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Healthy eating is one of the major concerns of most people in the world at the moment. Many people are looking towards consuming foods that are more nutritious and chemical free (Worthington 1998). This is the main reason that has brought about a boom in the organic food business. The past few years has seen a steady growth in the organic industry as more suppliers are producing more food to match the rising demand. In the early 1990’s this industry was considered to be worth about $1.5 billion but this figure has risen to almost ten times with no signs of it ever slowing down. Organic foods are basically food grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers or chemical base pesticides. More producers are opting to produce foods using near natural means as possible. Consumers on the other hand are looking to avoid ingestion of chemical residues in their diet. Recent studies have shown that people who buy organic foods are exposed to a third as many residues as compared to those who buy foods grown conventionally. Although the use of non- organic chemicals in the production or organic foods is very much restricted, certain fertilizers which are non- organic are used (Fookies, 2001). In this line, the main quest that is the subject of this essay is, Are organic foods really better than conventionally grown foods?
Organic foods have a higher nutritional value than conventional foods. A lot of research has been done to determine whether it is true that organic foods are healthier than conventional foods or it’s just a mere perception. This argument has been a main reason for the growth of the organic food industry by about 30% in recent years. Previous Scientific researches had indicated organic milk and tomatoes had were more nutritious that non-organic ones. Research from the Danish institute of agricultural research has indicated that organic milk has more vitamins, omega 3, CLA and anti- oxidants than non-organic milk. A study carried out by the University of California on the other hand indicates that organic tomatoes have as much as 79% and 97% higher quercetin and kaempferol antioxidants respectively than non organic tomatoes. Antioxidants as it is well known reduce the risk of heart diseases in humans.
Harmful pesticide residues are less on organic foods than conventionally grown foods. Conventional farming entails the application of synthetic pesticides and herbicides that are harmful when ingested. According to Roseboro (2007) reports have shown an increase in cases of diseases related to the exposure to harmful chemicals especially in industrialized societies that depend on non organic produce. Studies done by the New South Wales Central Cancer Registry indicate an increase of more than 50%new cancer cases per year in Australia between 1972 and 2004. This shocking revelation is credited to the high production of conventional foods. Children are at a much greater risk of contracting diseases via ingestion of food with pesticide residues. It is beyond doubt that parents and adults in general will consider their personal and family health before buying food products to reduce the risk of diseases such as cancer (Roseboro, 2007).
The environment is also a great beneficiary to organic farming. Cases of global warming have made environmental conservation a major concern in economic activities including farming. Organic farming avoids the use of synthetic chemicals that are harmful to the environment. As Canavari & Olson, (2007) notes conventional farmers use a lot of soluble fertilizers that contain phosphates and nitrogen which easily dissolve in water. This water finds its way into water bodies and thus contaminates it. Water contaminated by nitrates is unsafe for human consumption and also promotes the growth of algae in fresh waterways. Growth of algae in oceans limit marine life as it blocks access to sunlight hindering growth of sea plants that also support fish and other sea animals. Studies on ground water in California have found that over 27% of wells in the state have been contaminated with pesticides linked with agricultural activities. Owing to the fact that there is still no economically viable means of cleaning up widespread pesticide contamination, public health is at a greater risk if conventional farming is promoted. Organic farming emits less green house gases compared to conventional farming as it requires low inputs derived from natural substances thus more climatic friendly.
Cost benefit analysis of food products favors those grown organically to conventional ones in regard to consumer health. Most people shy away from organic foods due to their high price tags and fall for cheaper and harmful conventionally grown foods. The cost of buying non-organic food stuffs is much higher in the long run due to its effects on consumers Canavari & Olson, 2007). The pesticides used in their growth lead to diseases such as cancer which is expensive to treat and also leads to death. Fruits grown organically differ slightly in price with conventionally grown fruits in most grocery stores and it is funny that people still opt not to buy organic fruits that are tastier and healthier. Organic farming also goes a long way in conserving both energy and the environment.
The taste of food products determines consumer choice. One should not be surprised that organic foods taste better than those grown usingg conventional means. Fruits and vegetables grown organically record high quality when analyzed through Brix analysis. Brix analysis is a method that is used to measure the specific density of fruits and vegetables and is used to determine the quality of produce especially for export.
As Meyerowitz, S. (2004) notes organic farming has a lot of advantages over conventional farming but it cannot sustain the entire world population. Critics of organic farming and in particular Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug, argue that organic farming can feed four billion persons at most. Area for area studies by the Danish Environmental Protection Agency confirm that conventional farming produces twice much output compared to organic farming. The agency also goes ahead to promote conventional farming as environmentally friendly as organic farming requires a lot of land producing less yield. The requirement of much land for organic farming will lead to clearing of forest in the efforts to increase agricultural land; this will worsen the situation of global warming in the planet.
The question of time and skill needed to carry out organic farming discourages most farmers. A lot of time is required in the initial planting of organic crops and also in the process of crop observation and weed control. All these time requirements make this kind of farming more labor intensive compared to conventional farming where chemicals and machines are used in the production process. Going through all this trouble with fewer returns in the end discourages most farmers from engaging in organic farming. It also calls for a great deal of skill to manage an organic farm. Organic farmers have to be keen observers of their produce to discover problems and better methods of production because they lack the luxury of using chemicals and mechanical inputs to aid them in production (Meyerowitz, 004).
It is safe to conclude that organic farming will grow in popularity over the next few years. Most consumers are more concerned about their health and are willing to part with an extra coin just to ensure that they don’t put their health at risk. With the environmental conservation subject taking a center stage in most economies, governments encourage farming methods that are environmental friendly and thus organic farming. Reports from the u US suggest that the organic food market is set to grow steadily in the next five years. Between 2001 and 2006, there was a $ 1.5 billion growth in the organic food market and a further 44% growth is anticipated between 2006 and 2011. Consumers are becoming more conscious about the kind of products they ingest and this fact will lead to promotion of the organic food market.