Dirt! had a number of valid points, especially about man-made environmental issues caused from not respecting soil. While the documentary’s main point wasn’t about promoting organic food, it did raise the issue, and I’m always a little wary of anything that’s over-enthusiastic about organic food. The documentary suggests that growing food organically is better because organic farms don’t use pesticide, however, from what I’ve read on the subject, it appears organic farms do in fact use pesticides.
According to the Scientific American, the US Organic Standards approve of over twenty different chemicals for use in pesticide and fungicide commonly used by industrial organic farms. In other words, in order to be “certified organic” it’s not required that your farming practices don’t include use of pesticide.
Image from environmentalhealthnews.org
Of course not all pesticides are synthetic. Organic pesticides do exist, yet, The Scientific American points out, it’s feared that organic pesticides are even worse than what’s usually used because, “not only were the synthetic pesticides more effective means of control, the organic pesticides were more ecologically damaging, including causing higher mortality in other, non-target species like the predators”.
There was a comment made in Dirt about how humans are not so different from the pests we use pesticide on, and therefore, if we use pesticide on our crops it will ultimately be unhealthy for us. Yet organic food – even if came from a farm that used no pesticides whatsoever – would not be without its own health risks. A study in Minnesota found that food grown from organic farms had “higher levels of potential pathogens,” with an 8 percent increase in E. Coli in organic produce compared to conventional produce. And only food samples taken from organic farms were found to contain Salmonella, as organic farms use manure instead of artificial fertilizers.
Somewhere on the internet there is a cartoon that pokes fun at the idea that “all-natural” is better. “Shark bites and poison ivy are all natural too,” it illustrates. I’m sure there is more we could do to protect the environment and encourage better farming practices, but I suspect it’s not as simple as buying and eating organic.