April 29, 2012

SUSTAINABILITY: Organic or faux-organic?

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Organic. Some people hear that word and make a face at the cost. Some people spring at the idea of buying “healthier” foods. Regardless of the reaction, everyone these days knows what organic food is.

Organic foods, defined as foods that are produced using methods that don’t involve modern synthetic inputs (think pesticides, fertilizers and additives), have been all the rage in the past few years. From organic produce to organic gummy bears, you name it, Wegman’s has an alternative, organic version. In fact, organic food sales have increased dramatically in the past few years once the organic movement caught on.

But here’s the thing: organic isn’t really so organic anymore.

What started out as a low-scale movement for more natural produce has now, like everything else, become a market. Think about it this way: in an economy where most of the produce is not organic, you can’t have every grocery store selling organic produce without consequence. This summer the USDA approved a list of “naturally occurring pesticides” including pyrethrum, rotenone, spinosad, nicotine sulfate and neem.

But what does this mean in terms of staying true to the organic movement’s mission statement?

In a niche market that is being exploited, farmers can’t worry about having their crops fail. Instead, they can now turn to “naturally occurring pesticides” to kill off bugs and insects in the same way a synthetic pesticide does. But what started as a movement for the environment and for the purity of the product has developed a larger problem. Naturally occurring pesticides in organic products are often found at levels ten times greater than synthetic pesticides found in non-organic products. So whatever pesticides you thought you weren’t getting? You’re getting them at greater amounts.

Some people might agree with the USDA’s decision to approve some naturally occurring pesticides, but I’m not a fan. It’s a true corruption of the organic movement’s goal to feed the earth and their consumers pesticides at a frighteningly high rate. The problem is, most consumers are still misinformed that organic products don’t use pesticides. While they didn’t always, they now do. I roll my eyes when I hear about the organic rage because the more I learn the less I buy it. For now, I’ll stick with my normally priced produce and gummies. When the purity of the organic movement is restored, come talk to me.

Sarah Roger is a student in the College of Human Ecology. He can be reached at scr79@cornell.edu. The Missing Link: Sustainabillity appears on appears on Mondays.

Original Author: Sarah Roger

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