By María Paula Vargas - Student of the School of General Studies
Have you ever heard about how much damage do the chemicals inserted in the food that humans daily consume? Or, while you are looking for the lettuce for making a salad, have you ever stopped in front of the lettuce cultivated with “zero chemicals”, in other words, “organic”, and bought it because you think it is healthier? Well, let's talk about what is and what is not true about all of that in the following lines.
As human population has been increasing, agriculture had to do the same in order to maintain the whole world population alive. With its increase, the design, and the method of obtaining the food has evolved. One chemical reaction known for many people was discovered: the Haber-Bosch reaction (McCabe, 2007). It allows to obtain nitrogen with highly efficiency. Nitrogen is the main component in every pesticide, and the pesticides are made to kill animals that try to eat the plantations of food. Most of those pesticides are strong enough to kill an insect, but soft or insignificant for humans. Even with the washing they can vanish from the vegetables (FAO, s.f).
Costa Rica is known worldwide for being one of the countries with the a high consume of pesticides even though it has a reduced area compared with other countries. Now, there are a lot of news that attribute the stomach cancer to the consumption of pesticides. In most of the cases, the stomach cancer is not produced by the chemicals in the consumed food, it is a product of bad alimentation habits, previous diseases, addictions and even the genetic factor.
But what are the chemicals that are good or bad for the human health? And what about the term “organic”? Is it just another strategic to make people consume more expensive food, or it is a real thing? Food chemicals are not a bad thing, without them our specie would not be as developed as it is now, because it would still be eating a complete animal just after it was killed because could not preserve the meat for long time periods. Salt is a chemical compound that helped in those times to preserve the food, nowadays there are a lot more that are made to help food to be in a good condition over time. Acid substances are also chemicals and they also improve the quality of the food products by maintaining them in an acid environment and preventing the formation of bacteria. Also, sugar is a chemical compound that helps to maintain the fruits out of pathogens. Those are the most “natural” chemicals added in food, but if they are used in high concentrations, they can also damage the body and produce diseases. Life is a balance, keeping the ranges of consume of packed foods low can help you to prevent diseases.
The term “organic” has been contaminated in the mass media, from the Chemistry, an organic compound means something that contains carbon on its chemical formula. So, based on that scientific definition, most of the things that we use every day are defined as organic (excluding the materials coming from the minerals). According to that asseveration every single lettuce is organic because it comes from a plant. But the marketing uses that term to increase the price of that lettuce that was cultivated with 10% less of pesticides than the regular to make you pay another 50% more of the regular price just for being part of the cool people that prefers the healthy and expensive food.
All of that misinformation above is the product of all the fake news published in the social media, given by the national channels that take more care of the selling than maintaining a population well informed about what is actually true. Reading is free and keeping an informed conversation is more significance than obtaining a lot of likes in a picture just for buying organic foods.