My Turn

Opinion: Organic food better for health


A few weeks ago the The Taos News printed a story about a new Dollar Store possibly locating in Ranchos. The story included a chart comparing the prices of three grocery items at the Dollar Store and several of the town’s supermarkets. The products compared were milk, eggs, and black beans. What the writer failed to mention was that the Cid’s Food Market products were organic, and that they were being compared to conventional non-organic products at the other stores.

I’d like to cover some of the differences in organic and non-organic production, starting with milk. Some big conventional dairies in the U.S. are still injecting their cows with the synthetic growth hormone rBGH to force the cows to produce more milk than they normally would. These hormones have been banned in the 27 countries of the European Union, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. The Canadian Journal of Veterinary Research found 16 different harmful medical conditions resulting from rBGH administration to dairy cattle including a 40 percent increase in infertility, 55 percent increase in lameness, shortened lifespan and hoof disorders. The cows receiving these hormones suffer high rates of mastitis, a painful infection of their udders. They are then given massively high doses of antibiotics to deal with the infection. There have even been studies that have linked rBGH to a possible higher risk of cancer in humans. Injecting animals with RBGH is cruel and inhumane to cows, and potentially unsafe for human consumption. Growth hormones, as well as antibiotics, are not permitted to be given to cows that produce organic milk. In addition, cows that produce organic milk only eat 100 percent organic food, which prohibits genetically modified foods (GMOs). Organic cows are also required to graze on organic pastures for at least one third of the year, which improves the nutritional quality of their milk.

Chickens used for conventional egg production are among the most abused of all farm animals. Female chicks are “debeaked” at a young age having a portion of their beaks seared off with a hot blade and no painkillers. A chicken beak is filled with nerves, and debeaking can result in chronic pain. Ninety-five percent of egg laying hens spend their lives in battery cages that hold 5-10 birds. Each chicken may be given an amount of floor space equivalent to less than a sheet of letter size paper. Their bodies become covered with bruises and abrasions from the stressful crowded conditions. They are fed GMO feed and in order to shock their bodies into another egg laying cycle when production declines, hens are sometimes starved and denied any food for up to two weeks. They will be inhumanely killed after 18-24 months when their egg production drops off.

Organic laying hens are fed organic feed that is free of GMOs, they have access to the outdoors, and cannot be raised in cages.

Black beans in cans were the third item compared in the graphic. Unlike organic black beans, conventional black beans are grown with chemical pesticides and fertilizers, which not only contaminate our precious soil and water, but are also known to have their own health repercussions. In some cases conventional black beans have been genetically modified as well. Organic food by definition cannot be bioengineered like GMOs.

As you can see the price comparison was an unfair one that compared organic to non organic products.

In general, because of its higher standards of production, organic food does cost more than conventional foods. Organic foods are grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers, so weeds are hand picked which involves a higher labor cost. It is often fresher, but can be more perishable, because it doesn’t contain preservatives that make it last longer. Organic farming is better for the environment, as it doesn’t poison water supplies or our soil. Organically raised animals are not given antibiotics, growth hormones, or fed animal by-products. Organic food is GMO-Free, so it has not been altered in ways that cannot occur in nature.

All of this does bring up the larger manipulation of our food supply by solely profit driven corporations. The more you can avoid genetically modified and highly processed foods, the healthier you, your family, and the planet will be.

Backer is an owner of Cid’s Food Market.