Iowa Journal Host Mark Pearson: Let's talk about USDA's organic certification program. It requires all organic foods to meet strict government standards including how such foods are grown, handled and processed.
Any farmer or food manufacturer who labels and sells a product as organic must be USDA certified. Goods that are completely organic such as fruits, vegetables, eggs or other single ingredient foods are labeled 100% organic complete with a USDA seal. The documentary, Food, Inc., seems to imply that organic foods are more wholesome but some health claims made by the burgeoning industry have not been proven.
We're willing to subsidize the food system to create the mystique of cheap food when actually it's very expensive food, if when you add up the environmental costs, societal costs, health costs.
Food, Inc. sharply criticized the conventional food industry and seemed to paint organic foods in a more favorable light. But are organic foods more nutritious than their conventionally produced counterparts? A 2008 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education research study found no conclusive evidence that organic foods are more nutritious than conventionally grown food. And USDA, even though it certifies organic food, does not claim the products are safer or healthier.
According to the study, organic foods meet the same quality and safety standards as conventional foods. Conventional growers often use fungicides and pesticides to protect their crops from molds, insects and diseases. But trace of the chemicals can remain on the crops and some people buy organic food hoping to minimize their exposure to these residues.
In its first survey of organic farmers two years ago the USDA discovered the nation's 14,540 producers enjoyed sales of more than 24.6 billion dollars. And while prices paid to organic farmers have grown 14% to 21% over the past decade, they remain less than one percent of total agricultural sales.
Meanwhile, the United Nations projects world population will reach more than nine billion by mid-century requiring a 100% increase in global food production from virtually the same amount of land as today. But Missouri farmer and writer Blake Hurst claims it would be impossible to even feed today's global population if the world relied solely on organic farming methods.
Blake Hurst: I don't think it's realistic that we can feed six billion people with no technology that basically wasn't any technology that wasn't developed after 1940. We just can't do it. We have to have access to commercial fertilizers, we have to have access to pesticides of various kinds, we have to have access to genetically modified seed.