I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there is a huge war going on in the food world. A gargantuan war that is, as of now, at a total standstill and there’s slight probability of it being resolved in any quantifiable time frame. This war will be dubbed The War of Organic and Conventional Foods (or for those in opposition: The War ON Organic Foods).
A few weeks back I was reading a food health-related article penned by a writer that was emphatically supportive of eating ONLY organic foods, no ifs, ands, or pork butts about it. Typically I tend to stray from the bottom of articles near the dreaded comments section where there are, without fail, innumerable armies of trolls lurking, begging for recognition with their all-too-common snide and snippy remarks. Though try as I did, I couldn’t help but not ignore my curiosity, so I clicked the “See More / Leave a Comment” link to find out what the chickens were squawking about.
As expected, the trolls were going full force on this one. There were claims of secret, internal USDA conspirators, organic and natural foodie-centric name calling, and (my favorite) one British commenter in particular stated that she was going to defecate on the writer’s post AND face for writing such “rubbish propaganda.” What delightful manners!
Interspersed between the crude, unintelligible and just plain batshit crazy comments were people who, surprisingly, hadn’t one clue what organic meant and why it is such a hot topic. I wanted so badly to write out an informative and slightly unbiased reply to these individuals that were missing out on important details of healthy living. But I think my adult ADD went into effect and I went to check my Facebook, then made a sandwich, and then played Angry Birds. By the time I went back to the article a few days later and remembered what I had aimed to do, the article had disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace, never to be seen from or defecated on again.
Reading all of the comments from that one article I saw that a lot of these angry commenters weren’t just internet degenerates, but also real people who I realized were so frustrated by this article and others like it because they likely felt judged by the organic industry and its supporters. These were people who felt this was not a war between organic and conventional, but of classes of people; the perceived snobby, elitist organic-eating toffs versus everyday people just trying to survive in an unfortunate economy.
Let’s even the playing field here. Throw any and all preconceived notions of the organic industry out the window, because I am going to give a quick, non-exhaustive crash course on the difference between organic and conventional and how this affects you.
First, organic foods are foods that are produced without the aid of chemicals, pesticides, hormones or anything beyond good old fashioned, natural farmed produce and livestock. Conventional foods are those that incorporate conventional farming (i.e. the use of pesticides, hormones, etc.) into their production as they assist with faster development, larger/cheaper output and thus bigger profits for companies. This is also why a lot of shoppers will comment that organic foods are “so small” and blemished. The fact is that what you are seeing when you look at organic goods is exactly as it should look. Crazy, right?
The big issue at hand with conventional foods is that a lot of the chemicals and additives used to make the foods more appealing (aka chemically created bright colors), delicious (aka “natural” and artificial flavoring) and cost-effective (aka ingredients that are not exactly foods but are somewhat edible, even if barely digestible, and passed by the FDA as consumable and thus included in your meals) is that they have potentially harmful effects on the sensitive human body with long-term, excessive consumption. I won’t go into the long laundry list of researched additives and their linked illnesses, but if you type a few of those strange sounding and/or unpronounceable ingredients into Google, you may not be too happy with what pulls up (but while we’re here, look up Olestra and its side effects — it’s sexy!). Not only that, but we haven’t even touched on the negative impact it has on the environment or how some big businesses bully and take advantage of agricultural suppliers.
With all of that being said however, you do not need to eat an all organic, natural diet to be healthy. There is really only a small list of produce items that you should buy organic since these fruits and vegetables tend to have the highest trace amounts of pesticides, but that’s really it if you want to do the bare minimum of organic eating. These are referred to as The Dirty Dozen. And on the other hand, there is another list of produce that is the cleanest to eat and is overall fine to buy conventional as long as you wash them thoroughly. These superheros are called The Clean Fifteen. Everything else is in a gray area as far as pesticides go and it’s up to you to choose whether you wish to go organic or conventional.
An excellent way to score some good and cost-efficient organic produce is to hit up your local farmer’s market and scour the stands for any vendors selling hormone- and pesticide-free fruits and veggies. Not only will you meet some interesting people and save money, but you’ll be taking money out of harmful mass food producers’ pockets and supporting your local food market instead. If you want to know where the nearest farmer’s market is to your home, the USDA has a great tool to help you find it!
The last time I went to my farmer’s market there was a vendor that insisted on feeding me cherry tomatoes and blueberries, bare handed. I normally would have declined because of my slight neuroses regarding germs and um…really, who wants an unwashed blueberry touched by unwashed hands that probably rested on his unwashed genitals sometime earlier in the day (people are gross, by the way). But when he sold me 1 lb of the fattest, organic blueberries and 30 of the most beautiful organic, Roma tomatoes I’d ever seen in my life for just $13 total, what choice did I really have?
Anyway, what we need to remember is that there really is no war of classes when it comes to buying food. Sure, there are elitist foodies salivating over couture cuisine and then there the heads of households feeding their families, each with their own agenda, but neither is above the other because of what is served on their respective tables. You are not less of a person because you cannot afford the best brand organic cereal. Times are tough and we all have to do what we can by cutting costs where we can, but the quality of food put into your body should be the last to suffer. Food is food first and foremost and it’s meant to sustain you, so please respect your body and health by choosing only the highest quality ingredients when possible, and most importantly you must never, EVER threaten to crap on anyone’s face, ever. It’s just plain rude.