Organic food…is it worth it?

Organic produce is often seen to be relatively expensive, less accessible and goes ‘off’ quickly, so why would you eat organic? For many the choice to eat organic produce has less to do with the improved nutrient density (which may be not in fact be all that significant) but rather on what is NOT in the food. Let’s explore.

Organic produce is food that has been grown in the absence of chemical fertilizers and genetic modification. Crops are grown in season, employ the use of crop rotation to ensure the soil is replenished of critical mineral elements, and uses plant and animal manure to feed. Organically grown food grows in season and that is why, when you go searching for a Pink Lady apple in the midst of winter you simply won’t find it. As organic food is not genetically modified, it adheres to the guidelines of nature (and often it’s really ugly too).

Non-organic food (conventional farming) by comparison is grown year round and is done so with the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. Conventionally farmed animals may be kept in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), and often with conventional farming there is intensive tillage or a monoculture production (the growing of one single crop, like corn for example). The ‘conventional’ approach to farming only became popular after World War 2 in response to increased demand for food and many believe that if we farmed organically we simply wouldn’t have enough food to feed society. This begs the question, is that true?

One of the reasons there is debate about the sustainability of organic farming is the amount of food that can be generated without chemical intervention. You can address this several ways; firstly lets look at the amount of food waste we currently see. According to Foodwise, a National Food Sustainability organisation, Aussies waste 4,000,000 tonnes of food every year. And of that mammoth amount, 33% is fresh food. Secondly, the organic farming of animals can be even cheaper when done well. Several years ago I spent a day on an organic cattle farm near Phillip Island. The farmer spent the whole day talking about how he keeps the soil healthy (and as a natural bi-product of that the animals are in exceptional health). He has almost zero vet bills compared to a conventional farmer from the same area whose vet bill averages $15,000 per month. Sustainable indeed!

As for volume it may indeed underserve at this point for the supply chain to only provide organic fare, but if we became more savvy about how we shop and use our produce, reducing waste then production demands would, over time, lessen.

For many, the most passionate reason to avoid conventionally grown produce is the chemical element, and one of the most widely used and publicly criticised compounds are glyphosate (known as Roundup, from Monsanto). Glyphosate is a broad-spectrum herbicide, which works by inhibiting an enzyme found in plants. There are around 500 products containing glyphosate registered for use in Australia. Glyphosate has been registered for use for over 40 years.

Dr Stephanie Seneff is a senior research scientist who dove into the biochemistry of glyphosate and she found the following:

  • It has been shown to kill the microbiome, which we know is the absolute centre of health.
  • It stops the Shikimate pathway (The Shikimate pathway is the biosynthetic sequence employed by plants and bacteria (not active in humans) to generate the amino acids: phenylalanine (Phe), tyrosine (Tyr), and tryptophan (Trp)). If this pathway is deactivated by glyphosate we are unable to get these essential amino acids from our plant matter, which then has a negative impact on the production of neurotransmitters. Every cell in the body needs tyrosine. Tyrosine is required to produce T3, T4 and rT3 in order for the body to work.

Glyphosate is only one of the chemicals used on non-organic plants and there are hundreds of other chemicals being used. When the food that you eat literally gets broken down and becomes part of your cellular biology, you really do want to make sure that you’re getting the best you can.

With an industry in Australia worth $1.7 Billion dollars, the people have spoken and you can now find organic produce more readily, at better prices and with fair competition to keep the sellers honest (you no longer need to spend a fortune so beware of the seller who is over charging).

Looking to keep to budget, but include organic produce where possible? Its best to save your organic dollar for the most heavily sprayed crops like:

Best if organic                                           Low spray options 

Apples                                                                 Asparagus

Broccoli                                                             Avocados

Celery                                                                Cabbage

Grapes                                                               Cantalope

Nectarines                                                        Cauliflower

Cherry tomatoes                                             Eggplant

Peaches                                                            Grapefruit

Potatoes                                                           Kiwifruit

Spinach                                                            Mangoes

Strawberries                                                   Onions

Cucumbers                                                      Pineapples

Kale/collard greens                                       Sweet Corn

When it comes to health optimisation, choosing organic is one of the simplest ways to positively influence your health. How you choose to spend your food dollar ultimately shapes the industry of food suppliers.

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