Columnist Sherlyn Ong: What Exactly is Organic Food?
Photo By: Sherlyn Ong
By: Sherlyn Ong
As of recent years, organic food has become a big deal. However, many are unsure about what organic food actually is and why exactly it’s better for them.
Organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Organic animal meat and products come from animals that do not consume antibiotics or growth hormones.
Many of these regulations prevent farmers from using potentially harmful substances to humans and the environment.
The usage of pesticides can often cause health complications in humans and animals as well. DDT is a prime example. In the past, DDT affected humans as a carcinogen and it also harmed all types of animals ranging from predatory birds to aquatic animals. The effects were so disastrous that it was banned as a pesticide.
Synthetic fertilizer can also lead to an excessive runoff of nutrients to the oceans which results in dead zones- parts of the ocean that have no oxygen, where no organisms can survive in.
In order to abide by these regulations, farmers usually need to spend more money on labor and resources. For example, since pesticides cannot be used, alternatives such as ladybugs who feed on pests have to be used, which can cost more. It can also be less effective. However, this method prevents any dangerous chemicals from harming consumer’s health or the environment. Organic farmers also have to avoid mono-cropping which would reduce the yields but preserve the quality of the soil. This makes sure that the soil is not destroyed and can be used again in the future. It also prevents the topsoil from eroding. A monoculture often leads to the soils getting used to the pesticide and insecticides that are used, which result in conventional farmers using more potent kinds, which pose a bigger threat to humans and the environment.
In all, the extra cost that we pay for organic food is the cost of our health and our planet. Conventional produce and animals are cheaper because the extra costs are treated as externalities. Hence, by consuming organic, you are paying to be healthier and paying to protect the Earth.