Modern times have seen a dramatic increase of organic food consumption. More consumers are drawn towards buying organic food as it is perceived to offer more health benefits and less toxic chemical content. The sales of organic foods in the United States skyrocketed from 1 billion in 2001 to 23 billion in 2008 (Crinnion, 2010). This growth in organic food consumption may be driven by the growing interest of consumers towards healthy lifestyle and environmentally-friendly foods. Unlike inorganic foods, foods which are organically grown are propagated and reared without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, chemical fertilizers and other harmful chemicals (Winter & Davis, 2006). Thus, it possesses high nutritional content and an approximately ⅓ less residue of pesticides (Crinnion, 2010; “Organic Food,” n.d.). In addition, organically grown crops and livestock do not pose a threat into the environment. Various environmental groups claimed that chemicals used in conventionally propagating crops and breeding livestock contaminate the drinking water, and harm the surroundings (Fookes & Dalmeny, n.d.).
However, some researchers argued that some facts about organic foods may be overlooked by consumers. In 2002 the United States Department of Agriculture warned the consumers of the parasites and bacteria found in organic crops. The absence of pesticides and preservatives in organically grown crops makes it more susceptible to bacteria and parasite infection.
In turn, consuming organic crops may have an adverse effect to consumer’s health (as cited in Food Marketing Institute [FMI], 2007). This paper seeks to review and explore previous studies on the health and environmental effects of organically grown crops and livestock. This is to determine if the benefits of consuming organic foods outweigh its adverse effects. This paper will also delve into the social and economic impact of organic farming and further technological and research needs. Effects of organic foods in one’s Health A study conducted by Crinnion (2010) found that organic crops contain higher Iron, Phosphorous, Vitamin C as well as Magnesium. These nutrients are seldom found in conventionally-produced crops in the country. Thus, organically grown crops offer consumers a better nutrition. In addition, it contains a high amount of antioxidant phytochemical that repairs damaged cells and helps the body fight heart disease and Cancer. It hampers the development of cancer cells by reducing mutagenic action of toxic chemicals. However the study conducted by the University of Minnesota found that organic foods contain 9.7 % of E. coli bacteria compared to 1.6% found in conventionally grown crops. Contamination of organically grown crops occurs due to the use of animal manure. Its usage increases the probability of consumers being infected with fecal bacteria. Researchers reiterated that organically grown crops are not considered a “high-risk food” (Morano, 2004). Organic Trade Association argued that there are no evidences suggesting that organic foods are not safe to consume. Organically grown food was found to possess lower harmful fungi compared to conventionally produced crops (as cited in FMI, 2007). A high amount of residue from toxic chemicals is commonly found in conventionally grown crops. This chemical residue may lessen the chances of procreation or giving birth. Seven hundred women who reported to be constantly exposed to pesticides were found to have high rate of miscarriage. Another longitudinal study conducted by University of Denmark found that women who have high amount of pesticide particularly Dieldren in their bloodstream are more at risk of developing breast cancer. Dieldrin is considered as one of the most common pesticides used in conventionally grown crops in previous years. Exposure to high level of Dieldrin causes ...
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