I do another food blog with my friend, Sun, who is a professional chef and travels seasonally between CA and AZ. I recently wrote this blog on Why Organic? and got such good feedback on it, I thought I would share it here.
Why Organic? Part One
In today’s world, it seems that everything you read or hear about references “organic living,” “going green,” “sustainability,” and the like. While “eating organically” has become a very popular catch-phrase, it is surprising to know that not a whole lot of people understand the reasons for doing so, outside of the generic, “it’s healthier.” So, in Part One of Why Organic?, I’d like to share with you the top three reasons why I think converting to an organic food lifestyle is good for you—mind, body and soul:
Reason No. 1: For organic agricultural products, the organic label assures us that the foods were grown without the use of toxins like pesticides and fertilizers.
What Does That Mean?
Let’s take apples for an example. Apples—according to the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental research organization—are currently the most highly contaminated agricultural crop. In some recent tests, conventionally-grown apples were found to have up to 48 different pesticides on them. Peeling away the outer peel does not make them safe—the pesticides and toxins can seep into the apple flesh the whole way down to the core through both the stem and blossom ends of the fruit.
Pesticides, in case you have been living off the grid in the past few years or have just landed on planet Earth, are chemicals that are sprayed onto agricultural crops to alleviate any pest that might destroy the crop. Problem is, pesticides are also what are known as biocides, a chemically-based poisonous substance. Pesticides don’t magically go away and disappear when a crop is harvested, so you stand an incredibly high chance of ingesting them when you eat a conventionally-grown food where pesticides were used.
Pesticides have been linked to autism, cancer, infertility, multiple sclerosis, ALS (have you taken your ice bucket challenge?) and a host of other chronic diseases. Forbes magazine also published an article last year citing data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health that states, “…pesticide-related illness is an important cause of acute morbidity among migrant farm workers in California.”
So, ask yourself this question: do I want to put a food into my body or into the bodies of my children and loved ones that was grown under conditions where a worker had to wear a hazmat suit in order to bring that food to my table? And something else to ask: if you are already struggling with your health or are living with a chronic health condition—how much has the quality of your food contributed to or is directly responsible for your health challenges?
Reason No. 2: Organic livestock must be grown without the use of synthetic hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, or cloning, and are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation (exposure to radiation).
What Does That Mean?
If you are a carnivore like Cathy or me, a part of your daily food intake is composed of animal protein. This can lead to a minefield of issues as much of the mainstream beef and poultry for sale today has been treated with synthetic hormones, antibiotics and other toxins (although federal law does prohibit the use of hormones on hogs and poultry).
Antibiotics and hormones are used to encourage rapid growth in animals and to prevent them from contracting and dying from disease that is widespread on factory farms. As a result, many experts think this misuse of pharmaceuticals has encouraged the evolution of new strains of antibiotic-resistant super-bacteria (which is why doctors now often have to prescribe stronger and stronger antibiotics to treat human illnesses).
And if that isn’t enough to get your boxers or panties in a twist … consider that, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, arsenic-based drugs have been used at some level in poultry production for decades. Arsenical drugs are administered to make poultry grow faster and to improve the pigmentation of the meat.
Organic chicken, left, vs. a non-organic chicken. See the color difference?
Chronic inorganic arsenic exposure has been shown to cause lung, bladder and skin cancers and has been associated with other conditions, as well, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cognitive deficits, and adverse pregnancy outcomes. An article by Consumer Reports also states, “Arsenic not only is a potent human carcinogen, but also can set up children for other health problems in later life.”
As for hormones, many experts have indicated there is potential for the hormone residues in the meat of growth-enhanced animals to disrupt human hormone balance, causing developmental problems, interfering with the reproductive system, and even leading to the development of breast, prostate and colon cancers.
While many meat and poultry producers are now slapping labels on their meat that tout “hormone-free, antibiotic-free” etc., be aware this doesn’t mean you are out of the woods. If the meat or poultry is grain-fed and not raised according to organic standards, the corn that cow, pig or chicken ingested might have been corn raised from GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) seed. I’ll touch more on the scarily unhealthy GMOs and the evil Monsanto empire that spawned them in a later blog post.
Again, ask yourself some questions: do I want to put a food into my body or into the bodies of my children and loved ones that has been proven to cause chronic disease and reproductive dysfunction? How much has the quality of the meat and/or poultry I consume contributed to my current health challenges?
Reason No. 3: Organic Food Supports and Nurtures Mother Earth and Her Ecosystems
What Does That Mean?
Organic farming is not new: It has been around for thousands and thousands of years and mimics the patterns of natural earth rhythms by using techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost, and biological pest control.
In contrast, modern “conventional” farming practices—involving the use of pesticides, fertilizers and other toxins—are typically damaging of the environment and have caused widespread environmental destruction around the globe, including:
– agrochemical run-off, which contaminates aquatic ecosystems;
– soil and land degradation, which renders the soil sterile and/or contaminated with toxic chemicals;
– dangerous climate change, as chemical pesticides and fertilizers are derived from fossil fuels (including oil and natural gas).
At the end of the day, organic agriculture and farming practices protect Mother Nature and her ecosystems by:
– protecting soil fertility;
– keeping dangerous chemicals out of groundwater;
– supporting ecosystem biodiversity (the number of different species living within a particular region, i.e., “the variety of life”) and farm profit.
Food for thought, indeed.
In a future blog post, Why Organic? Part Two, I’ll be helping you to make a plan to convert to an organic lifestyle in the most painless and cost-effective way possible.