Newsweek Recycled Organic Food Myths in Promo Piece
Part of a regular web-only health-centric column, "Tip of the Week," Newsweek ran a June 14 piece written by Ruth Olsen, called “How to shop for organic foods without breaking your budget,” that hit many of the usual myths and wishful thinking about organic foods, such as, organic foods taste better than conventional foods (which are labeled “nonorganic” in the article, implying they deviate from the norm and are somehow lacking), organic produce lasts as long as conventional and organics can be comparable price-wise to regular produce in supermarkets (emphasis mine throughout):
If you do manage to get more organic into your diet, you won't regret the extra effort. Organic produce isn’t just healthy and better for the environment, it tastes better, too, according to Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for The Organic Center. And that flavor boost might just make it easier to convince your children to eat their veggies, or to introduce them to new foods.
Interestingly, this article very carefully (and wisely) didn't claim that organics are healthier than conventional produce; it slyly said, “organic produce is healthy.” Well, sure; all produce is healthy. I think many legitimate journalists are refraining from calling organics healthier now, partially because of a UK regulatory department deciding those claims are false and misleading.
Magazines like Spiked and the Economist, along with experts, argue that organic food farming actually causes more damage because it uses methods that are not as energy-efficient as conventional farming, it gobbles up twice as much land as conventional farming and because of its own environmental impact. This article ignored those issues.
As for taste, maybe Newsweek confused organic with locally-grown; the two are not the same. Local farms can often grow for flavor instead focusing on the longer shelf-life needed for grocery stores.
While most organic items, like produce and milk, have a similar shelf-life to their nonorganic counterparts, bear in mind that organic breads and pastries tend to go bad faster than nonorganic baked goods because ofz the lack of preservatives.
Without the wax protection, pesticides and sprays for mold, fungal growth and other contaminants, organic produce spoils and succumbs to insects and disease faster than conventional produce. A quick glance at the higher numbers of rotten and blemished organic produce in grocery stores bears that out, in my experience.
After a series of tips on how to try to lower the cost of organic food, Newsweek went all out with the comparable price myth:
Finally, buy fruits and vegetables in season and focus on what's easily available, says Barbara Houmann, spokeswoman for the Organic Trade Association. That way, she said, you may find that the prices are just about comparable with nonorganic fruits and veggies.
Organic food simply costs more to produce. Period. What makes organic food organic also make it more expensive. Morgan Stanley found that organic produce in the UK can be up to 63% more expensive than conventional food.
One exception to the organic price disparity is at Wal-Mart. Predictably, Olsen did not mention this, even if it meant that more people could enjoy her wonderful organics. I guess Wal-Mart is just too evil to promote.
Advising people to devote their produce budget to the more expensive organics instead of simply buying as many fruits and vegetables as possible, regardless of how they are grown, limits how much produce people consume. Since study after study shows that eating more fresh fruits and vegetables fights disease and helps us live longer, wouldn't lowering the total amount of produce consumed actually reduce the impact and number of positive effects on our health?
But none of this conflicting information got in the way of the current organic food propaganda.
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