The word “organic” is used in all sorts of contexts, often in a highly metaphorical manner; the subject here is its use in the phrase “organic foods” in claims of superior healthfulness. Different jurisdictions have various standards for “organic” food, but generally the label is applied to foods that have been grown without artificial chemicals or pesticides.

Literally, of course, the term is a redundancy: all food is composed of organic chemicals (complex chemicals containing carbon). There is no such thing as an inorganic food (unless you count water and salt as foods). Natural fertilizers and pesticides may or may not be superior to artificial ones, but the proper distinction is not between organic and inorganic.

When it comes to nutrition, people tend to generalize rashly from a narrow scientific basis. After a few preservatives were revealed to have harmful effects in some consumers, many products were proudly labeled “No Preservatives!” I don’t want harmful preservatives in my food, but that label suggests to me a warning: “Deteriorates quickly! May contain mold and other kinds of rot!” Salt is a preservative.

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