In the simplest terms, any food grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides can be labeled organic. People who do not understand the organic food movement often argue that there is no significant difference between organic and so-called conventional food. There is however, a lot more to the argument than meets the eye.
For most of humankind’s history, food crops grew utilizing natural fertilizers such as animal manure, dung and decomposed plant materials, otherwise called compost. Creating good soil was the focus. Crops took nutrients from the soil and all crop refuse was returned to replenish the nutrients removed. Adding these natural elements back to the earth feeds not only the plants, but also the micro-flora and micro-fauna that provide micro-nutrients for the soil, which are subsequently extracted from the soil by the plants.
Pesticides were not necessary because strong, healthy plants, grown in healthy soil, were disease resistant. Predators attack the weak and ill formed. Plants grown in soil that is complete with all the nutrients nature provides grow strong, healthy, and are resistant to disease.
This changed in the mid 1800’s when Justus von Liebig, a German scientist, discovered nitrogen as an essential plant nutrient. This led to the invention of nitrogen-based fertilizer and the propagation of plants utilizing Liebigs’s “Law of the Minimum”. This principle states that the one essential mineral which is in the relatively shortest supply, limits a plant’s development. This concept determines the amount of fertilizer to apply in modern agriculture. Plant growth in conventional agriculture is controlled not by the total resources available, but by the scarcest resource. Minimal plant nutrient requirements are chemically synthesized and added to the dirt. The soil is no longer the source of plant nutrition, but only a receptacle for holding plant roots.
Subsequently, the plants themselves are weak and must be protected against attack from insects, funguses and other pests by the application of synthetic chemical insecticides and other toxic poisons. These poisons get into the food and cannot be removed. The toxins then enter our bodies through ingestion of the food and may lead to other health problems.
Food grown by conventional methods conforms to specific standards designed to meet a consumer demand subliminally created. Much of it is genetically altered or hybridized through genetic modification. All of the food looks the same. It is often picked unripe to aid storage and ease shipping, and then gassed with more chemicals to ripen the fruit before it is presented to buyers. The food is unblemished in appearance, but bland and tasteless. The nutrient content of conventionally grown food is limited and must be supplemented by vitamin and mineral tablets in order to maintain consumer health.
Organic growers use natural materials that are available in the environment around them to grow high quality food. The food is higher in quality because it contains all of the nutrients available from soil enriched by inclusion of natural materials. Equally important, organic food has no synthetic chemicals added as nutrients, to control pests or aid harvesting. This produces food that is better tasting with higher nutritional content. Sometimes organic food is not as pretty to look at like as “steroid food’ found at the local grocery store. However, to clearly know the difference, just eat some food grown organically. The absolute, unequivocal proof that organic food is superior to conventional food is simple. The proof is in the tasting!