The other day I was sitting at lunch. I was reading a book and eating a chicken, sweet potato, vegetable combination. One of my coworkers sat down at the table next to me, with her lunch, and another coworker joined her moments later. They started discussing the health benefits of buying organic, how they did not have to wash their vegetables any more, and how much they loved knowing exactly what they were putting into their bodies.
It won't surprise most people who know me well to discover that the vegetables in my little thermos were far from organic. For me, it's traditional or not at all. My family does not buy organic, never mind anything with that non GMO butterfly label.
People who know us well know this. I've had a lot of friends, coworkers, family, and even strangers argue with me about it though. I'm not sure why it brings out such strong opinions in people, but I guess it probably has something to do with the fact that we all live in a society obsessed with health. In a lot of ways, this is a very good thing. Exercise! Eat right! Get healthy! That's the goal we all seek to attain.
Here's the thing though: organic produce is not healthier for you. An apple is an apple is an apple. There is minimal, if any evidence, to present signs of danger related to traditionally farmed produce. In a lot of cases, there's evidence on the other side too. As for potentially causing cancer: almost anything might cause cancer. We don't know what it is for sure. That's not a good reason.
But the real reason, above all else, that I do not shop organic is this: it is not ethical, and it is not sustainable.
We cannot feed a growing population exclusively with organically farmed and non-genetically modified produce. Let me say that again.
We cannot feed a growing population exclusively with organically farmed and non-genetically modified farmed produce.
Look, it's a privilege for you, to be able to walk into a supermarket and choose whatever product you feel best supports your needs. Fine. I actually support you having those freedoms and that power to choose.
What I cannot support is the fact that your choice is inevitably going to make it more difficult for people in countries without those choices to get food. While it's fine for you to make those choices, by making those choices you are changing the demand.
By saying, "No, even though my research comes from unreliable sources and I honestly haven't done that much, I believe that GMOs are killing us" you are also reducing the demand for products that will not be safe to eat or at least will not be produced in a large enough quantity without genetic modification.
By saying, "I buy organic because I want produce without chemicals" you are making the incorrect assumption that organic means untreated, and you are also deciding on behalf of a person in some far off land that they don't need that particular type of produce, because it cannot be produced in a large enough quantity to go around without traditional agriculture.
At my lunch the other day, I wasn't going to say any of this. But then they asked. They asked if I had strong opinions about this. I do. I have very strong opinions about the organic and genetic modification debate. While I am all for people in the so-called Western World having whatever choices they want, I think it needs to be recognized that there are ethical dilemmas presented by the choice to lower demand for traditional agriculture. By choosing to buy all organic and all non-GMO, we are using our money to limit the availability of produce, because yields are simply not as large as they could be with traditional agriculture and genetic modification.
So no. Your organics aren't helping. If anything, they are hurting the quest to feed a population of 9 billion by 2050.