There are many differences between conventional food and organic food. These two different ways of eating have an impact on everything from how much money you spend, the nutrients you are getting, and the poisons you’re consuming, to the increase or decrease in tax dollars, and trashing or polluting the planet. The concrete differences, though, are as follows:
- Genetic Modification – In most countries (including the U.S.), the use of genetic modification is not allowed for organic food. Conventional food is often genetically modified.
- Pesticide Exposure – Organic produce must be grown without the use of synthetic pesticides. The pesticide residue level can’t be higher than 5% of the maximum EPA pesticide tolerance.
- Use of Synthetic Fertilizers – Organic crops must be grown without the use of petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers.
- Use of Synthetic Growth Hormones in Livestock – “Organic” livestock can’t be given growth hormones. “Conventional” livestock ARE given growth hormones.
- Use of Antibiotics in Livestock – “Organic” livestock can’t be given antibiotics. “Conventional” livestock ARE fed antibiotics.
- Livestock Care – “Organic” livestock must have access to the outdoors, whereas the majority of livestock suffer in factory farms. Watch the move Food Inc.
- Allowance of Food Irradiation – Organic products can’t be irradiated. Non-organic products CAN.
- Use of Preservatives & Flavor Enhancers – Organic products will not contain preservatives or flavor enhancing chemicals. Non-organic products CAN contain these.
- Heavy Metals & Contaminants – Organic products can’t contain traces of heavy metals or other contaminants that exceed FDA approved levels. See the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the USDA organic label here. Non-organic products may contain greater amounts of these substances.
Organic Food Does Not Allow Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) refers to food which has undergone DNA alterations using biotechnology. When referring to genetically modified food, you may also hear the terms GMO, GM, or genetically engineered thrown around.
This entire topic of GMO’s is a rather important topic in of itself. For that reason, GMO and their effects on food will only be touched on brieflyhere, but the information is still extremely important.
GMO foods suffer significant restrictions or total bans in countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all countries in the European Union. Why? They simply are not proven to be safe. Then why might the US still not only allow GMO’s, but also, in many cases, support them? Good question. In short, the approval of GMO’s was based primarily on studies conducted by companies which have created the GMO’s, and therefore reap massive profits.
So what effects might GMO’s have on our bodies, the way we grow food, and the environment? Genetically modified foods may cause or contribute to the following problems:
- Lung damage
- Various cancers
- Seedless crops, causing farmers to buy new seeds instead of using the seeds from their other crops
- Damaged organs
- Suppressed immune system
- Inhibited milk production from cows
- An increased mortality rate
- Uncontrollable cross-pollination of GM seeds from wind, birds, and insects. This “contaminates” crops and fields which many farmers simply do not want.
I know it’s been said a couple times now that organic food does not allow for GMO’s, but that’s only 99.1% true, and here’s why. In the United States, although the National Organic Program prohibits GMO’s in organics, there are no methods to prohibit GMO contamination.
I used 99.1% because there will be at least a little bit of contamination. But 99.1% was really used because the EU Agricultural Ministers deemed even organic food the allowance of 0.9% GMO presence.
Organic Food Prohibits the Use of Pesticides
Pesticides accumulate in fat deposits in the body and cause damage over time. It is important to know that pesticides can be passed on. Mother’s who ingest pesticides through “contaminated” fruits and vegetables pass it on to their unborn child. Similarly, a child consuming breast milk will also consume an indefinite amount of pesticides based on the mother.
The effects can be detrimental, especially when combined with all of the other chemicals ingested from consuming conventional food.
Farmers growing organic crops are not allowed to use any pesticides. There still may be, however, a small amount of pesticide residue found on organic crops due to outside sources. You’ll be happy to know that this pesticide residue level can not exceed levels greater than 5%. But this still calls for an end to pesticide use, and here’s why. The cost of pesticide use is as follows:
- Immune system suppression
- Parkinson’s disease
- Male infertility & inhibited reproductive function
- Disruption of the endocrine system
- Adversely affected nervous system
- Massive pollution & environmental decay
All of these things occur with pesticide use at the cost of what? Ironically, studies show that only 0.1% of any applied pesticide ever reaches the target pest. Yes, 99.9% of many pesticides actually turn into an unintended pollutant in the environment.
The Environmental Working Group has their own 2011 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, that we recommend you check out. According to there analysis, here are the top 10 produce which contain the least amount of pesticides:
- Sweet Corn
- Sweet pears – frozen
- Cantaloupe – domestic
The Environmental Working Group also says that consumers can reduce their pesticide exposure by 80% simply by avoiding the most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the cleanest. If people ate 5 servings of fruits and veggies that were especially contaminated, an average of 10 pesticides could be consumed daily.
Organic Food is Never Subject to Synthetic Fertilizers
With the use of synthetic fertilizer come all of the negative effects listed in the above section. The big difference between synthetic fertilizer use and natural fertilizer use are primarily two things:
Quality of Food & Environmental Destruction
Feeding soil with organic matter instead of other synthetic fertilizers results in an increase in nutrients in produce. Mineral and vitamin levels are much higher when the soil is organically taken care of. It isn’t too difficult of a grasp to see that food grown in healthier soil will result in healthier, more nutritious food, higher quality food. This has been proven time and time again, even earlier in this page series.
Organic food is more nutritious than conventional food.
Synthetic fertilizers also contribute majorly to environmental destruction. These petroleum and sewage-sludge based fertilizers often lead to toxic runoff into groundwater and dead zones in the oceans.
The nitrate and phosphorous fertilizer runoff flow into river and than ultimately in the ocean. When river water rides up over the heavier salt water, algae blooms develop on the fertilizer rich water. When the algae die, bacteria uses up all the oxygen in order to decompose them, creating an oxygen dead zone. Read more about fertilizer pollution and dead zones.
According to David Pimental of Cornell University, mono-cropping and chemical fertilizer dependency costs the US $40 billion/year due to loss of top soil.
Organic Livestock Are Not Given Growth Hormones or Antibiotics
Conventional livestock are injected with growth hormones and are fed antibiotics. Combining these factors with the insane living conditions animals suffer on factory farms makes meat in America the worst meat you could ever consume.
Overuse of antibiotics leaves us with:
- Antibiotic resistant meat
- Antibiotics in rivers and drinking water
- Antibiotic resistant pork farmers and consumers
Medications are even used on animals to prevent sickness, and it is readily absorbed. When we eat meat containing antibiotics, growth hormones, and medication, we are essentially eating those things which are in the meat. In addition, the milk produced by cows also contain these, and then we consume the same things when we drink the milk. But it doesn’t end there. The growth hormones wash of ranch land and into rivers and streams, causing adverse effects on the reproductive systems of fish.
Growth hormones given to the animals cause all types of problems for humans as well. The use of these hormones has been shown to disrupt hormone balance, causing:
- Developmental problems
- Interference with the reproductive system
- Breast, prostate, and colon cancer
Due to major health concerns for animals and humans, the European Union banned the use of growth hormones in beef cattle. Japan, Canada, and Australia have all banned the use of rBGH. But the hormones are still given in the United States… The EU won’t even accept meat from us.
So why? Why, despite all of this, does the US insist on continuing with these methods of “care”? The answer is only 1 word, which everyone probably knows.
It is painfully obvious that factory farms don’t care about animals, and are focused on profits more than anything.
- The faster an animal gets fat, the closer it is to slaughter. More animals slaughtered at faster rates = more profits. Tool to hasten this process and attain massive profits = growth hormones.
- The more milk an animal produces, the faster it can be sold for profits. Tool to hasten this process and attain massive profits = bovine growth hormones (rBGH)
- Animals are fed huge amounts of antibiotics that they do not need. If one animal gets sick, the entire herd gets medicated. The outcome is antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria and heavily medicated animals which we consume. The practice of medicating animals has been banned in the EU and Canada, because it is unknown what other effects the medications have, and why.
- One glass of pasteurized milk can contain a combination of 20 painkillers, antibiotics, and growth hormones
The practice isn’t healthy for animals, humans, the environment and economy, or the world as a whole.