INDEPENDENT published an article about the then researches carried out by scientists across Europe. Organic tomatoes, which were the subject of research, contained more vitamin C, beta-carotene and flavonoids compared to conventional tomatoes. The latter two compounds in particular help fight cancer and heart diseases.

Research by one, Prof Carlo Leifert at Newcastle University substantiated this. He showed that organically grown plants contain more antioxidants which are potent in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative diseases and certain cancers.

In 2006, the NCBI, published an article about the pesticide content in children’s blood. They conducted a study comparing children who consumed organic food and children who consumed conventional food. Results showed that the pesticide content in the blood reduced drastically in case of the former.

Even in case of poultry, birds are injected with antibiotics to help them grow better. But these antibiotics gradually help in the creation of superbugs which, if consumed, are extremely harmful to humans. On the other hand, organic meat doesn’t contain any kind of superbugs whatsoever.

With many scientists claiming that organic products are healthier than their conventional counterparts, people are actually concerned. A lot of people are genuinely worried about their health and the environment. Healthy eating and avoiding pesticide residues seem to be the main reasons for people buying organic food.

Organic Food – Oh it’s just a Sham!

Although the reasons as to why organic is better sound convincing, there are equally significant arguments which may make us think otherwise.

According to Biomedical scientist and former US FDA regulator, Henry I. Miller, organic pesticides can be toxic. Miller contributed an article to the Forbes in mid-2015. The article mentions a study conducted by UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames. He found that almost 99.99% of pesticides in food are chemicals produced by the plants to defend themselves. This means that in case of both organic and inorganic food, the chemical composition would be almost identical.

While Dr Ian Musgrave, senior lecturer in Farm Ecology, University of Adelaide claims that synthetic chemicals are better for the land than many organic certified chemicals.

One of the most noteworthy points in their argument are the fertilizers. In case of organic food, no synthetic chemicals are used. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that organically synthesized or naturally occurring fertilizers are harmless. Another major drawback is that there are no studies which prove organic food is more nutritious.

Conclusion – Sham or not, it’s Your Money, Your Health & Your Decision

There are valid arguments on both sides, but the grass isn’t really green on either side. People need to do a lot of research as to what they are getting into. Even today, many people who point to health as the reason for going organic, base their facts on hearsay. Which means, in a way, choosing organic products still seems to be only a fad.

One can only hope that this attitude changes and people start researching and understanding about their food habits before taking any rash decision.


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