It feels like it came out
of nowhere and now it’s everywhere. The reality is our obsession with organic
food isn’t new at all until the invention of artificial pesticides and
GMOs in the 1900s, all of our food was organic. But the term itself was coined
in 1939 by Lord Northbourne, an agriculturist, author, and Olympic rower. So the movement itself isn’t
new but the popularity of it is. Organic food is the fastest
growing sector of the American food industry and by 2017 organic food
sales reached $45.2 billion. which is about five percent
of all food sold in retail stores. But with an industry so big you
have to wonder, Organic food isn’t a kind of food,
it’s a kind of qualification. Yes any food that is made
naturally without chemicals is technically organic but in order to be
sold in stores you need to be certified organic and each country has their own
rules about what that means. In the US there’s four levels of organic
certification and getting that certification can cost anywhere from a
few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars depending on the size of the
farm and regardless of what level of certification you get, there are
consistent check ups to make sure that the food you’re selling is actually as
organic as you say it is but even still organic fraud does exist. And in one famous example a shipment of 36 million pounds of soybeans treated with
pesticide became organic somewhere between Ukraine and California which
earned their producer an extra $4 million. Of course money is a big
motivation for organic producers but why are so many people going
organic in the first place? The dramatic shift towards organic eating has a lot to do with knowing what’s
in your food and how it affects your body. One in 13 American kids have
a food allergy and more than 170 foods have been reported to
cause allergic reactions. Food allergies and sensitivities have been so prevalent in the last decade that the market for food allergen testing was $468 million in 2016 and the most common allergy of them all has led to
the most dramatic shift. Lactose intolerance has caused
milk consumption to fall by approximately 30% since 1970 and today it’s not only
vegans that drink dairy free milk. In fact, 50% of US consumers
drink both dairy and non dairy. For a lot of people organic food provides a way to have even more
control over what they eat but that kind of control doesn’t come cheap. According to consumer report, some organic foods cost less than their non-organic counterparts, though many cost more, a lot more. This increase in price is mostly due to the increased difficulty of growing food
without chemicals which also leads to lower yields and higher labor costs. And while most people imagine growing organic food as being a very natural
process, the reality is it’s becoming increasingly technological just like all farming. The industry for robot aided food production is estimated to be a
$240 billion market by 2050. And driverless tractors are projected to
make another $45 billion on top of that. And even with the help of
technology, organic producers can still expect to make less food than other farms. Although there’s less output
and a higher production cost, the industry is still on the rise and in the US, sales are more than doubled
between 2006 and 2015 to $43.3 billion. Despite the massive growth,
organic farming still only accounts for less than 2% of the world’s farmland and
on the other hand the industry for pesticides and GMOs that fuels
the other 98% is on track to be worth a massive $308.9 billion by 2025. So organic food is still small potatoes for now but whether it’s fad or fashion, fact or fiction, organic eating is on the rise and it’s only natural that profits will continue to grow.