A friend asked this question on Facebook recently: “How do we compare a diet on say, GMO vegetarian, or an organic meats diet? Health-wise, would the organic meats hold more nutritional value for the body? How does eating organic meats compare to modern farming on depleted soils and GMO seeds, plus the pesticides and other chemicals?”
This is a complex question as it touches on the ethics of eating. I hope to answer this by breaking down the question into several components, and looking at each of them individually from a sustainable perspective:
- GMO, conventional vs. organic/biodynamic
- Meat-based food choice vs. plant-based food choice
- Modern monoculture practice vs. traditional polyculture practice
Eating is a political act. Wendell Berry once said, “if you eat you are involved.”
GMO is simply not an option. GMO has been linked to allergies, autoimmune diseases and many other disorders. Why would you eat GMO food? Why take a risk with your health?
GMO agriculture practice also depletes the soil of beneficial microorganism that helps build healthy soil, with the introduction of toxic pesticides. In some instances, the toxin is directly introduced into genes of plants, and these toxins make their way into pregnant women and feotuses.
Organic and biodynamic poly-culture practice does not use petrochemical inputs. It is about soil management and land stewardship. In the long run, this is a more sustainable approach to eating.
And if you need to eat meat, free ranging animals raised organically and humanely slaughtered (but when is taking the life of another creature ever humane, but that is for another posting) would be a better option over CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations).
The judges are still out there in regards to the nutritional value of organic meat but you can rest assured that organically raised animals are not injected with antibiotics and other hormones neither are they fed with GMO grains or carcass of other animals. From a safety perspective, organic meats offer you that peace of mind.
As for the argument of meat eating vs. vegetarianism, the economist Lord Stern in an interview with The Times in 2009 summed it up by saying, “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gasses. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better.”
I believe his statement is made in context of CAFO. I don’t have the statistics comparing CAFO and organic free ranging animal husbandry. My guess the latter is more sustainable as proven by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm.
At the end of the day it all comes down to about making informed choices. Eating is such a controversial subject because culturally we have been brought up to subscribe to a certain dietary belief. I don’t make a distinction between my pet cats and dogs and animals raised for food. To me they are all sentient creatures.
Would you eat meat if you had to kill and process it yourself?