Is Organic Really Better? Healthy Food or Trendy Scam?

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Over the last few years, organic food has spread like wildfire. Despite higher prices, buying organic is turning from an alternative into a moral and social responsibility. Organic food is supposedly healthier more natural and more ethical. But what do we even mean when we say organic? There's no global consensus, so different regions have different definitions and rules. In general, organic food is farmed without GMO seeds, synthetic fertilizers, or synthetic pesticides. Instead, organic farmers use more traditional ways of producing food, like crop rotation, and use organic fertilizers such as compost or manure. While the motivation to buy organic food is clearly noble, is it actually effective or just another costly trend we can skip without feeling guilty? [Music] Is organic food healthier? One idea associated with organic crops is that their natural cultivation is supposed to make them more nutritious and healthier. Indeed, several studies found that organic foods contain more antioxidants. Plants produce them as a sort of homemade pesticide. Organic plants seem to have to work a little harder, while regular plants have plenty of help from humans. Antioxidants are believed to have some health benefits, although scientists are still on the fence about them in general. We have no idea if and how exactly they help us, or how much produce you'd have to eat to absorb a certain amount. What about organic being more nutritious? Well, the evidence is mixed. Some studies found that organic food can have slightly higher concentrations of vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids, while others did not find significant differences. Overall, the mixed evidence suggests that there are only small differences in nutritional value. So, from the science available so far, it doesn't look like organic food has significant health benefits. What we do know, is that eating fruit and veggies in general is good for you, and most of us don't do that enough. Eating veggies is more important for your health than how they were produced. Is organic food more natural? People don't only buy organic to get extra vitamins, but to avoid something toxic; artificial pesticides and fertilizers. And indeed several studies show that there actually is less pesticide residue on organic produce. But here's where things get complicated. Less pesticide does not mean none at all. While pesticides are supposed to be a last resort in organic farming, they're not forbidden. Most organic pesticides are natural toxins, like vegetable oils, hot ash soap, sulfur or copper sulfates. But there are synthetic substances as well. What's the difference between organic and regular pesticides? Not a lot actually. Organic pesticides are not necessarily safer than conventional ones. Toxic is toxic. No matter if the substance is manufactured, or derived from nature. In fact, in the case of copper sulfate, often used on organic apples, the organic pesticide of choice is actually more harmful to humans. The toxicity of any substance depends on its concentration and your exposure to it -- not if it's natural or not. There are a few recent studies about how our current level of pesticide exposure affects our long-term health. The 2018 study from France associated never eating organic food with a higher risk of certain cancers. The study was criticized a lot though. The participants reported their dietary habits themselves, while no actual tests of pesticide levels in their bodies were done. Complicating things even more, a Danish study from 2018 found that the danger from pesticides for an adult was similar to drinking a glass of wine every three months. The pesticides on your vegetables are nothing to lose sleep over. Despite this, we should continue to demand strict standards for our food. All pesticides are regulated and tested very strictly in the EU and the US. Every year, thousands of food samples are screened for pesticides. The majority of samples have no residues or just a fraction of the tolerance level. Right now, contamination from bacteria and fungi is much more dangerous. And, on this front, the risk is the same -- be it organic or regular food. Is organic food better for the environment? In 2017, a meta-analysis looked at organic farming in detail and analyzed organic and regular foods from over 700 production sources, and their impact on categories like greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and land needs. The result? No production method is clearly better for the environment. Organic systems use less energy than conventional ones, but have similar greenhouse gas emissions. Organic farms use less pesticide, but need much more land to produce the same amount of crop. These mixed results were also confirmed by a report from the Swedish food agency. Organic and regular were equal in most regards. The biggest difference was land use. And here conventional farming clearly won, and ecotoxicity where organic farming has a clear advantage. So, according to these results, conventional farming actually has a little bit less impact on the environment compared to organic. The bottom line is organic food isn't superior to regular produce as far as we know. But, organic agriculture also has an impact at a broader level. Demand is rising constantly, and the struggle to supply the market can lead to production methods that are less sustainable in other ways. Spain, for example, grows tons of regular and organic vegetables destined for export in vast greenhouse areas which use a lot of energy. And have other environmental impacts, such as significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions. And, because growing demand can't be covered by domestic production, the global trade and organic foods is also increasing. As supply chains get more and more complex, to make all kinds of foods available in organic quality, ensuring organic quality standards and regulations gets ever more difficult. This has led to incidences of fraud where conventional food was labeled and sold as expensive organic produce. But, organic versus conventional food isn't even an objective discussion. Organic is not simply a production method. For many, it's an ideology. Buying organic feels right. People want to do the correct thing for the health of their children, and the well-being of the planet. But, our instinct to think of organic as good, and conventional as bad, can get in the way of making the most reasonable decision. The solution could be to stop seeing organic and conventional farming as irreconcilable. They both have pros and cons, and the best way to produce healthy food efficiently would be a combination of their best features. And, as for your personal shopping, what food you should buy depends on what you expect from it. If you simply want to eat healthily, you should buy more fruit and vegies of any kind, not necessarily organic. If your concern is for the environment, then simply buying organic won't solve this problem for you. The easiest option, is to buy local food that's in season. Basically, seasonal is the true organic. To sum up, an organic label is a manufacturing notice, not a security certificate or a silver bullet for your diet. What you eat is much more important than how its produced. Production is very important for our animations though. We make them with a lot of love and care, and the best thing is you can learn how to do them. Kurzgesagt joined Skillshare, our favorite online learning community for creators with the three-part series of 2D animation classes. Skillshare offers more than 25,000 classes on everything from film, writing, design, and technology, from skilled experts. The premium membership gives you unlimited access for only $10 a month. But we got you a treat! The first 1,000 people to use the link in the description, get their first 2 months for free. So, to kick-off 2019, if you want to give animation a try, and breathe life into our characters, or learn something else to fuel your creativity or even career, now you can!
Channel: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell
Views: 5,067,586
Rating: 4.9012046 out of 5
Keywords: Organic, Organic Food, agriculture, healthy, healthier, natural, ethical, ecological, fruit, vegetables, veggies, meat, GMO, fertilisers, synthetic, pesticides, nutritious, antioxidants, conventional, vitamins c, omega 3, fatty acid, toxic, toxicity, residue, copper sulphate, cancer, cancer risk, regulations, nutrition, environment, greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, land needs, ecotoxicity
Id: 8PmM6SUn7Es
Channel Id: undefined
Length: 9min 20sec (560 seconds)
Published: Sun Jan 13 2019
Reddit Comments

At the end they mention buying local, but even that isn't so straight forward, because transport is only one of many environmental factors at play.

Organic and similar social status badges are a refrain from confronting the intractable complexity of the web of social, economic, and environmental problems in agriculture. Every factor is a dial and turning any dial turns other dials. Turn down the environmental impact dial and you turn up the cost to poor farmers and poor people buying food dial. Turn up the support independent small growers dial and you turn down the efficiencies of scale dial. Turn up the "buy from places where labour is well regulated" dial and you turn down the "economic growth in developing countries" dial. And so on.

👍︎︎ 184 👤︎︎ u/[deleted] 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

Amazing as always, with one (well, two) exception.

They should really have said "without transgenic GMOs", not "without GMO seeds" in the beginning, because everything we eat has been genetically modified (via crosbreeding or mutagenesis or inter-species breeding) - which is why the argument about what is natural is kinda absurd.


Also I will just add in some information, because reddit is full of Big Organic shills who will spread their fear-mongering propaganda about glyphosate and Monsanto, and I feel need (as graduate student in environmental science ranting about pseudoscience) to spread some science about it.


Here are some reasons that glyphosate would never damage your gut microbiota.

  • Dose. Consumers ingest maybe 0.5mg of glyphosate per day. The highest levels you're ever really going to be exposed to are on grains which have been dessicated recently, which is uncommon, but let's use a hyperbolized example of a constant diet of 1,000ppm. Glyphosate is going to inhibit its target enzyme, EPSPS, at a 1:1 ratio. Bacterial cells will have hundreds to thousands of copies of EPSPS, and there are millions of bacteria present. EPSPS activity is inhibited at low-micromolar levels of glyphosate - but 1,000pm is about 0.006 micromolar. Even ignoring all dilution effects, the highest raw levels of gly you would ever put in your mouth are about a thousand times too low to inhibit EPSPS activity in your gut.

  • Kinetics. Glyphosate is a competitive inhibitor of EPSPS. This means it binds at the active site of the enzyme, where the reaction is catalyzed - where amino acid precursors (shiikimate-3-P) bind. "Competitive" because it has to compete for the active site, which means that kinetic (and thermodynamic) effects come in to play. If there is a huge excess of S-3-P around, which there absolutely will be, then most EPSPS will be bound to that instead of glyphosate.

  • Microbiota features. We all shed a huge percentage of our microbiota each day, so killing off even a large percentage of microbes is unlikely to have serious effects. After people have taken a strong course of antibiotics, it usually only takes a couple weeks of eating your regular diet to re-establish your healthy biome. Also, many families of bacteria in your stomach simply won't be inhibited by glyphosate because they either have a variant of EPSPS or an alternative pathway. These cells will contribute to the dilution of glyphosate in your gut lumen.

  • Epidemiological studies. Glyphosate has been studied more exhaustively than perhaps any other agricultural chemical. Here are some meta-reviews. There are entire textbooks on the subject. Typically, the only people concerned about pesticides are agricultural workers - but even glyphosate applicators don't have increased incidence of disease (a single, repeatedly-contradicted study about NHL notwithstanding).


What evidence is there that roundup causes cancer?


Edit: and about that guy who claimed he got cancer because he was basically showering himself in RoundUp:

World Health Organization: "In view of the absence of carcinogenic potential in rodents at human-relevant doses and the absence of genotoxicity by the oral route in mammals, and considering the epidemiological evidence from occupational exposures, the Meeting concluded that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet."

European Food Safety Authority: “Glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard to humans and the evidence does not support classification with regard to its carcinogenic potential.”

Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority: “Glyphosate does not pose a cancer to humans when used in accordance with the label instructions”

European Chemical Agency Committee for Risk Assessment: “RAC concluded that the available scientific evidence did not meet the criteria to classify glyphosate as a carcinogen, as a mutagen or as toxic for reproduction.”

Korean Rural Development Administration: “Moreover, it was concluded that animal testing found no carcinogenic association and health risk of glyphosate on farmers was low. … A large-scale of epidemiological studies on glyphosate similarly found no cancer link.”

Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency: “The overall weight of evidence indicates that glyphosate is unlikely to pose a human cancer risk”

👍︎︎ 768 👤︎︎ u/BlackViperMWG 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

Curious fact related to the 6:13 point in the video.

One of the manmade things you can easily see from space is the huge ammount of greenhouses in the south of Spain. Open Google Maps, go satelite mode and look for a cape at the South-East of Spain next to Almeria that looks completely white, as you zoom in you will see that it's not snow but actually a bunch of greenhouses.

👍︎︎ 127 👤︎︎ u/MostOriginalNickname 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

TL;DW Organic vs Conventional, Each has its pros and cons, no one is truly superior. If you truly want to help the planet eat more veggies and fruit. Also, the best way to eat veggies is eating seasonal veggies

👍︎︎ 77 👤︎︎ u/NihilistLurker 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

“Food & Stuff, they sell food and stuff. If you have a problem with it you can go to that store Complete Foods”

Ron Swanson

👍︎︎ 30 👤︎︎ u/Waltis12 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

Can't speak for every region, but in my region organically raised animals have much much better welfare and use much less antibiotics, which is currently being used so much in conventional farming that it will probably kills us all. Organic pigs do have 20% larger climate footprint, but that is because they are free to move around outdoors on a field and therefore burn more calories and require more feed. I'll just eat less, but organic pig :)

👍︎︎ 6 👤︎︎ u/espionagejunkman 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

Their videos are so well produced and informed!

👍︎︎ 34 👤︎︎ u/nnawkwardredpandann 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

I work for a food co-op (I literally just started in December), and I agree with most of this video, but they completely miss the point of why many of our customers want organic and local produce.

Our store is set up much like a farmer's market where local producers can bring their organic crops in and sell them directly. This does a few things: It lets us have much fresher produce than anywhere with a distribution center, it supports the local economy and small farms, and it cuts down on transportation and storage costs.

Our stuff honestly tastes better than anything I've had from regular stores like Walmart. I never even liked cucumbers until I had a local, fresh one. It's a completely different taste. The same goes for tomatoes and citrus fruits (if you're in an area where you can get fresh ones). Part of this is the freshness, and the other part is that organic breeds often emphasise taste more than hardiness. This is the biggest reason people buy here. We also have lots of odd varieties that you can't really get at a normal store.

I don't think they're more healthy, and I don't think going large scale with organics is going to save the planet or solve hunger, but damn. If you want good tasting food, buy local and organic.

👍︎︎ 17 👤︎︎ u/QuainPercussion 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies

Farming isn't a natural process. The very act of farming promotes a specific evolutionary path and introduce genetic variations that the public simply misunderstood: Ames Test - Carcinogens and Natural foods

👍︎︎ 6 👤︎︎ u/ishtar_the_move 📅︎︎ Jan 13 2019 🗫︎ replies
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