Author Archives: Anita Poonia

Organic Food vs. Conventional Food – Is it really worth the extra money?

It is clear from various studies that organic food does not provide additional nutritional benefits when compared to conventional food. However, affluent sections from developed economies, such as Europe and North America, might be willing to shell out extra bucks to go organic. This could be due to the feel good effect that emerges from their go-green philosophy and reminds them of their contribution to a greener environment. Conventional food offers similar nutritional benefits as organic produce at a lower price and it contributes to the healthy livelihood of commoners. On the other side, organic produce is a kind of a lifestyle component for the affluent sections.

The choice of organic food has always been debated to determine if it is really healthy and safer for consumers and whether it is really worth to pay the extra cost for the ‘organic’ label. Health-conscious consumers believe that organic food is a healthier choice as it helps in the prevention of a number of diseases that are associated with the consumption of pesticide-laden produce. This debate came in the spotlight once again when a 2012 study conducted by researchers from Stanford University found that organic food is no more nutritious than conventional produce despite the fact that organic food did have fewer traces of pesticides compared to conventional produce.

Dr. Dena Bravata, a senior affiliate with Stanford’s Centre for Health Policy, said: “There isn’t much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you’re an adult and making a decision based solely on your health.”

Americans have shown a high level of interest in the consumption of organic foods and this has encouraged an increasing number of food producers to take advantage of the trend. Probably this is the reason why the organic food industry experienced a growth of 5.1% in 2009 even in the face of the economic downturn. Though organic food makes up only 4.2% of US food and beverage sales, it is the fastest growing segment of the market. It reached nearly US$30 billion in 2011, up from US$14 bn in 2005. Today, organic farming has become more commercialized and has emerged as a lucrative business opportunity for food producers in the US.

According to Hartman Group, a market research firm based in the US, nearly 70% of Americans buy organic food occasionally and around 1/3rd of consumers buy it every week. However, the fact is that a 100% organic diet does not provide all the vital nutrients that the human body requires to maintain its functions. A balanced diet, which contains appropriate proportions of different types of foods, is what helps the human body to stay healthy and perform its routine functions.

An informed decision helps you make better choices and the following pros-and-cons list will help you develop a better idea about the green as well as the grey sides of consuming organic foods:

Pros:

  • Organic food produce is 30% less likely to be contaminated by synthetic pesticides than conventionally grown produce.
  • Organic farming is environment friendly. It is designed to be more sustainable, produce less waste and pollutants.
  • Organic producing practices do not allow the use of Genetically Modified (GM) crop. GM crops are linked to massive increases in herbicide use and it could create a number of side-effects.
  • Organic foods are environment friendly and contain fewer amounts of pesticides and hence, the consumption of organic foods reduces the body’s exposure to hormones, irradiated foods, and antibiotics.

Cons:

  • Organic food does not necessarily provide additional nutritional benefits.
  • Compared to conventional food, organic food is quite expensive and in most cases, the price of organic foods is up to 40-50% higher than conventional produce. Consequently, families with limited food budget cannot afford organic foods.
  • Organic farming practices promote the use of organic pesticides, some of which may be as dangerous to health as synthesized pesticides used in conventional food products.
  • Organic foods may decay more quickly as they do not contain any preservative.

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