Hunger and world population

Analysis of current trends shows that the world’s population is estimated to be greater than 9.5 billion by the year 2050 and 11 billion by 2100. The rate of world hunger, the destruction of the natural resources, and climate change has many people worried and wondering whether planet Earth has enough resources to feed this quickly growing population. Currently, there is enough food to adequately feed everyone on Earth but due to disproportionate distribution of resources; many governments around the world are either battling chronic hunger or obesity amongst their people.

What is organic food? Difference between conventional and organic farming?

The word “organic” refers to the way farmers grow and process agricultural products, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products and meat. Organic food is grown, handled, and processed without the use of pesticides, fertilizers made from synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, industrial solvents, bioengineering, irradiation, antibiotics, synthetic food additives, or growth hormones. Organic farming is intended to use renewable resources and conserve natural resources. Organic farming practices are designed to encourage soil and water conservation and reduce pollution. Farmers who grow organic produce don’t use conventional methods to fertilize and control weeds. Examples of organic farming practices include using natural fertilizers to feed soil and plants, and using crop rotation or mulch to manage weeds. For food products to be certified as organic and include the certification stamp on their label, they have to abide by strict guidelines set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These guidelines are only specific to the United States and may differ in other countries. Many developing countries already have agricultural systems that comply with organic standards but there may not be a standardized certification process in place to inform consumers that certain food products are organic. These non-certified organic foods are usually consumed by the same household that grew it or sold locally in village markets. In developed countries, non-certified organic foods are usually sold in local farmers markets.

What are genetically modified (GM) organisms and GM foods?

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are plants, animals or microorganisms that have had their genetic material (DNA) altered in a way that does not occur naturally. This process is named “biotechnology”, “recombinant DNA technology” or “genetic engineering”. This process allows for individual genes to be transferred from one organism to another even if they are nonrelated species. Foods produced from or using GMOs are referred to as genetically modified (GM) foods. GM foods are developed to enhance the durability and nutritional value of naturally occurring foods and its seeds are marketed to farmers as a beneficial innovation because the genetically modified plants are intended to be resistant to diseases caused by insects or viruses. Currently, there is no method to test whether a food or an ingredient has been genetically modified; therefore, there is a chance for contamination of non-GMO plants through cross-pollination, trace amounts of GMO ingredients in animal feed, or from seeds traveling in wind or with migratory birds.

Are GM foods safe?

The genetic modification of foods differs greatly which makes it impossible to make the case that all GMOs are safe or unsafe. The safety of these foods needs to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Thus far, there have not been any observed health hazards related to the consumption of GMOs by the general population. GM foods currently available on the international market have passed safety assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health. In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved. However, further detailed long term studies are needed to examine the effect of GMOs on health. The use of genetic engineering, or GMOs, is prohibited in organic products.

What is difference between Organic and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
Organic GMO
Use of GMOs during production No Yes
Use of synthetic pesticides linked to cancer No Yes
Use of herbicides (Glyphosate) No Yes
Neurotoxic ingredient residue No Yes
Use of growth hormone No Yes
Use of antibiotics No Yes

Can organic farmers produce enough food for everybody?

Currently, global food production is adequate to feed the entirety of the Earth’s population but due to uneven distribution of access to food, hunger continues to be a problem. In market-marginalized areas, organic farmers can increase food production by managing local resources without having to rely on external inputs or food distribution systems over which they have little control and/or access. Organic farms grow a variety of crops and livestock in order to optimize competition for nutrients and space between species. This can have an important impact on local food security and resilience. Under the right circumstances, the market returns from organic agriculture can potentially contribute to local food security by increasing family incomes.

Do ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ mean the same thing?

No. There are no government-set standard that defines what ‘natural’ means; therefore, natural foods do not comply with USDA set standards for ‘organic’ foods. A food label may say ‘natural’, ‘free-range’, or ‘hormone-free’ but these words are not synonymous to ‘organic’. Natural foods can be organic if they have been grown and processed according to organic standards set forth by the USDA but not all natural foods are organic!

Organic or not? Check the label: What USDA certified organic food label tells you?

Organic farming emphasizes the use of renewable resources and conservation of natural resources such as soil and water to increase the quality of the environment. Organic foods grown in soil or those derived from animals (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products) must comply with standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) which prohibit the use of sewer-sludge fertilizers, most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetic engineering, growth hormones, irradiation, and antibiotics. Foods containing the ‘ USDA Organic’ seal must comply with these regulations. Only foods that are 95-100% organic (and GMO-free) can use the ‘USDA Organic’ seal.

  • Organic (Certified Organic / USDA Organic)– A food product must have at least 95% of its ingredients by weight (excluding salt and water) comply with organic, GMO-free standards set by the USDA to be certified and sealed with this logo. The remaining <5% of the ingredients must consist of substances included in the USDA’s National List. Because GMOs are not on this list, USDA Organic products are considered GMO-free. If a food product is labeled as 100% organic, all of its ingredients must meet organic standards.
  • Made with organic ingredients – In order for a manufacturer to put a label on its product stating ‘made with organic ingredients’, at least 70% of those ingredients must comply with organic standards.
  • Contains organic ingredients – This category is for foods that contain organic ingredients but these ingredients make up less than 70% of the whole. In such cases, manufacturers may list the organic ingredients in the information panel of the packaging. However their “remaining non-organic ingredients are produced without prohibited practices, including genetic engineering.”
    It is important to note that these standards are meant to control the process of growing food and not the actual resulting product.

Organic food: Is it more nutritious?

The answer to this question continues to be unclear. Researchers concluded that organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are not significantly different in their nutrient content. A recent study states the period of time in which a food product stays on the shelf is more indicative of how nutritious it is compared to how it was grown or produced. For example, spinach is known to lose foliate within a week after harvest.

Is organic food better for me and my family?

No claims have been made by the USDA that state organic foods are safer or healthier in comparison to foods grown or produced using conventional methods. The only differences between organic food and conventionally produced food is the way it is grown, handled, and processed. Although there are some conflicting studies, the composition of both organic and conventionally grown foods are the same and provide equally the same vitamins and minerals. More importantly, nobody has been able to tell the difference in terms of taste.

Why is organic food more expensive than conventional food?

Certified organic foods are more expensive in comparison to foods grown using conventional methods because organic food supply is much less than the demand. Also, it is much more costly to grow and produce a food that complies with strict organic standards. Farming, processing, handling, and transport of organic foods requires more labor which hikes up cost as well. Farming these foods in higher volumes will eventually drive down the cost. Non-certified organic products are usually priced similarly to foods grown using conventional methods.

Elif Ozdener- Hakan Ozdener

About Writers

Elif Ozdener works as a Clinical Assistant Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University, School of Pharmacy. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. She is also a Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacist. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, she also cares for patient with chronic conditions in a primary care clinic. Her primary research interests include clinical management of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and HIV/AIDS.

Hakan Ozdener was born in Sungurlu, Corum. After graduating from Medical School, received Ph.D degree and completed his post doctoral study. He works as a scientist in the USA . His research interest involves in chemosensory cell biology and human virology.


FAQ- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Description and Definitions- Food and Agriculture of the United States

Can GMOs Be Used in Organic Products- United States Depertment of Agriculture

Is Organic Always GMO Free?- GMO Awareness

Introduction to Organic Practices- USDA

Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? – Mayo Clinic

Food Safety- World Health Organization

Organic Food- Wikipedia