In the past, I frequently traveled to Mexico. Whenever I went there, I got sick: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. I made the mistake many foreign travelers do by eating fresh fruit and vegetables grown with no preservatives, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers. Little did I know that the local farmers there used human feces and sewage on their crops. In other words, I ate organic food.


But that’s Mexico, a third-world country. Certainly, you wouldn’t find such filth in a developed nation, would you?

You may be surprised.

I am opposed to the organic food label for many reasons: expense, inefficiency of production, deceptive marketing, and poor nutritional content (due to the lack of nitrogen and potassium in organic fertilizer). Add to that the risk of infectious disease. Recently, a professor at the University of Valencia in Spain tested organic lettuce and spinach from local supermarkets and found harmful bacteria and amoebae in two-thirds of samples: legionella, salmonella, arcobacter, veramoeba vermiform, and acanthamoeba castellanii. These bugs cause pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, encephalitis, and blindness. They come from contamination from organic fertilizers, “such as manure and sewage sludge, and from irrigation water.” Professor Moreno published a press release documenting her findings after presenting them at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases last year. Professor Moreno’s conclusion: “Leafy greens are particularly susceptible to fecal contamination due to their proximity to the ground and the likelihood of humans consuming them without cooking.” You always remember to cook your lettuce before you eat it, don’t you?

So much for the safety of “organic” fertilizer.

Here in the US, e-coli outbreaks traced back to contaminated soil and water from farms sicken thousands and kill people every year. This contamination is always “organic,” as all infectious disease is. Nitrogen and potassium do not harbor life threatening bacteria, but human and animal waste do. And that’s what organic farms use to fertilize their crops.

More evidence that organic does not mean safe to eat.

Rather than mindlessly reaching for the (more expensive) organic food the next time you go shopping, take a moment and ask the following questions: Is what I’m about to buy really safer than the conventional option? How do I know? What is the standard used? Is the “organic” label simply a marketing ploy? These may not be easy to answer, so do your research. Often, there is no objective difference between an organic and a conventional food. There may even be a health risk.

To paraphrase Thoreau, think for yourself, or the organic food lobby will think for you, and it will not be thinking of you.