THE TRUTH ABOUT ORGANIC FOOD
by Alex Avery
If you think that organic food is safer, healthier, more nutritious, and is more eco-friendly, you're simply fooling yourself. As for taste and quality, that's a shopper's decision based on a lot more than farming practices. That's the gist of my forthcoming book "The Truth About Organic Food — A Politically Incorrect Guide."
The book is a dispassionate examination of the organic pseudo-religion's odd origins, unscientific basis, and totally baseless health and environmental claims. Written for the average consumer, it provides budget-stretched families with a resource to alleviate food fears and gives those in the food industry a tool with which to turn the tables on organic activists.
The book begins with a review of the movement's origins in the 1920s lectures of a German mystic against synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. Rudolf Steiner advised using only animal manure because synthetic fertilizers lacked vital "cosmic energy." Steiner also recommended stuffing cow's horns and deer bladders with manure and herbs to ward off pests. Seriously.
The movement finally got its name when American J.I. Rodale published his first issue of Organic Gardening magazine in 1945. But 75 years later, they still cannot point to any science supporting their claims.
Organic believers say organic food is more nutritious. Dozens of experiments have concluded otherwise, including their own research. In the late 1940s the daughter of a British Prime Minister donated her sizeable farm to prove this founding claim. After three decades, Lady Balfour admitted that the experiment "revealed no consistent or significant differences." Today, the activist group created to conduct the experiment claims the issue hasn't been adequately studied and hides its research like a tobacco company.
Many consumers say they purchase organic food to avoid pesticides. Not likely. Every vegetable contains about five percent of its weight in natural pesticides, many of them carcinogenic. But vegetables are good for you.
Government testing is so sensitive it finds traces of synthetic pesticides in one quarter of organic produce and nobody tests for residues of toxic organic pesticides. Organic activists emphasize that, bite for bite, conventional fruits and vegetables will expose you to six times more synthetic pesticide residues, but that's like arguing whether a penny or a nickel will make you richer. It's all inconsequential.
Do you think conventional meat and dairy products are loaded with hormones and antibiotics? More than 99.5 percent of all meat sold in the United States has no detectable traces of synthetic hormones. No hormones are even allowed (or sold) for use in poultry or pigs, which is 75 percent of our meat supply. Not a single safety concern has ever been found in the other 0.5 percent because the billionths of a gram traces found are many thousands of times less than the hormones produced by our own bodies and found naturally in even organic meat, milk, eggs, soy and other foods.
Milk is even more pure: 100 percent of it is tested for antibiotic residues and zero tolerance for contamination. The biotech hormone allowed in dairy cows is a perfect copy of the natural, so the milk is indistinguishable from organic. So yes, Moms and Dads, the regular store-brand milk is as "free of antibiotic residues, hormones, and dangerous pesticides" as that expensive organic brand declaring it loudly on the label.
Switching from phantom food risks to real ones, if you buy organic because you think there's less bacterial risk, think again. Organic free-range poultry is two to three times more likely to harbor illness-causing bacteria. That's also roughly the added risk of finding fecal E. coli in fresh-picked organic produce, according to the latest study from the University of Minnesota. This research also found salmonella on organic veggies, but not on conventional. Now which fertilizer would you prefer: manure or synthetic?
BETTER FOR THE PLANET?
Finally, if you think organic farming is better for the planet, that too is wrong. For starters, giving up sustainable synthetic nitrogen fertilizer would require sacrificing millions of people to reduce food needs, or sacrificing millions of square miles of wildlife habitat to make more manure. Perhaps organic food activists will volunteer first for planetary depopulation?
It's high time that consumers know the truth about organic food.
Alex Avery has been with the Hudson Institute since 1994 and is the Director of Research and Education for its Center for Global Food Issues. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Hudson is a non-partisan policy research organization dedicated to innovative research and analysis that promotes global security, prosperity, and freedom. Avery earned a bachelor of science in Biology and Chemistry from Old Dominion. From 1992-1994 he was a McKnight Research Fellow at Purdue University studying plant physiology.