Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter



The Organic Food Obsession

Shira Isenberg

From the hype created by marketing mavens, it certainly seems that organic food is well worth the money. But take a closer look and you’ll see that the issue is far more complex.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

fruits and vegetables conceptNot too far back in history, food was a lot simpler. You could only get produce that was in season — and locally grown. Since food wasn’t mass-produced, it was more recognizable: bread, for instance, was made with flour, water, yeast, maybe some sugar or eggs. Fast-forward to today and your typical store-bought bread could contain more than a dozen ingredients, most of which are hard to pronounce. As for produce, you can buy Israeli-grown fruits and vegetables in the middle of America.

Today, food is called organic if it’s produced without synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers, irradiation, antibiotics, or genetically modified seeds. In simpler terms, organic food is produced with minimal chemicals and processing, using as few artificial add-ons as possible — which is exactly how all food was once produced.

But this is only one aspect of today’s organic movement. The farmers aim to keep soil healthy and fertile using natural methods, avoiding the need for toxic chemicals. An additional goal is to preserve biodiversity — that is, ensuring a varied number of plants and other organisms coexist in harmony. When that harmony is upset, it can throw the ecosystem off balance, disrupting many natural systems such as food chains or the safety of the water we drink.

Sustainability is another key objective. This means exactly what it sounds like — producing food in a way that maintains the planet and its resources so all of the earth’s inhabitants can continue to benefit from them for a long, long time. For example, an organic farm is likely to create compost from natural waste products like lawn clippings and food scraps and turn them into natural fertilizers, instead of tossing these wastes in a landfill and buying chemical fertilizers. This is a more natural way to enhance the growing process, and one less likely to harm the soil — thus sustaining the soil.

Although “organic” may bring to mind fruits and vegetables, any farmed product can be certified organic, including milk, poultry, and meat. In fact, organic foods represent a burgeoning industry. Sales of organic food and beverages in the US topped $26 billion in 2010, up more than 7 percent from 2009 — and from a mere $1 billion in 1990. Eleven percent of all fruits and vegetables sold in 2010 were organic.

The organic craze hasn’t been confined to food. There is increasing demand for organic products like shampoos and other toiletries, as well as cleaning agents. There are even clothing lines made from completely organic materials. Sales for all organic products in the US, including nonfood items, totaled $29 billion in 2010.

So convinced are people that organic is better that they’re willing to shell out an extra cost for these items. But the question remains: are these real or perceived benefits?

 

 

To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.
CAPTCHA
Message


MM217
 
The Fortunes of War
Rabbi Moshe Grylak We’re still feeling the fallout of the First World War
Some Lessons, But Few Portents
Yonoson Rosenblum What the midterms tell us about 2020
Vote of Confidence
Eyan Kobre Why I tuned in to the liberal radio station
5 out of 10
Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin Top 5 Moments of the Kinus
Day in the Life
Rachel Bachrach Chaim White of KC Kosher Co-op
When Less is More
Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman How a good edit enhances a manuscript
It’s My Job
Jacob L. Freedman “Will you force me to take meds?”
They’re Still Playing My Song?
Riki Goldstein Yitzy Bald’s Yerav Na
Yisroel Werdyger Can’t Stop Singing
Riki Goldstein Ahrele Samet’s Loi Luni
Double Chords of Hope
Riki Goldstein You never know how far your music can go
Will Dedi Have the Last Laugh?
Dovid N. Golding Dedi and Ding go way back
Battle of the Budge
Faigy Peritzman Using stubbornness to grow in ruchniyus
The Challenging Child
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Strategies for raising the difficult child
Bucking the Trend
Sara Eisemann If I skip sem, will I get a good shidduch?
The Musician: Part 1
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer "If she can't read she'll be handicapped for life!"