Monday, July 7, 2008

The organic problem...

There are few things I understand less than people who buy organic food when they can't really afford food, period.

Nonaestima is like that. She's currently unemployed and ran through most of her savings, and since she's fresh out of college she wouldn't qualify for unemployment. Ryter is paying her part of the rent, a fairly hefty financial burden, and she can't get on the lease yet because she's not employed. And yet, she insists on eating organic foods only.

Let me clear something up first of all. For people who do not have a history of bad reactions or allergic reactions to pesticide traces, who wash their foods before they eat them, there is NOTHING WRONG with non-organic fruits, vegetables, and grains. There is NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in health benefits or quality; the environmental impact is slightly better but you're even better off sticking to local and seasonal foods.

Pesticides on fruits and vegetables shipped to or used within the US are tested for safety. The only time non-organic pesticides should be a concern is if you have a small pet, like a rodent or a lizard, that eats the veggies or fruits, because such a small animal might have a theoretical problem from eating foods with pesticides. Do I agree with pesticide use? Not entirely. I don't like many pesticides, as an ecologist. But I also know they won't hurt ME, and that the current organic labeling system is bullshit. So I'd buy organic meats, maybe, and certainly organic liver; organic farmed fish are preferable as well; but for fruits and veggies, I'll buy what looks freshest, what's local, and what's in season (because that means it's not shipped from the Southern Hemisphere).

But I don't fault people who buy organic food in general. It's not my problem if you want to spend more for the same thing with a pesticide derived directly from plants instead of from a chemical derived from a plant or mineral extract. My beef is with people who insist on buying it when they could barely afford the non-organic version.

A can of regular beans is what, 40 cents? Organic beans are closer to a dollar, and almost never on sale. So basically people are deciding to take in half as many calories, but they're "better" calories somehow? Despite the fact they come from the same species of bean, canned in the same way? Sure, many people are overweight and can benefit from eating fewer calories, but in my experience, the poor young professionals who insist on organic-only are also the skinny types who really can't afford to be skipping meals. And in the case of Nonaestima, she's also recovering from abdominal surgery and a recent hemorrhage. Not the time to lower caloric intake.

I've even read about people complaining that the WIC offices don't allow organic foods. Now, I have a few issues with the WIC food lists, namely that as far as I can tell they only seem to include crappy, sugary, heavily packaged foods and a person living on them probably wouldn't get anything near proper nutrition, which is supposedly the point. But ORGANIC foods?

Know the term "beggars can't be choosers?" Call it un-PC, but if you can barely feed yourself normal food, you don't get to be picky. I want to see things like seasonal, inexpensive fresh fruits and veggies included on WIC lists, but it's completely irrational to expect them to let people who clearly need food aid desperately enough to qualify for WIC (and it's not just based on income level, there's a bunch of qualifiers) buy expensive organic foods that really have no difference. And people will refuse food that isn't organic! FREE food! Call me a penny-pincher but I always like free food, even if it tastes like crap. Oy.

Ultimately, I guess if you want to starve yourself rather than eat perfectly good non-organic foods, that's your right. But don't refuse gifts of food, or ask that gifts be organic only, or demand that the government help you pay for your fancy organic food. Because non-organic food won't kill you, and to be honest, most of the time it tastes just as good or better.

11 comments:

estherar said...

The organic produce here is so inferior (AND more expensive) to the stuff I can buy in the market, I'm more afraid of the fungi/pests/rot on the organic stuff than any pesticide residues - which have never been proven to harm anyone (idustrial exposure to pesticides being a totally different animal).

There's also the issue of organic methods often (as in non-laboratory conditions) producing less per acre, hence the higher pricing and the lack of feasibility to feed the whole world with organic food without wasting even more land resources.

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