Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | August 6, 2007

Is organic food better?

We asked our readers to tell us: “Is organic food inherently better for you? Or is the difference negligible?” Here are your responses.

Terri Joseph, Candor

Organic foods are healthier for all of us because of the potential impact of poisons (bio-cides) on us and our environment.

To grow conventionally farmed produce, three types of poisons are used: herbicides to kill the weeds, fungicides to kill plant diseases and, then, pesticides to kill the insects. Why choose to eat produce grown with all these poisons?

Scientists and nutritionist have studied and compared samples of organically versus conventionally grown produce and found varying amounts of poisonous residues on conventionally grown produce. (See the latest Nutrition Action Health Letter, July/August 2007) No one really knows the full effects of these residues on our bodies. Why gamble?

Some organic foods may have more nutrients, according to studies. But shouldn’t we care if more and more poisons are used on our planet? Shouldn’t we care that farm workers on conventional farms have higher rates of many diseases? Shouldn’t we care if honeybees, butterflies and some amphibians, birds and mammals become extinct? How will all of these poisons affect our health and that of our grandchildren?

Sure, it costs a little more to buy organic foods, but the overall cost on us and our planet’s health is much less.

Nancy Kleinsmith, Vestal

The first step is clarifying the difference between Certified Organic Foods, Organic Foods, and those not identified as either. Certified Organic foods are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge and haven’t been genetically engineered or irradiated. A product listed as organic contains only 95 percent organic ingredients. Foods without either label may be treated with pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge and may be genetically engineered or irradiated. Producers of organic food are not allowed to give their animals antibiotics to stimulate growth.

Some fruits and vegetables are more susceptible to pesticide treatment. These include peaches, which always carry pesticide residue in part to their soft skin. To find out more information on which produce is less contaminated with pesticides, contact the nonprofit, Washington-based Environmental Working Group.

Humans have contributed many toxins to the eco-system; plastics full of dioxins are spread easily through the air. Years ago, when the concept of plastics was first identified, the outlook was very positive for what this lightweight, waterproof material was capable of — lighter jars to store food products in, pipes that transported water and other necessities. What doesn’t make sense is that we continue to manufacture plastics now knowing their negative impact on the environment and on human and animal life. Unfortunately, all life forms and our quality of life are affected by the decisions of manufacturers and consumers of these products.

In 1962, Rachel Carson warned the public of the dangers of pesticide use. In her book, “Silent Spring,” she documented several instances where the pesticides have killed many other life forms that were not targeted. Many of the pesticides at this time were being used to stop Dutch Elm disease and treat farmers crops.

When people spray their lawns to get rid of “unwanted” weeds, they affect the circle of life for all of us. The earthworms, birds and rabbits that feed on our lawns are passed along on the food chain. In addition, our domestic pets and children who play in these yards may be adversely affected.

People who work with pesticides have higher rates of Parkinson’s disease, leukemia, myeloma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and asthma in addition to cancers of the lips, stomach, skin, brain and prostate. A study done by Agriculture Health states that men who apply pesticides for a living in Iowa have a 41 percent increased risk of prostate cancer. Pesticides are also linked to problems with our endocrine system, which includes the thyroid.

Pesticides are poisons. When given to animals in high doses, they can affect the nervous system, cause cancers and birth defects. Consuming organic foods is healthier for the environment and for people. It’s a conscious way of living and the right thing to do. Many people who eat organic products are also recycling, reusing, composting and using environmentally friendly products in their homes and gardens. It is a way of life that makes sense.

Eating organic foods supports all life forms; it’s good for the soil, air and rivers that pesticides pollute, and it tastes great, too!

Nicole Wood, Binghamton

Organic food is without a doubt better for you. Whether it is a piece of fruit or a whole-grain cracker, there are numerous health benefits to eating organically.

People who don’t consider organic food as an option are uninformed on the subject. If you weren’t raised on health food or not taught about it in school, certainly one wouldn’t know the difference.

Organic food production has higher standards and strict guidelines.

Produce is not sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers. Organic packaged foods do not contain hydrogenated oils/trans fat, genetically modified organisms, or high-fructose corn syrup. Organic meat/dairy are not administered antibiotics, hormones or fed animal by products. It is a no-brainer to want to eat the cleanest and healthiest food possible because food is our fuel. As the saying goes, “you are what you eat.”

Studies show that pesticide-laden food may have long-term effects on your body. Toxins can be accumulated and stored in the body’s tissues. This can lead to defects in the central nervous system, fertility issues in men and women, and respiratory problems.

Other studies show that continual consumption of hydrogenated oils can lead to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. Also, high-fructose corn syrup is said to be a leading cause of obesity and adult-onset diabetes. This is because it alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function.

If I haven’t convinced you to eat organic, let the food be your guide. Do a taste test. Organic bananas taste far superior to conventionally grown bananas. Organic strawberries have a strong natural fragrance where conventionally grown ones have no smell. Organic yogurt doesn’t leave an artificial aftertaste in your mouth, and organic deli meats taste fresher.

I suggest visiting your local health food store for guidance on this subject. That’s where I learned that eating organically was the key to feeling my best.

Evan N. Johnson, Johnson City

Organic foods grown with organic fertilizers share the same nutritional values as food grown with chemical fertilizers, such as Miracle-Gro. Fertilizers condition the soil, which in turn helps a plant grow. If the soil is conditioned correctly by means of using proper fertilizer techniques, according to directions, the plant itself will grow wonderfully.

One might say that the chemicals are absorbed within the plant during vegetation and fruiting growth, but with proper fertilizer techniques this will not happen. If one thinks they’ve given a plant too much fertilizer during its life they can flush out the roots with plain water during the last two weeks of growth.

Organic milk is no different from regular milk, either. The FDA puts standards on these products and they are evaluated individually.

Roger E. Conklin Sr., Conklin

Investigative reporter John Stossel for ABC News did a story for the news program “20/20,” and the following excerpts can be found in his book, “Give Me A Break.”

Organic food benefits are a hoax perpetrated on the consumer by the organic food industry. Dennis Avery, a former research analyst for the State Department who directs the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues, pointed out that the organic food craze is founded on myths.

The biggest myths are that organic food is healthier because it’s pesticide-free and contains more nutrients. Neither claim is true. Organic food is rarely “pesticide free.” Tests by Consumers Union and the U.S. Agriculture Department found pesticide residue on organic food, too. That’s because much of what is called organic food isn’t really organic, and even if it were, pesticides from other fields often spread to organic crops.

It is also not true that organic food is more nutritious for you. Catherine Dimateo of the Organic Trade Association, when asked if organic food was more nutritious, said it is as “nutritious” as any other product. If organics are no healthier, are they better for the planet? Dennis Avery says even that isn’t true because organic farmers waste so much land. They are forced to use more because they lose so much of their crop to weeds and insects.

The real environmentalists are today’s conventional farmers, Avery says. They produce more food on less land, and it is safer than it has ever been. The health food stores sales staff passionately tells people organics will make them healthier, happier, stronger and smarter, but don’t be fooled by the hype.

Richard Matsushima, Vestal

“Eat local” used to be the only eating habit we humans had since the beginning of history. All our foods were organic. Our food supply line was very short and simple. Now that old traditional eating practice has been destroyed by intercontinental air cargo and cross-country trucking. By eating all that is available to us, we are losing some important healthy messages that our local foods deliver: fresh and seasonal.

We have also lost a sense of security and connectedness to the food producers, as food supply lines today are far longer and more complicated than ever. The potential to change our food in order to transport it is great. When was it harvested, and what has to be done to preserve it?

If we are not careful, there will be soon be only several mega-players in the food industry who will extinguish all small local farmers. Use it or lose it. Support your local farmers and Community Supported Agriculture and win the dietary war. If we were to eat fresh, local food, perhaps that would help to decrease our ever-expanding waistlines.

Ray Pastrick, Endicott

Two hundred years ago all food was organic. If you lived to be 50, you were considered very old.

Today, with modern farming concepts, living to 90 years old is no big deal.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why.

Marisa Maney, Johnson City

The only question to really ask is, “Do I think it is good for my family to eat chemicals that kill living organisms?” If you answer “yes,” then great — don’t bother with organic foods. If you answer (with some common sense) and agree that anything that kills something that is “alive” can possibly do some harm to an “alive” human being, then you can eat organic foods with a clear mind.

I have spent more than eight years researching and following the organic food discussions, studies and opinions. People really should do some reading and understand the very large impact that they can have on their own lives and the environment with the use of organic foods and non-toxic living methods.

I agree that it is not practical or possible for most middle-class Americans to eat solely organic foods, but if you take into account the foods that you eat most frequently and change those to organic, especially the foods your children (and anyone with a compromised immune system eat) you could make a large impact on your (and your family’s) health.

I truly cringe when I hear people saying that it won’t make a difference if they buy or use these products. Instead of joining in to help themselves, their children and family in generations to come, they take the easy way out and say there are chemicals everywhere, so why bother? If people used common sense and educated themselves about the issue and maybe thought about the impact they can have in their own lives, the world could become a cleaner place with healthier people.

Children are at greatest risk when it comes to pesticide and chemical exposure. Consider that alone when you are afraid to give up the cost of a cup of coffee a day to feed your child some organic foods.




  1. “Is organic food inherently better for you? Or is the difference negligible?”

    That’s a difficult question to answer because it’s not just about whether it’s better for you. There are other issues around the subject of eating organic that covers a whole range of subjects such as the support of ‘free range’ animals, intensive farming methods, protecting the environment and our land. It is not just whether it is better for us but is it better for the world we live in.

    How can something grown naturally, without interference from chemicals, possibly be worse for you?


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