Certified Organic Products: Facts and Myths

I had a conversation with my friend Emily Thomas recently about the common myths of certified organic products.  Emily is a terrific girl and a dear friend.  She hosts a weekly podcast highlighting the struggles of motherhood and how we can link arms and encourage one another.  

Emily Thomas of  Mom Struggling Well

Emily Thomas of Mom Struggling Well

Understanding Brings Relief

Emily had seen a little of my journey on social media but we hadn’t had a chance to visit in person about it.  I saw her at a conference and had the opportunity to tell her what I had discovered about modern agriculture.  I shared the freedom I now feel in the grocery store because I am confident in my food choices.  She was very interested and began inquiring.  I was happy to share the 5 things I assumed about Certified Organic Products before I dug past the food labels to find relief in understanding.

my kids

my kids

#1 Organic Is Healthier

I had assumed that organic products were healthier, but I learned that after many independent scientific studies, no nutritional differences have been found between organic and non-organic foods.  Since it’s not healthier or better for me, that means I couldn’t be poisoning myself or my kids if we eat non-organic produce.  Relief.

a congenitally grown corn crop   photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

a congenitally grown corn crop

photo credit:  Morgan Baugh

#2 Organic Is Better For The Environment 

I had assumed that organic farming was better for the environment, but I learned that it is actually much more demanding on our natural resources like water, land and climate.  Because organic farmers are limited in the kinds of nutrient management practices they can use based on their 30 year old regulations, the yields in organic fields are significantly lower.  As a result, more acreage is required to produce the same amount of yield that a conventional farmer can produce.  This unnecessarily removes chunks of prairies, forests and wetlands from natural habitation.  More water is required because the weeds are competing with the crops.  Tilling is a common practice to try to reduce these weeds, but scientists now know that breaking up the soil is a major way Green House Gases are released into the atmosphere.  Additionally, more fuel is burned as a result of the increased number of passes tractors have to make over each field.  Armed with modern scientific discoveries and the freedom to use a broader repertoire of farming practices, conventional farming is more sustainable for the environment.   Since these practices are more eco-friendly, I have confidence to purchase non-organic.  Relief.  

conventionally grown rice being loaded into a truck

conventionally grown rice being loaded into a truck

#3 Organic Labels Describe The Food

I had assumed that the Certified Organic label was an indication about the actual food that I consumed, but I learned that it's really just a label that indicates what type of farming practices were employed.  Again, in order to sell under the Certified Organic label, farms must adhere to regulations set 30 years ago by the USDA.  Science, medicine, technology, transportation and so many other industries reflect ever-changing improvements, and conventional farmers do too.  Their food is safe and their practices are sustainable.  Since it doesn’t truly reflect a standard about the food, that means it’s just extra background information that shouldn't necessarily influence my decision about the food itself.  Relief.

#4 Organic Is More Expensive So It Is A Better Value

I had assumed that organic products were better because they were more expensive.  I learned that there are two reasons they are more expensive.  1)  It costs more to farm organically because labor and fuel costs are higher and yields are smaller than non-organic farming.  2)  Consumers will pay higher prices for the perceived value.  I learned that the overall production costs of Certified Organic products are only slightly higher than conventional farming, and most of the inflated prices are a result of effective marketing and willing consumers.  Since it costs more for reasons I don't value, I can save money and buy non-organic products.  Relief.  

An ag plane being loaded with fertilizer

An ag plane being loaded with fertilizer

#5 Organic Farms Don't Use Chemicals

I had assumed that Certified Organic farmers didn’t use any fertilizers or chemicals.  I learned that there are more than 50 pesticides that are allowable on Certified Organic farms which are often applied in excess because they are ineffective.  Since both conventionally grown and organically grown crops use chemicals, I choose to buy non-organic products which have been grown under equally strict guidelines that are prescribed and overseen by the USDA.  Relief.  

Listen In

Emily was fascinated and also relieved by this information.  She invited me on her podcast to share these and other thoughts about our Connecting City To Farm journey.  Also, we get into some other fun mothering issues.  Hope you’ll enjoy listening by clicking here