Many people buy organic foods because they are concerned about pesticide exposure, despite the fact that many studies

do not seem to demonstrate any nutritional advantage of one over the other. Numerous studies have failed to demonstrate health benefits one over the other.[1] Yet, one small and very recent study suggests that several omega-3 fatty acids, known for their boon to neurological and immune health, are increased in organic milk.[2] But as people of faith, our concerns with food must go far beyond personal gain. We must ask ourselves how our choices contribute to justice and equity in the world as a whole, and how our food choices reflect our religious identities and spiritual practices.

We here at AZIPL are promoting food justice as it connects to climate change, as there are clear connections between farming practices and climate change. Organic farming has been found to produce more-fertile soil, use less fertilizer and much less herbicide, consume less energy trap more carbon in the soil and produce more profit for farmers whereas conventional systems are touted for their higher yields and some studies suggest that no-till conventional farming is superior at preventing erosion.[3] The reduced consumption of energy and petroleum-based fertilizers and herbicides are where the environmental benefits arise, so from our perspective anyone hoping to reduce their carbon-footprint would be wise to choose organic.

But how does the justice concern fit into this? Well, as is likely well-known at this point, climate change as a whole is most detrimental to those in developing nations and the poor in our own nation who are most vulnerable to any crisis. Even more specifically, however, farm workers face health hazards from exposure to pesticides and herbicides used in conventional farming, not to mention abusive and exploitive labor practices and poverty wages.[4]

The increa624px-warning2pesticidessed cost of organic foods results in large part from their more humane treatment of laborers. And at least one small study confirms “the increased presence of DNA damage in farmers exposed to pesticides,” demonstrating that “exposure conditions may influence observed effects.”[5] While they caution that “these results must be interpreted with caution due to the small size of the sample and the unbalanced distribution of individuals in the three study group,” we think this study has merit. And we believe that overall, organic farming is not only better for the earth’s ecosystems, but is also a more just approach to food production.

Food choices have long been the purview of many religious systems, yet we know that few decisions are more personal than decisions about what to eat. Most religious traditions—Eastern and Western—have long concerned themselves with issues such as care for the poor, sacred eating, and restraining the appetites.  Organics can indeed be expensive, and we would never insist that you purchase exclusively organic food. However, we encourage you to make the purchase of an increased number of organic products a vital part of your spiritual practice that puts into action your commitments to caring for the less fortunate.



[1] Dangour Alan D. et al. “Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review.” Am J Clin Nutr. 92:1 (2010 Jul): 203-10.

[2] Średnicka-Tober, Dominika et al. “Higher PUFA and n-3 PUFA, Conjugated Linoleic Acid, α-Tocopherol and Iron, but Lower Iodine and Selenium Concentrations in Organic Milk: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta- and Redundancy Analyses.” The British Journal of Nutrition 115.6 (2016): 1043–1060. PMC. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

[3] Haspel, Tamar “Is Organic Agriculture Really Better for the Environment?” The Washington Post May 14, 2016. 23 Oct. 2016.

[4] Gottlieb, Robert and Anupama Joshi. Food Justice Cambridge: MIT Press, 2010 pages 13-38.

[5] Costa, Carla et al. “Is Organic Farming Safer to Farmers’ Health? A Comparison between Organic and Traditional Farming.” Toxicology letters 230.2 (2014): 166–176. PMC. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.