Why Organic Food vs Non Organic?
Is organic food preferable to non organic? This is a question on the minds of shoppers. It’s debated in articles and blogs online, and here are some opinions you might find interesting:
~there’s no nutritional difference between organic and non organic
~ studies show that the amount of nutrition in both is pretty even
~ non organic and organic growers both use pesticides
~ the price difference is not justified
~ the organic movement is “in” right now and proponents treat it like a religion
It’s easy to get caught up in statements, opinions and quoted studies. If you want to quote studies supporting the side you happen to be on in any debated matter, those can easily be found. Contradictory information either polarizes you or causes you to go deeper for answers. As a health educator, I feel I need to address some salient points to arrive at the bottom line.
Food – The Big Picture
As humans, we need to feed our cells to stay alive and function. Critical to wellness is ingesting food that matches up with our cells. For this, we look to nature. Matching up does not mean taking plants or animals and processing them into merchandise rife with man-made chemicals– toxins, pesticides, dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives and such. Nature has provided us the matching food–rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, carbohydrates, essential fats and water–for millennia.
The Industrial Revolution changed societies as people gravitated from agrarian to industrial/urban. Cultivating land by the majority became a thing of the past. As time passed, growing conditions, farming methods, and production radically changed.
Today, we commonly accept as normal what started in fields and changed forever into highly-processed and chemicalized food. Big Agri-business, corporations and manufacturers produce an abundance of merchandise. Good stewardship of the land and appreciation for nature diminished.
Many little children, sadly, think milk comes from refrigerated cases in stores instead of from cows. Produce comes from neatly stacked bins, and packs of meat were not once roaming animals. This is true, of course, if they are not exposed to gardening or farms at an early age. So, food being necessary to life, serving a function to help keep us energized and well, should be quality fuel.
Studies – No Difference In Organic vs Non Organic?
Income is tied to the quality of what you produce and the perception of your consumers. History has shown us examples of manipulating studies to favor an agenda for profits. They’re a powerful way to sway the pendulum in your favor, and there’s a money trail to follow.
The most recent article I’ve read appeared in the British Journal of Nutrition which disputed the notion that non organic and organic foods offer the same benefits nutritionally. The research team analyzed 343 studies into the compositional differences. Basically, there was less cadmium, lead and mercury (toxic heavy metals) found in organic compared to non organic and a much higher antioxidant level in organic equating to one to two extra portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
Rodale’s website offers a quote from Chuck Benbrook, PhD, chief scientist at The Organic Center which generates peer-reviewed research on organic farming and products:
“We agree that many variables impact the nutrient content of organic and conventional foods, that differences can vary by year, and that more research is needed to accurately quantify the differences.”The [UK-based] Soil Association and The Organic Center have never stated that organic food is always more nutritious, but on average, across years, types of food, soils, genetics, and so on, it’s about 25 percent more nutritious. That’s what the literature shows.”
The October, 2002, USDA definition states:
“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge-based fertilizers; bio-engineering; or ionizing radiation.Before a product can be labeled “organic,” a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”
Non Organic – Synthetic/Petroleum-based Pesticides
The pesticide factor alone is a huge. In America, of the 4.5 billion pounds of pesticides that are dumped yearly, 80% are used agriculturally to produce our food. These pesticides and their byproducts are found in groundwater and water from the tap. They can remain in the food chain for decades. Imported foods from countries that have no pesticide bans have toxic threats to us as well.
When you begin to investigate the implications to health, synthetic pesticides are linked to hormone disruption, falling sperm count and early puberty, cancers, neurological problems such as Parkinson’s, ADHD, cognitive impairment, and psychological disorders. The molecular structure of many chemical carcinogens interact with our DNA, so metabolic and genetic alteration can affect immune response. Children are especially vulnerable to the harmful impacts by pesticides. Compared to adults, they drink 2.5 times more water, eat 3-4 times more food, and breathe 2 times more air pound for pound.
From The Pesticide Action Network of North America:
- 93% of Americans tested by the CDC had metabolites of chlorpyrifos — a neurotoxic insectide — in their urine. Banned from home use because of its risks to children, chlorpyrifos is part of a family of pesticides (organophosphates) linked to ADHD.
- 99% of Americans tested positive for DDT degradants, even though DDT hasn’t been used in the U.S. since 1972. Women who were exposed to DDT as girls are 5 times more likely to develop breast cancer.
- Men from Missouri with elevated levels of the pesticides alachlor, diazinon or atrazine in their urine were more likely to have poor sperm quality.
Pesticides In Organic Farming
“Organically grown” food is grown and processed without organochlorine pesticides, synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. There’s a list dictated by the governing agencies. Strictly limited are plant growth regulators, livestock feed additives, and genetically modified organisms.
The pesticides for the most part are derived from natural sources such as biological pesticides.These are less toxic, break down quicker in the environment or are non-toxic. They are still called pesticides because they are used to get rid of pests. Reliance is placed upon developing biological diversity to disrupt the habitat of pests that would eat the food.
Soil fertility is another concern of organic farmers who nourish the living component of the soil– the soil-based organisms or microbes that release, transform and transfer nutrients. Healthy soil helps produce healthy plants more resistant to disease and insect predators. Other practices utilized are crop rotation, green manure, compost, and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and control pests.
Is The Price Justified?
The price tag of organic food is higher than non organic. There are stricter regulations to be met in growing, harvesting, transportation and storage. The intensive labor and management to produce organics are usually more expensive than the chemicals used in non organic production.
When you’re on a budget and start to compare prices, you may see an average of 50 cents to a dollar difference per item compared to non organic. When you see it as investing in your health, the money spent equates to savings from less illness and doctor’s visits. You pay to stay well or pay when you’re sick. Well is better. When the body gets in balance, you’re also not buying a cart full of craving-driven munchies. There are definite ways to eat healthier foods on a budget.
Proponents – Faddish With Religious Fervor?
Comments like these are—well, they’re plainly ignorant. I can say ignorant because decades ago when someone suggested I visit a health food store to hear a lecture, my medically-trained mindset to dismiss all else immediately thought, “Those quacky people eat birdseed.” Now, I understand why “birdseed” is good for you, and I eat it, too! Little berries and seeds are packed full of antioxidants and are powerhouses of nutrients. The “religious fervor/ fad/ hippie” label given to those who buy and consume organic products does not acknowledge that they are making conscious, informed choices for better health.
Most people who choose organic over non organic are doing so by conscious decision. Organic is a step in the right direction. It can be based upon better taste, a measure of more nutrition, or to reduce exposure to synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Of course, growing your own food puts you in control of what you put in your body. You can even go beyond organic or biodynamic.
The fact that pesticides are stored in fat and cumulative is reason enough to lessen the amount of toxins we have exposure to in day to day living. Food is a daily source. For me, it’s a definite conscious decision to do all I can to take the best care of myself. Limit toxins where you can and choose healthy food for a healthier life.
At the end of the day, what we choose to ingest will either give us positive health benefits or potential harm.