Why is Organic food more expensive than ” Conventional food”?

Let me start with how I came across organic food. Roughly five years ago, I started buying food that was grown without synthetic chemicals to include fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. I started with mostly vegetables and fruits. My mom kept telling me that I should go to this health food store called Oryana’s. After a few years and with my health not getting any better, I decided to give it a try. I had been a very picky eater growing up, more so than most kids. So there I was, my first time at Oryana’s food co-op and I picked up  some vegetables and some fruit. After unpacking my groceries, I took a bite out of an apple and said, “Wow! That is the best tasting apple I have ever had”.  I also bought some eggs. They came from an Amish farm out of Indiana and they were the best eggs I had ever tasted. They had a deep orange color to them.

After that, I immediately started doing some research on organic food and I came across so many interesting facts on the differences between organic food and conventional food.  I read many books written by people trying to shed some light on what has happened to our food system in the past, and what was still going on. You see, over the years I have tasted several different kinds of meat, produce and several types of organic grains. To me, the organic produce and meat that had been pasture raised and grass-fed always tasted so much better. I truly couldn’t believe it, it was like a great secret that had been revealed to me.

A few months later I went back to Oryana’s and again picked up some more fruit to include some apples, strawberries and blueberries, and they tasted even better than the ones I had bought just two months prior. I asked one of the young women working in the produce section, ” Why are these apples so good?”. She smiled and said they were from a local farm 25 miles away.  I continued to wander the produce section and ended up at the bluberry row. I looked at the sign below that had the name of a local farm on it.  It was no wonder that I liked this produce so much; not only were they local, but they were organic. This is where my passion for food came from and where the story begins on my quest to understand organic and local food.

I have been asked several times, ” Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food?” But, before I answer that question for you, let me start from where food went from “organic” to “conventional”. It would seem the German chemist Justus von Liebig is a good place to start. Liebig believed that man could use science to replicate the most valuable resources of nature like sugar, salt, and other vital nutrients so that man would never again feel vulnerable to the whims of nature. He wrote a few books in the 1840’s about chemistry and agriculture. Liebig was the originator of the slogan, “Better living through nature”.  Liebig was often quoted as saying it was his “God-given gift to control nature”. So, his ideas in many ways started with the conception and eventual use of chemical fertilizers.

After World War I,  I.B. Faren, a company composed of Bayer, BASF, Hoechst, and AGFA and other American chemical companies, used their profits to advertise their products. They focused on the ” war on bugs” and likened farmers to patriotic soldiers who must protect their farms and families from evil threats. Later, as Americans marched proudly into World War II to defend our freedom and save the world from Hitler, we were using the same chemicals in America that the Nazis were using to exterminate the Jews. This time we had been buying the chemicals from Germany. Zykion B otherwise known as Cyclone B, the infamous gas the Nazis used to exterminate millions of people, was cyanide-based pesticide primarily used for delousing. It is scary to see that we had these companies behind all of this suffering, and then to see that they sold to farmers here in the US. ( from the book Organic manifesto)

After World War II, these companies were broken up into Bayer , BASF and Hoechst, now known as Sanofi-aventis. I am showing the connection between the German companies and how they sold chemicals to U.S. farmers that claimed higher yields, and more production all at the expense of our nation’s health. I could write a whole book about these chemical and pharmaceutical companies. In Europe, some of the concentration camp survivors have written a few  books that aimed at expossing the connection between these companies and all the harmful chemicals, and how they were behind putting Hitler in power. The Nuremberg trials helped expose who was behind the many atrocities in World War II. As well, these trials  actually proved that  these companies were behind the provisions and the poisoning of the Jewish people trapped and condemned to many of Germany’s concentration camps. Hopefully, this will bring awareness to the origin of so-called, “conventional” food, if you will.

Most likely you’ve been waiting patiently for me to answer the important question from above. “Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food?” The main reason is that intensively farmed foods or conventional foods are cheaper to buy in grocery stores is that  you are paying for them with your taxes. Agrochemical agriculture is heavily subsidized by the taxpayer through our Government. Most of the time organic farming receives little or no subsidies at all and this dates back to the aftermath of World War II.  It may even pre-date the Great Depression with the Grain Futures Act.

The second reason conventional food is cheaper is that Agrochemicals are designed to make food cheaper to produce. Agrochemicals were not developed with nutrition, taste, or ecology in mind. The chemical designers mission was to make mass production of food cheaper, end of story. So what we get is a cheap, but inferior product in many ways. All a person  has to do is taste some produce from an organic farm and then try produce from a conventional farm, and see for themselves. A conventional farm  usually uses the practice of monoculture ( growing only one crop), where most organic farms are bio-diversified, growing several different crops with more nutrient density thereby producing better tasting food.

Thirdly, organic farms usually aren’t subsidized by our Government. Organic farming is more labor intensive and farmers usually pay their help more. Certified Organic farmers have an added cost compliance with stricter standards.   Someone from an accredited agency  comes out to make sure that the farm meets all requirements of being an Organic Farm.

Organic produce in some studies has up to 60 % more vitamins, nutrients, minerals, trace minerals,and  more beneficial bacteria.  In contrast, an average apple in a conventional farm is sprayed with 40 different chemical waxes, insecticides, and pesticides. So to some it all up, we are basically paying for conventional farmed food 3 times over, the first  is at the grocery checkout counter, the second is with our tax paying subsidies, and the third, is with our tax paying dollars to clean up the environment. So, if we look at the truth of conventional food we can see the true cost of it, by looking at its impact on all aspects of are lives.  They have a saying in the organic community-  ” You can pay the farmer now, or you can pay the doctor later”.

Here is another interesting Quote:

” We need to learn the  lessons of the real cost of production. We need  to ask ourselves not just why organic prices are so high, but why conventional prices are so low’.

– A. Wilson Wiltrose-

Prior to the1950’s, we used to spend 25% of our income on food. Now it is 7%. We spend 14% on healthcare,  whereas in Europe they spend 14% on their food budget, and 7% on health care. It seems we really need to think hard before choosing an intensively produced product over an organic product simply because of cost. We must be far-sited when looking at the true cost of food, and how it is produced. As the people that can afford organic food continue to buy it, it will bring the price of food down and in turn it will  help most people have the potential for buying sustainable ( organic) food, people in poverty should have the right to eat food that is healthy and clean in the way that organic food is. Some say it should be their right as an American citizen.

In my next blog I will talk about the local food movement, and the many ways in which it’s changing our communities and our lives as a whole! Until next time food lovers, be well, and peace to all those on their journey toward discovering the uniqueness of food.


Sincerely your friend,

Bob Kyes



June 19, 2012Permalink Leave a comment

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