Saturday, October 1, 2011

Food Wars (Part II)

What we eat is no longer a private matter, but a political matter. The government food police not only want us to eat a healthier diet, but they also are chiming in on the battle between organic versus conventional farming. The government has a point, Americans are becoming more and more obese and this is no longer a personal problem when people’s health affects the cost of our healthcare system. Obesity is pushing our insurance premiums upward as the healthcare industry is faced with numerous more cases of diabetes and heart disease. On the other hand, the battle between organic and conventional farming is a totally different issue since they produce the same types of food – they simply do it in vastly different ways. Conventional farming makes up about 97% of the farming market for vegetables, fruits, and meats in the United States. Conventional farming consists of using potentially toxic chemicals to grow and preserve vegetables and fruits and even growth hormones to enhance the maturity of their livestock. Critics of farming techniques have some valid concerns. First, toxic pesticides and chemical fertilizers not only have to be cleaned off purchased fruits and vegetables, but over the years they can be washed into our water systems. What’s worse, our water systems are not designed to remove these byproducts. Secondly, hormones and other methods of raising livestock can also adversely affect our meats. For instance, cattle are in many cases raised in tight living quarters making the spread of diseases more prevalent and therefore, tainting more meat. But the bottom line is that the United States agriculture business is the safest in the world. However, as the population of people increases there will be more cases of tainted food, particularly salmonella. After all, no system is perfect. Many argue that conventional farmers are solely out to make a profit, and in doing so, are endangering the public. This is not entirely true. Sure, conventional farming methods use chemicals to help make their vegetables, fruits, and meats less expensive than organic farmers. But studies show there is no difference in the quality of the food between conventional and organic farming techniques. Both have the same amount of vitamins that are essential for the human diet. Furthermore, the real reason many farmers need to use chemicals to aid their farming methods is because of demand. There are now well over 300 million mouths to feed in the United States and if such methods were not used there could be potential food shortages. Food shortages would be a disaster and would create national chaos. Organic farming makes up only about 3% of the total farming business. Organic farming consists of using natural methods to grow vegetables and to raise livestock. However, to think that organic farming methods are toxic free is a common misconception. For instance, manure is fecal matter and it too can get into our water supplies. Organic famers argue that although there is no difference in vitamin content between conventional farming foods, they claim their foods are much richer in other minerals and compounds. Many studies indicate that organic food is up to 25% richer in magnesium, omega 3, and other important minerals vital for a normal human diet. But once again, this study can be misleading because it does not guarantee foods bought from one organic farm is better than food bought from a conventional farm. To gain this advantage in mineral content it is all dependent on the soil makeup. And there is nothing guaranteeing that an organic farm has better soil than a conventional farm. Thus, the real argument is whether or not it is advantageous to pay the 50% premium for organic food. In essence, is worth paying a 50% premium to potentially get a 25% gain in helpful minerals? My Book: Is America Dying? (, Barnes and Noble)

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