Does God Want Me To Eat Organic Food?

Alex-photoWhile 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.

The Medical Side

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.


The Environmental Side

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.


The Biblical Side

Jesus clearly ate local, organic food when he wasn’t turning water into wine. And it only cost daily, backbreaking labor.


The Conclusion

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, 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.

Review & Commentary

  • Chara

    Food for thought! Ha! See what I did there? Great thoughts Alex! Totally agree. We need to treat our bodies as temples, but that is very hard for those struggling to make it financially. I’d say eating healthy is more important than organic and most of all God knows our heart! We need to do our best but that’s going to look different from person to person/family to family. Great stuff!

  • Janice

    Not addressed here, or in the study cited: the difference between organic and non-organic when non-organic means eating processed foods using GMOs, which have NEVER been tested or studied for long-term health impacts because the USDA commissioner in charge of food policy, Michael Taylor, has spent his entire career shuttling back and forth between the department and Monsanto, which developed the GMO products and the earth-destructive pesticides they need to grow them. The study cited above only compared identified nutrients (vitamins, etc.) that are naturally present, while ignoring the potential health problems of pesticides that may also be present in non-organic foods. (One might equally claim that two heads of lettuce are equally nutritious even though one of them is contaminated with E-coli.) So I would take that study with a whole shaker of salt.

    Of course it is not a kind, fair and therefore not a Christian practice to guilt-trip people who can hardly afford to buy food at all, for not buying organic. But many if not most of us reading this and debating the issue do have that option, and more importantly, on behalf of those who can’t choose, I think we have an obligation to do that whenever possible. We have an obligation of stewardship to the earth; we have an obligation of challenging the Food Industry Empire on behalf of those who are forced to rely on it, challenging the industry by creating more demand for the organic products, which could ultimately make the good stuff more affordable for everyone. And we have an obligation to advocate that GMO food be labeled so that we can all make the best choices we can afford. Being sensitive to the fact that not everyone can afford to demand what is better for them and for the planet, doesn’t let the rest of us off the hook.

    This may require us to rethink our food habits to avoid falling into the trap of simplistic thinking, as pointed out above. If it’s winter in New England, and there are no local (hydroponic, greenhouse) organic tomatoes, instead of buying the organic ones from California, we could buy organic canned instead — and be willing to give up the notion of caprese salad in Vermont in January. There are plenty of seasonal alternatives. Maybe we could eat organic meat and dairy, raised locally by people we can trust, and eat much less of it, which is healthier anyone. Some of us might give it up altogether. We can join CSAs and perhaps churches could together buy CSA shares for their food programs or direct donations to needy families, to see that the poor get to eat the same healthy food that we do. And that all of our children get to inherit a healthy food system and a healthy planet. That’s what’s at stake here.