While perusing the Bible for verses on taking care of creation and the Earth, I thought: Does it matter? I mean, do I really need God to specifically tell me I should live a life where I take good care of my health and the health of the world I live in?
Of course, there are some obvious verses and some extrapolated ones on taking care of the world, but is it just common sense? God pretty much covers it with creating us in “His” image and asking us to love “His” neighbors. Or if I don’t believe in the literal creation story, don’t I know to do right by believing in a loving and compassionate God since if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t be of much use to God’s other children?
Now, there are many ways to take of myself and the world, but one very popular and multimillion dollar industry is the organic food industry so I want to know: Does God want me to eat organic food?
Let’s look at the different sides of the issue: the medical, the environmental and the Biblical.
Is organic food going to keep me healthier so I can do God’s work? No. At this point, the science is not there to support organic food being any better at preventing diseases or promoting health than conventional food. A meta study came out of Stanford that showed the data is does not support organic food health benefits. (A meta study looks at all the available studies and analyzes them.) The nutrients in vegetables and fruits vary individually not organics versus not-organic, and while organic foods have less pesticides, there isn’t evidence that the increase in pesticides on conventional foods is enough to cause problems. In the end, no diseases are affected by eating organic food.
On the plus side, lower income people often can’t afford organic food anyway so we can still take of the poor by providing healthy food without having to make it unnecessarily expensive.
Organic farming is much more sustainable than traditional farming practices. It is better for our water, our land and our biodiversity.
The organic farmer uses more diverse crops with creates healthier soil. The water in surrounding areas is protected from fertilizer and pesticide runoff. All this allows organic farming to work with the land, the animal and insect population allowing more diversity to exist and thrive. And while a meta-study on crop yield showed that in some areas organic farming was not as productive, the conclusion was that more mindful techniques would improve it and more factors (such as biodiversity) were more important than if organic farming could reach the exact same yield.
However, blindly buying organic is not better if the organic tomatoes are flown in from California when I live in Virginia — especially if there are local, non-organic Virginia tomatoes next to them. The air pollution offsets the benefits so we must pay attention to labels. Plus, supporting my local farmers has environment benefits for my backyard. Literally.
Jesus clearly ate local, organic food when he wasn’t turning water into wine. And it only cost daily, backbreaking labor.
Like most spiritual practices, God is not sending a burning bush on this one (and who knows what that does to the environment?). Organic food is good for the Earth and isn’t going to hurt humans to eat. However, while I may be able to spend money on a mostly organic diet, most people cannot. As Christians, we need to be as focused on the truth of the matter as we are on an ideal world because telling someone a food they cannot afford is going to make them healthier is not only unfair but a willful blindness to the reality of their privilege and of ours.
About the writer: Alex Iwashyna went from an undergraduate degree in political philosophy to a medical doctor to a stay-at-home mom, writer and Christian by 30. Four years later, she spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog, except when it’s serious, about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.