Natural Foods

Yesterday, I was shopping for apples at my local supermarket when I realized that I had a huge decision to make, whether to purchase conventionally grown apples or organically grown apples. While standing there, each option in hand, I began to wonder about the differences between the two. Both apples seemed to have the same appearance, red, shiny, and firm. Both had the same wonderful fragrance. The main difference between these two fruits was the label. The apple in my left hand boasted “Red Delicious”, while the apple in my right hand claimed to be “USDA Organic.” After much debate, I decided to go with the organically grown apples, knowing only a small amount of information about such products. I assumed organically grown products had to be better for me and the environment, and made it my mission to find out exactly what the difference is.

What Are the Differences Between Organic & Conventional Foods?

There are actually quite a few differences between organically and conventionally grown products of which I was not aware. To begin, I researched organic farming to find out the benefits for myself and the environment. Organic foods are grown in a way that is designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. This is great considering the current “green” trend! Farms that grown organic products do not use conventional farming methods, such as using pesticides to keep unwanted insects off of their products. Organic farms use more sophisticated and environmentally friendly methods of making sure these unwanted pests stay away from their crops, as well as managing weeds and other such problems. Crop rotation, as well as spreading mulch and manure, is used frequently by organic farmers instead of spraying chemicals and other harmful substances on or around their foods.

The following chart shows a few other ways that organic and conventional foods differ:

Conventional Farming

Organic Farming

Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.

Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.

Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease.

Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.

Use chemical herbicides to manage weeds.

Rotate crops, till, hand weed, or mulch to manage weeds.

Give animals antibiotics, growth hormones, and medications to prevent disease and spur growth.

Give animals organic feed and allow them access to the outdoors. Use preventative measures – such as rotational grazing, a balanced diet and clean housing – to help minimize disease.

As noted in the chart, conventional farming utilizes pesticides on their crops, which is not only harmful for people if the products are not washed properly, but is also extremely harmful for the environment. The use of pesticides and other chemicals pollutes the air, water, and soil. Air pollution is caused by the movement of chemical particles through the air as they are sprayed on crops. The flow of chemicals through the air affects the quality of the air we breathe, as well as affecting the other animals in the surrounding ecosystems. Run-off of pesticides from the crops will flow into nearby creeks, streams, or lakes, which eventually flows back into the ocean. Polluted water must go through a rigorous cleaning process to get back to the point that it can be drank or used for other householdpurposes. Soil is also affected by the run-off of pesticides. The quality of soil greatly impacts the growth of crops, the quality of the foods we eat, and the wildlife that live around the area.

Chelsea B. Sanz
Chelsea B. Sanz

Chelsea Sanz has lived in East Tennessee since her family moved here from South Florida just before she started high school. While she initially begrudged her new home state, she eventually realized she had come to not only love it, but to “bleed orange” as University of Tennessee Volunteers fans here like to say. She and her boyfriend Hunter, a trail worker for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, enjoy exploring the nation’s most visited national park and coming up with their own farm-to-table recipes.

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