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John Boone
ENG 1320-293
Wallenstein
The Myth of Organic Food


Food bearing the Organic label has become hugely popular in the United States. However,
this popularity is based on misconceptions about what Organic actually is, and misleading
marketing about modern food production. So what does Organic actually mean? The scientific
definition is any carbon-containing molecule with a carbon-hydrogen bond (Avery, Alex,
2006). Scientifically, ALL food is organic. The distinction made by proponents of Organic is a
philosophical one, deceptively disguised as science. In the context of the popular food products,
Organic is a conventional food crop that is genetically and chemically identical to its standard
counterpart (Avery, 2006). Organic is a clever marketing label for a product, and nothing more.
Organic food remains popular due to three common misconceptions: that it is healthier to eat;
that buying organic food supports small businesses and strikes a blow against big, evil
corporations; and that the cultivation method is better for the environment. Most people would
agree that healthy food supplied by sustainable production are good goals, so the scientific facts
should be established even if they contradict our emotionally satisfying assumptions.
According to The National Review, Americans believe organic food is healthier by a 2-1
margin, despite the lack of any evidence supporting this (Hughner, McDonagh, Prothero,
Schultz, Stanton). Organic and conventional farmers use two different ways to grow the exact
some species of plant. The fundamental makeup and biochemical content of a crop is defined by
its genes, not by the way it was grown. Organic and standard farming grows the exact same
species of plant, which produces the exact same species of food (Avery, 2006).
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The assertion that Organic crops are somehow healthier has no factual basis. To support their
position, organic proponents often warn that food produced by modern farming is unhealthy, or
that it requires toxic chemicals that poison consumers. These ideas are many decades out of date.
Modern food production is one of the most scrutinized of processes. According to the American
Council on Science and Health: Utilization of modern farming and consumption of their
products is supported by decades of studies that demonstrate their total safety (Kava, Ruth,
2009).
Anti-corporate sentiment is a very trendy aspect of popular culture, and many people believe
that buying Organic supports small, virtuous farmers and strikes a blow against evil corporations.
Despite the clever marketing, Organic is big business. According to Business Week: California
alone produces $600 million in organic produce, most of it coming from just five farms
(Armstrong, Larry, 2009). Additionally, most Organic farms are owned by the same companies
who produce non-organic foods. According to The Journal of Consumer Behavior, Nearly
100% of organic food in supermarkets comes from a producer owned by one of the major food
companies that also sells regular food (Guthman, Julie, 2004). The major food corporations are
well aware of the organic fad and are happy to charge more money for less product. They dont
care which one people buy. The money spent on organic products goes into the same pockets and
does not strike a blow against anything. In addition to Organic farming, grocery stores
specializing in Organic and Natural products have been incredibly successful selling these
popular products. Trader Joes is a supermarket chain specializing in organic, vegetarian, and
alternative foods (Armstrong, 2009) with hundreds of locations throughout the United States.
The customers appreciate the stores image of healthy food in a small business atmosphere and
are willing to pay a premium for their trendy products. But if Trader Joes customers think they
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arent giving their money to a big corporation, they are very mistaken. Trader Joes has annual
corporate sales of $37 billion, and is owned by billionaire Theo Albrecht, ranked the 22
nd
richest
man in the world (Armstrong, 2009). The idea of taking a stand against big business by
shopping at stores like Trader Joes is laughable. Many people who talk about the benefits of
organic food are the same ones who decry the hubris of greedy corporations. Then they give
their money to organic companies that enjoy dramatically higher profits for providing less food.
One of the most popular assumptions regarding organic food is that organic farming is better
for the environment because it does not use fertilizer or pesticides. This is false. ALL farming
must use fertilizer to grow food and must use pesticides to protect the crops from insects and
disease. Organic farmers use all-natural pesticides and fertilizers, but just because something is
naturally occurring does not mean it is non-toxic. Many of the fertilizers and pesticides used by
organic farmers are highly toxic to humans, animals, and the environment. These Organic
fertilizers and pesticides are also less efficient than their modern synthetic counterparts, so up to
seven times as much must be used (Kava, 2009). Organic marketing uses misleading vocabulary
when referring to modern agriculture with words like "chemical farming" and "industrial
agriculture"(Avery, 2006). The natural inference we are supposed to make is that organic crops
are free from these dangers. In contrast to the chemicals required for Organic farming, todays
synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are completely biodegradable (Guthman, 2004). The people
who tout the benefits of organic farming are often the same people who protest deforestation to
make room for more agriculture. However, Organic methods require about twice the acreage to
produce the same crop, thus directly resulting in the destruction of undeveloped land (Guthman,
2004). In her article, "Is Organic Produce Better?" Ruth Kava asserts If you believe that we
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should use our current farmland as efficiently as possible to save forests, then you should
logically oppose organic farming.
Organic food is a less efficient product sold at high prices, justified by baseless alarmism
about food produced my modern farming techniques. These modern techniques have saved
literally billions of lives in underprivileged countries (Guthman, 2004). Poor, starving people do
not need emotionally satisfying new age nonsense. They need healthy, safe food grown as
efficiently as possible. For every yuppie willing to spend four times the money on less product,
for every hippie kid beating a bongo drum in favor of organics, there is a Ph.D. agriculturist
working to feed the hungry people of the world and reduce the environmental impact of farming.

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