We have all wondered at some point whether organic or local food is better. Wait, you might think, why do we need to have the dilemma between organic and local whatsoever? Interestingly enough, there is a reason for this post – organic does not necessarily mean good for the environment or your health and neither does local.
The claim goes that organic food is usually not grown using man-made chemicals, pesticides, fossil fuel or sewage-based fertilizers, or genetically modified seeds. We demand that as much as possible of our food be clean of those ingredients, all right? Hell, yeah! Yet, practice proves this is in many cases not so feasible.
Throughout the history of the world, most fruits and vegetables have been grown without pesticides, so I need help to comprehend why is this ancestral agricultural method referred to as “unconventional”? To produce more, “conventional” farmers use chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Even after the fruit and vegetables are washed, they allegedly contain on average seven to eight pesticides.
Why are we constantly lured to believe organic food is totally pesticide free, better for the environment or our health for that matter? There is a very important connection between pesticide use and the antioxidant content of food. Crops that are hassled by insects produce polyphenolic compounds, which are naturally powerful antioxidants. Clearly then, crops that are treated with pesticides do not need that natural protection and produce less of the compound. It is a no brainer – when crops are grown without pesticides, consumers get a double benefit: better nutrition without the residue of chemical pesticides in the food.
Ideally, organic food should put the emphasis on the taste rather than presenting the picture perfect vegetable or piece of fruit. Anyone who has had a garden knows that food you grow yourself does not end up looking as “perfect” as what you can find in the grocery store, and yet it tastes so much better. This is a utopia. Why? Farmers markets are typically seasonal, but grocery stores are year-round and often carry organic. Never thought about that, have you? This means year-round access with no guarantee of local production.
If you are already confused with all the arguments pro and contra, remember one thing: eating organic or local does not necessarily relate to better health. Eating smart however does. Eating smart does not rely on locally produced and/or organic food. Good food and healthy eating means respecting the seasons, availability, location, price, portions, etc.
Try comparing the menus of your grandparents to those available to the average Westerner today. What do you realize? It is all about fusion. Local only and organic only would deprive us of some brilliant food traditions, tastes and quests. Say YES to the old kind of food lifestyle!