Eating healthily comes with the obvious pros, but cons as well. Healthy foods, such as those produced organically, are more costly for a variety of reasons. First, organic produce requires more hands-on labor, pricey inspections and certifications, larger volumes of natural fertilizers, as well as other farming techniques. These disadvantages can be significant for a small farm especially when comparing their cost structures to multi-billion dollar food enterprises that offer low prices because they pump cheap chemicals and fillers into their foods.
What I believe to be the most unfortunate reason behind this cost differential is the fact that the government taxes organic foods through the certification process while chemical and food manufacturers do not go through any type of stringent approval process. This is a huge disadvantage for healthy food producers. New chemical and food additives easily circumvent the FDA’s approval process by a process called GRAS or generally recognized as safe. The product coming to market is basically approved by its marketer, a gross injustice to healthy food producers and the unsuspecting consumers.
This is where it gets dicey. The government is easily circumvented because a food producer is able to fund private research to support its new product claim. If the additive comes up safe in the company’s own checks, it is automatically ready for use in the food supply. The FDA has no oversight. The company isn’t even required to make the government aware of the product’s approval. It is a voluntary system. It is not difficult to understand that companies can bring dangerous chemicals to market in very little time (and no research on long-term risks) with little cost. This self-approval process has flooded the grocery store aisles with loads of untested chemicals, ranging from artificial flavors, food coloring, and sugar substitutes.
On the other hand, in order for a farm or food manufacturer to use the government’s USDA Organic label, it must pass inspection. The onus and cost is on the organic farmer to prove that his/her product is legitimately organic, which makes sense. My issue with the whole process is the dichotomy. Why are food additives and their chemistry labs not held to the same standard? Why are they allowed to approve their own chemicals? It’s absurd. And we are all at risk because of it.
Some may think petitioning the government for change is the best course of action. Pushing legislation is a possibility, however, the process is the way it is because of the powerful food industry and their influence on the government. The only power we have in our hands is how we choose to spend our money.
With legislation, you are relying on dubious politicians to do the right thing. I like to focus on action that has a direct impact on what I’m trying to accomplish. By purchasing healthier foods, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as I’m helping to grow the organic industry, lowering their costs and my future prices. This profit also comes out of the hands of the chemical food producers, hurting their businesses, something I believe will sink in very quickly. It is up to us to shift gears and head in a new direction, one where we take responsibility for our own health and force our food suppliers to adhere to our needs and long-term health concerns.