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What is Organic Food and Why Should I Care?

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In today’s world, there are an exorbitant amount of meal choices and food options. We are constantly searching for nutritious foods so that we may live healthy lives. In regard to purchasing healthy foods, organic food is growing in popularity due to an increased concern for food safety and environmental protection. Organic food refers to crops or livestock that are grown on the farm without the application of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms (Darveb and Katz 21). There are a number of regulations and specific requirements that must be met and maintained for farmers to qualify for organic food production. In order to obtain organic certification in the U.S., farmers must pay a fee to have their facilities and food annually inspected by certified organic inspectors. For three consecutive years, the land and crops must not be treated with any synthetic pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or certain fertilizers, such as sewage sludge and most chemical fertilizers.

Organic food is best choice because it is safer and healthier than conventional food and environmentally clean. According to consumer surveys, the public is concerned about the safety of the produce purchased in stores due to the danger of pesticide contamination. Authors Marika Alena McCauley and Laura Inouye state, “Over 900 million pounds of pesticides are used annually by U.S. agriculture, posing threats to human health and wildlife. In addition, 24.6 million pounds of antibiotics (70 percent of total U.S. antibiotic production) are fed to chickens, pigs and cows annually.” Also, according to Consumers Union study, 27 different foods had high toxicity levels and among 7 had an exceedingly high toxicity level.

The food with the highest toxicity levels were apples, grapes, green beans, peaches, pears, spinach and winter squash (“Environment: High Pesticide Levels Found in Produce.” Facts On File World News Digest). These findings concern public health authorities that an antibiotic-resistant bacterium is infecting consumers. In contrast, organic foods exclude the use of synthetic chemicals and provide a variety of benefits. Certain studies show that organic foods have more beneficial nutrients, such as antioxidants, than their conventionally grown counterparts. Additionally, organic produce contains fewer pesticides which significantly benefits children, fetuses, and pregnant women. At an early age, exposure to pesticides can cause developmental delays, behavioral disorders and motor dysfunction. Plus, pesticides can be passed from mother to child in womb, as well as through breast milk.

Moreover, organic food often tastes fresher because it does not contain preservatives, and it is typically grown locally so there is minimal time between the picking to the selling. Organic farming is also advantageous to the environment. America’s industrial-style farms are the number one source of water pollution in the country and characteristically contaminate surface waters and municipal water supplies. Every year conventional farmers dump 1 billion pounds of pesticides and herbicides and 22 million tons of chemical fertilizers onto their crops, tapping any of the 9000 chemicals at their disposal (Harris, 74). Chemical intensive farms and long distance food transportation not only use up enormous amounts of non-renewable fossil fuel but also pollute the air and destroy the ozone layer. Pesticides such as methyl bromide can generate up to 20-25% of climate disrupting greenhouse gases (Cummins, 17).

On the other hand, organic farming practices reduce pollution (air, water, soil), conserve water, reduce soil erosion, increase soil fertility, and use less energy. Farming without pesticides is environmentally safer for birds and small animals as well as farmers. Organic farming also fights against the effects of global warming. According to the Rodale Institute, a nonprofit organic research institution, a healthy, organic agricultural system actually reduces carbon dioxide and slows climate change. The institute reveals that if only 10,000 medium sized farms in the U.S. converted to organic production, they would reduce carbon storage in the soil in an amount comparable to taking 1,174,400 cars off the road or reducing car miles driven by 14.62 billion miles.

Today, organic agriculture is practiced in almost every country in the world. Although many people primarily associate organic agriculture with fruits and vegetables, organic agricultural practices apply to crops such as grains, citrus, nuts, herbs, beans, and grass for pastureland. Because of the benefits of organic food, more hospitals have integrated organic food into staff and patient menus. According to the Organic Trade Associate, U.S. families are increasingly embracing organic products with 81% of U.S. families buying certain at least one type of organic product. As a result, sale of organic foods in the U.S. have increased by more than 20% every year since 1996, reaching $13.8 billion 2005 and projected or reach $32 billion in 2009 (McCauley and Inouye, 86). Rodale Institute also found that organic systems are nearly three times as profitable as a chemically induced agricultural system. Organic systems see an average of $558.00 in net returns per acre per year, versus $190 per acre per year for chemical systems.

There are much broader benefits to choosing organic food. The food protects your family from toxic pesticide residues commonly found on fruit and vegetable skins. Pesticides cause numerous health problems depending on the chemical makeup. Organic food also gives increased nutritional value when compared to conventional food. By going organic, consumers not only reap health benefits but also help improve biodiversity, producing less greenhouse gases, cleaner water sources, soil preservation and sustainability for future farming. By choosing organic products, you are choosing to reduce environmental pollution and ensure that farming will be stable and sustainable for years to come.


Cummins, Ronnie. “Industrial Farming Is Harming Farmers, the Environment, and Public Health.” Is factory farming harming America?, Ed. Stuart A. Kallen. Farmington Hills: Christine Nasso, 2006. 11-19. Print.

Derven, Daphne L. “Organic Agriculture.” Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. Ed. Solomon H. Katz. Vol. 3. New York: Charles Scribner’s sons, 2003. 14-19. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.

“Environment: High Pesticide Levels Found in Produce.” Facts on File World News Digest: n. pag. World News Digest. Facts on File News Services, 25 Feb. 1999. Web. 26 Feb. 2014. .

Harris, Mark. “Organic FUTURES.” Vegetarian Times 283 (2001): 74. Academic Search Complete. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

McCauley, Marika Alena, and Inouye, Laura. “Organic Farming Should Be Pursued.” Food opposing viewpoints. Ed. Laura K. Egendorf. Farmington Hills: Bonnie Szumski, 2006. 85-88. Print.

Non Profite Resource. “Organic Foods.” Understanding Organic Food Labels, Benefits, and Claims. N.p., Dec. 2013. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.

United States Department. “Agricultural Marketing Service – Home.” National Organic Program, 28 Jan. 2014. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.

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