Why Organic Food Tastes Better
Not every example of an organic food is going to beat its conventional counterpart in the taste department 100 percent of the time. In a well-known taste test conducted by Time magazine, using New York City chefs as the tasters, the chefs preferred the taste of organic over conventional foods 66 percent of the time. The TV personality Dr. Oz asked his audience to taste-test organic vs. conventional and organic did win, except for the frozen enchiladas. (My guess is that the conventional frozen enchiladas had been given some artificial flavor boosters, but I don’t know that.)
What’s important is that most of the time, people can taste the subtle quality differences between organic and conventional foods. The question arises, why does organic food taste better?
Think about the soil first. In a conventional field, chemical fertilizer contains nitrogen compounds, phosphorus, and potassium—the so-called macro nutrients. There’s nothing to blow the life in the soil aflame by feeding the naturally-present soil bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, worms, and the myriad of other creatures that live in the soil. Far from it. Conventional soil is doused with pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides—chemicals designed to kill things. And so in conventional agriculture, the soil is used mostly to prop up plants. The plants themselves are given a meager diet of mineral fertilizer and the plants’ roots don’t find much else of value to absorb from the soil.
In good organic soil, on the other hand, life abounds. And the metabolic processes of that life feed the plants all kinds of nutrients besides the nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium minerals of the conventional system. The result is that the plants—and the animals that live from those plants—become healthy. All their systems and functions are turned on because they have the raw materials they need for the systems to perform well.
First, they produce additional nutrients. Many, many studies have shown that organic food has more nutrients than conventional, despite corporate agribusiness’s propaganda to the contrary. Studies from the U.S., Europe, even the United Nations have shown the nutritional superiority of organic foods. Some of these nutrients add to the flavor of a food, or are associated with flavor development.
Think of a factory where automobiles are made. If the factory has only a limited number of parts, it will only be able to make a bare-bones automobile—engine, clutch, drive shaft, universal, seats, steering wheel. Now if that factory is supplied with lots of parts, the car might have a CD player and radio with surround speakers, antilock brakes, hybrid engine, and all the bells and whistles the engineers can think up.
A good patch of organic soil is like that well-supplied factory, giving its crops the ability to express all the systems programmed into their DNA. That’s why there’s more taste and better flavor, as well as greater amounts of nutrients.
The Prince’s Speech
By the way, Rodale has just published a pamphlet called, “The Prince’s Speech: On the Future of Food,” by H.R.H. Charles, the Prince of Wales, who is an indefatigable organic farmer and gardener. It’s as clear an exposition of why organic farming must become the way we conduct our food production as any I’ve seen. Wendell Berry wrote the introduction. It’s just $6.99 and you can buy a copy with one click at Amazon.
The following is based on reporting by Jane Ayers from Nation of Change, originally posted on February 15, 2012.
Willie Nelson, President of Farm Aid, recently called for the national Occupy movement to declare an “Occupy the Food System” action. “Corporate control of our food system has led to the loss of millions of family farmers and destruction of our soil,” he said.
Hundreds of citizens, (even including NYC chefs in their white toques) joined Food Democracy Now, gathered outside the Federal Courts in Manhattan on January 31st, to support organic family farmers in their landmark lawsuit against agribusiness giant Monsanto (the case is Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association v. Monsanto). Oral arguments were heard that day concerning the lawsuit by 83 plaintiffs representing over 300,000 organic farmers, organic seed growers, and organic seed businesses.
The lawsuit addresses the issue of Monsanto harassing and threatening organic farmers with lawsuits for “patent infringement” if any organic farmer ends up with any trace amount of GM seeds on their organic farmland.
Judge Naomi Buckwald heard the oral arguments on Monsanto’s Motion to Dismiss, and the legal team from Public Patent Foundation represented the rights of American organic farmers against Monsanto. After hearing the arguments, Judge Buckwald stated that on March 31, she will hand down her decision on whether the lawsuit will move forward to trial.