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Organic Food Is Marketing Hype

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Eating organic used to be a fringe commitment. Not anymore. The idea that the adage "you are what you eat" actually has merit that America's industrialized food system is making consumers—literally, consumers—obese, diabetic and primed for heart disease—has converted millions of us into pursuers of the American Organic Dream: Eat Organic To Live Longer and Better. But many aren't buying it. Most consumers, for example. Although sales of organic food increased sixfold over the last decade, organics are still a tiny fraction of the food Americans eat. Perhaps that's because organic food can cost up to twice as much as conventionally grown? Perhaps it's because—as critics of the organic food movement argue—there's just not a lot of solid evidence that going organic makes you any healthier. This side says the race by food makers to slap labels like "farm-grown,'" "free-range," and "all natural" is more about catching a fad than upgrading our food in any meaningful way. Should we all go organic, and pay the extra that it costs, because few things are more important than our health? Or is the organic movement, and the firms cashing in on it, hawking a hoax, or at least grossly overstating the biological benefits to be had when the chicken that we eat is raised with some more legroom?

The Debaters

For the motion

Dennis Avery

Director, Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues.

Is director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Global Food Issues. From 1980-1988, he served as an agricultural analyst for the U.S. Department... Read More

Blake Hurst

Published Freelance Writer, the Wall Street Journal, Wilson Quarterly, and the American.

And his wife Julie raise corn and soybeans with 7 family members on a farm in northwest Missouri. They've farmed for over 30 years. Hurst is also... Read More

John Krebs

Principal, Jesus College, Oxford

Krebs is the principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and is the former chairman of the Food Standards Agency in the UK. He was appointed to the House... Read More

Against the motion

Charles Benbrook

Research Professor, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources

Charles Benbrook is a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, and program... Read More

Urvashi Rangan

Director of Technical Policy, Consumers Union.

Is the director of Technical Policy for Consumers Union. Rangan joined Consumers Union in 1999 and developed the ratings system, database and website... Read More

Jeffrey Steingarten

Food Critic, Vogue Mazazine

Trained to become a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Harvard Lampoon. For the... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • Organic foods, which are marketed as a healthier alternative, do not provide substantial health benefits compared to foods produced on conventional farms.
  • While general pesticide use does not pose a major health threat to consumers, the natural pesticides used by organic farmers can be more dangerous than the synthetic pesticides used in conventional farming.
  • There are a billion hungry people in the world—we cannot ignore the trade-offs of organic farming, which requires more land and leads to more soil erosion than conventional farming. 
Against The Motion
  • Because organic farming prioritizes land conservation and biodiversity, it provides consumers the option of purchasing goods produced using environmentally conscious practices.
  • Pesticides, which are banned on organic farms, have been found to harm children and fetuses, and the runoff from their use creates dead zones, areas unable to foster non-algae life, in rivers and oceans.
  • Organic farm practices ensure animals are humanely raised and protect against antibiotic overuse, which has led to outbreaks of antibiotic resistant bacteria on conventional farms. 

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The Research

The Research

Top Ten Reasons to support Organic in the 21st Century

Alan Greene
December 31, 1969

The Argument Against Organic Food

Michael Y. Park
February 24, 2009

Organic food is Just a Tax on the Gullible

Dominic Lawson
August 9, 2009
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