This is an organic apple. Organic is good, so shouldn’t we all be eating organic? Not exactly. I bought the apple you see here, but regretted it almost immediately afterward. Turns out, this ethical movement may not be as righteous as we think.
Organic foods carry a carbon footprint
The globalization of agriculture has made it possible for your apples to travel thousands of miles before reaching your local produce aisle. You can literally choose an organic apple from Chile, over a non-organic variety, grown locally. But there are consequences to that decision. Fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) are expended to deliver those Chilean apples across the globe, and with some estimates suggesting our oil reserves could be depleted by the year 2052, is the organic choice an ethical one?
Transporting organic produce is not only an environment killer but a nutrient killer too. If you live in New York, but your apples are from Washington state, they have probably lost up to half of their nutrients by the time they make it into your grocery cart. Yet, 40% of Americans believe organic food is more nutritious than conventional food.
From the moment they are picked from their source, fruits and vegetables are said to deteriorate. They are boxed up, with no light exposure for days, sometimes weeks, before they are delivered to your local Safeway. Organic or not, nutrients are lost in the shipping process.
This supply chain model exists because supermarkets seek out the cheapest suppliers, even if they’re overseas. One way to avoid this, is to buy local, from your farmers market, where produce is not subject to weeks in cargo.
When it comes to retaining nutrients, local produce trumps organic.
Certified Organic: Worth the paper it’s written on?
Being a certified organic farmer carries cachet, a cachet consumers pay premium prices for. But the certification doesn’t tell us if a farmer uses sustainable practices such as crop rotation or crop covering, techniques equally important to the quality of the crops we buy.
According to Edwin Marty, a farmer from Alabama, it is more important to get to know your farmer and buy direct from them. This helps connect you to the source of your food and learn how it’s produced, a dialogue that isn’t easy to certify.
Time for a rethink?
The organic industry has never been more lucrative. Recent figures show that 2015 sales were $43.3 billion, up from $39.1 billion in 2014 – the largest increase to date. Consumer appetites are moving to an organic preference, and the industry is responding. But, just because something is organic, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthier or friendly to the environment. Do your research, know what you’re buying and how far its traveled to get there.
As always, pushing for health.