Organic Food: Is it Worth it?

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The USDA states that organic food comes from organic food from hens that live in barns, uncaged and have outdoor access. The dairy cows are put out to pasture to graze for at least one hundred twenty days per year. None of the animals have been treated with hormones or antibiotics and their food has not been treated with synthetic fertilizer, pesticides or herbicides.

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The crops have not been treated with those things either. That sounds great, but it is really better? Organic farming is more expensive, yields less crops than conventional farming and has no proven health benefits and in fact, may very well contain known carcinogens. Organic food is a waste of money in almost every way over just normal crops and normal livestock. My partner, Karla, will present the other side of this topic which is the benefits of organic food.

Why is buying organic food a poor choice? First, organic food is more expensive than non-organic food. The demand for organic food is higher than the supply so higher prices can be charged. According to Chait, the more consumers who buy organic products the higher the demand would be and that would allow organic operations to increase their operations. That would eventually lower costs (Chait, 2018). However, because organic food is so expensive, those who might want to buy it often cannot afford to. This keeps the market for organic from expanding enough to lower prices. Labels can be deceiving and that might also keep the market from growing. Many people who believe they are buying organic food actually buy foods labeled as natural and those are often not organic.

Production of organic crops is more expensive for many reasons. This makes those who raise organic food must charge more to make a profit. Organic farming yields less crops. This is sometimes debated but according to studies done by the USDA, it is true. In 2014, if all crops would have been grown as organic crops it would have been necessary to farm an additional one hundred nine million more acres of land. To put that in perspective, that would have included all the parklands and wildland areas in the continental United States. That is almost 2 times as much as all the cities, towns and suburbs in the country. In 2014, only 0.44 percent of all farmed land was farmed as organic but if organic farming increased, there would be problems because it has a lower land-use-efficiency. This information makes it hard to claim that organic farming is more environmentally friendly (Savage, 2018). It seems it would be next to impossible to sustain life on an all organic planet. There is simply not enough land. When using crop rotation, it takes time for the soil to become usable again after each harvest. Organic crops are often lost to bugs and diseases. Organic food also spoils more quickly so it has a shorter shelf life once it finally makes it to stores.

There are other reasons that make organic farming more expensive as well. Crops take more time to mature because they are not using growth hormones. Sometimes the periods of peak nutrient demand are missed because of using only organic sources. These crops are often competing with more weeds. When it comes time to harvest, it costs more to harvest organic crops. Harvested crops must be separated from conventional crops to avoid cross-contamination. Organic farms must be certified by the USDA. That certification is very expensive and the farm must always be ready for inspections. Record keeping must be done which usually means more employees. If the USDA finds that a farm is not following the regulations for being organic, they can be fined or shut down.

Raising animals on an organic farm is also more expensive. It takes more time to care for the animals and they die more frequently. The food these animals eat is more expensive as well because it also must be organic.

Marketing and distribution of organic food is inefficient. The smaller market for organic food makes advertising more expensive. These small companies do not have large budgets that include advertising, so it takes a lot more time and very creative staff. These small companies still have to pay for the same things the larger companies have to pay for such as consumer education, printed ads, websites, billboards and other advertising.

Food needs to be transported separately to avoid contamination. Smaller amounts being transported means that there is less profit because the truck drivers still have to be paid, no matter how much product is being transported. The organic farms are often further from big cities so there is more gas used and truckers must be paid for more driving time. Trucks must be cleaned to certain standards if they are used to transport both organic and non-organic products which again means more money paid out in labor costs.

Organic food must be stored in its own facilities to avoid cross-contamination. Most organic farms are small, so they do not have their own manufacturing facilities. This means they either have to find an organic company to co-op with and share the space or buy their own equipment and storage facility. Another option is to co-op with conventional farms. This leads to the need for more time cleaning equipment and making sure products are kept separate. If the products become contaminated, all the work put in will be for nothing as they can no longer be sold as organic.

Organic food may be more harmful than non-organic food. Some of the natural pesticides are more harmful than the manufactured ones. Just because a pesticide is natural it does not mean it is safe. There are known carcinogens used in organic farming. Pesticides such as nicotine sulfate and copper sulfate are toxic to animals. Copper sulfate is believed to cause cancer, but it is used in organic farming (Miller, 2018). Also, it takes more pesticide applications to keep pests away in organic farming. This can lead to more pesticides on the produce. However, this produce, like that from conventional farms, is still within the safe levels for consumption and exposure can be further limited by washing produce before eating it. The pesticides have been found to be harmful to the soil and the environment, however. Also, many organic foods test positive for pesticides that are used in conventional farming. Some natural pesticides harm the pests that are actually beneficial to the crops (University of Guelph, 2010).

Organic food can contain inorganic material. There are 35 non-synthetic, non-organic substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as organic. Carrageenan, an emulsifier known for causing inflammation, is fund in coconut milk and almond milk (Crumb, 2015). There are 43 synthetic, non-organic substances allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as organic. Cellulose or wood pulp is one. Ethylene, used to make fruits look ripe at the store, is another. Over 45 non-organically produced ingredients are allowed as ingredients in or on processed products labeled organic when the ingredient is not commercially available in organic form. Soy lecithin and cornstarch, which is produced from corn and 88% of corn was genetically modified, are some of those ingredients (Crumb, 2015). Only 95% of a food item is required to be organic in order to be labeled organic according to the definition given by the USDA.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Organic Program (NOP) do not certify or inspect companies/foods for certification. They simply make the policies that these certifying companies follow, and this is only within the USA. The company/brand seeking organic certification pays the accrediting company which seems to be a conflict of interest. Two of the three major organic certifying companies are for-profit. Only one organization is non-profit. Quality Assurance International (QAI) and California Certified Organic Farmers are both for profit organizations. Oregon Tilth is a non-profit company (crumb, 2015).

There are not many actual benefits to eating organic food. When surveyed in 2003, almost seventy percent of people who buy organic food reportedly did so because they were under the assumption that it was healthier and this was more than any other reason given. This has been studied and researched for fifty years and there has been no convincing proof that organic food is any healthier than its counterpart (Novella, 2012). Organic foods can still contain GMOs. GMOs may be found in items labeled as made with organic ingredients. According to the Non-GMO Report, 25 percent of organic corn has been contaminated with GMOs.

Pesticides are still on a lot of the food labeled as organic. According to pesticide data, the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that twenty-one percent of organic samples tested contained pesticide residue (USDA, 2012). The USDA survey also found that forty percent or more of samples contained unapproved pesticide residues (USDA, 2012).

Organic foods do not contain less calories nor do they contain more nutritional value. Labeling foods as organic does not change the calorie levels in the foods. Stanford University’s Center for Health combined 237 studies to determine that fruits and vegetables that met the criteria for organic were on average no more nutritious nor were those foods less likely to be contaminated by pathogenic bacteria than food not labeled as organic (Brandt, 2012). An instructor of medicine at the School of Medicine reported that many times people believe that organic food is always more nutritious and healthier and when it was studied, they did not find that in their studies, which surprised them (Brandt, 2012). After analysis, no consistent differences in vitamin content were found. Phosphorus was the only nutrient found in higher quantities in organic produce. In milk, no differences were found in protein or fat content, but organic milk may contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (Brandt, 2012).

In conclusion, organic food is a waste of money. Organic food is more expensive than non-organic food. Organic food may be more harmful than non-organic food. It is not as environmentally friendly as those in favor of it would like people to believe. There are not many actual benefits to eating organic food. These reasons prove that organic food is overpriced and quite often misrepresented. Is it worth it?

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