Six Reasons to Eat Organic

Six Reasons to Eat Organic: For Your Body, For Our World

Is an apple an apple, no matter how you slice it?

Is an apple an apple, no matter how you slice it?

Walk into any grocery store these days and you’re bound to see a plethora of healthy looking labels, from “All Natural” to “non-GMO” to “Certified Organic.”  What is the difference?  Is it even that big a deal?  An apple is an apple is an apple.  Right?

All Natural simply means that a product is free from basic additives.  Be skeptical with this one, as the FDA claims that they have “not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”  Non-GMO is just what it states: not genetically modified, and likely to have been grown with the conventional farming practice of using pesticides or herbicides.  In contrast, when a product is labeled Organic, it means that it was grown free of hazardous chemicals, genetic modification, or synthetic fertilizers. 

So yes, if these issues matter to you and your family, you do want to look for the organic label.

Why organic matters

The benefits of choosing organic products are less about what is in them and more about what isn’t in them, as well as what goes on behind the scenes to bring that food to your neighborhood grocery store.


1) Organic food lacks the chemical cocktail 

Conventionally grown produce is required to keep pesticide residue levels within a certain standard, but regardless there are still harsh chemicals lacing the purportedly healthy fruits and veggies.  By eating an organic diet, you avoid the addition of Monsanto's bestseller, RoundUp (and its cousins).  Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the widely used weed killer, was recently labeled a ‘probable carcinogen’ by the UN World Health Organization; it has also been linked to tumors and birth defects.  By 2012, 280 million pounds of glyphosate were used by American growers on their crops annually. If divided among that year’s population, that would amount to nearly a pound of the chemical per person in the United States. Additionally, the increasing resistance of weeds to herbicides has led to an ever greater number of genetically modified or “RoundUp Ready” crops. See a relationship?



2) Organic meat: minus the added hormones  

Though fruits and vegetables are most likely what come first to mind, livestock is also an important piece of the organic picture.  Livestock raised according to organic farming methods means that the meat and dairy products come without antibiotics, synthetic hormones or pesticides. To cite just one reason why you might prefer the organic option: The growth hormone given to cows (rBST or rBGH) increases not only their milk yield, but also the levels of another hormone in that milk, called IGF-1, which has been shown to be carcinogenic to humans.  


3) Overuse of antibiotics results in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. 


The conventional practice of preventative antibiotics with livestock has caused the rise of a resistance to treatment in humans.  For example: drugs called fluoroquinolones are commonly used to treat E Coli in poultry, and the E. Coli eventually becomes resistant to the drugs.  This means that, should a human being become infected by these mutated bacteria through the poultry, treatment will be difficult and potentially ineffective. US News reported that a ‘super-strain’ of E. Coli was “discovered in 2008 and is immune to most standard antibiotics.”  
 


4) Conventional farming releases excess chemicals into the environment

“Chemical run-off” is almost a catch phrase these days, but what does it really mean?  The excess pesticides and herbicides and fungicides and fertilizers all have to go somewhere.  They end up in the air and the soil and run off into the water systems, spreading out exponentially from their location of origin.  Fertilizer run-off alone has contributed to an enormous ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico, limiting the oxygen in the water and consequently killing the fish native to that area.  

This image, taken from space, shows the algal bloom that rendered Toledo, Ohio's water undrinkable for two days in August 2014. This is the largest algal bloom ever recorded on Lake Erie. Photo from NAS

This image, taken from space, shows the algal bloom that rendered Toledo, Ohio's water undrinkable for two days in August 2014. This is the largest algal bloom ever recorded on Lake Erie. Photo from NAS

Additional costs come in other shapes. Farm workers and their families are especially at risk due to the increased exposure; there have been “accumulated stories from farmworker communities of on-the-job poisonings, high rates of cancer, unprecedented incidence of birth defects, and learning disabilities in young children.”  
 

5) Just say “No” to GMO


Many commercially-grown fruits and vegetables are genetically altered to enhance pest resistance or promote speedier growth.  While the notion of crops with superhero qualities sounds initially ideal, the trouble lies in unprecedented side effects.  These may take the form of the modifications spreading to related wild plants, or the specific example of modified pollen causing malnutrition and digestive issues in bees, which leads to illness and death.  The massive decline in populations of vital pollinators like bees and butterflies (which are heavily relied upon by everything from apples to almonds) is threatening the capacity to grow food at all.  The theory behind GMO may be sound, but the practice is throwing delicate local and global ecosystems out of balance.   

6) Organic farming uses less resources  

As a side note, meat farming as a whole—organic or otherwise—consumes over half of our corn and soy production, which contributes to vast amounts of land (upwards of 70%) being converted into monoculture – the practice of single-crop raising. The land and feed-crop resources used are devastatingly enormous. According to a 2013 study cited on science.time.com, “about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.” For further details and statistics regarding the meat industry, check out this from global architecture.org.

Industrial farms use a massive amount of resources, from the fossil fuels to run their machinery to the topsoil lost due to unsustainable practices.  Organic farms are less crowded and compact, resulting in a more well-balanced environment, and their techniques actually help build topsoil rather than erode it.  Because they do not contaminate their farmland with pesticides and similar chemicals, organic farms also maintain safe ground water. In general, they use up to 70% less overall energy than industrial farms.
           

  

The benefits to going organic are compeling; there are plenty of reasons that organic food outshines the conventional methods and offerings.  Whether you are influenced by the simple fact that organic food lacks the chemical cocktail of its counterpart, or feel compelled to save the world, or you find that organic produce simply tastes better, it’s clear that going organic is a smart move.  By adopting a mindful eating practice, you will not only improve your own health and well-being, but that of our Mother Earth, as well.

What do you think? 

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you’re still hungry for more information, you will want to watch the acclaimed documentary, The World According to Monsanto, made by award-winning journalist and filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin.

 

here are the links to our sources: 

http://www.npr.org/2012/09/05/160615429/what-we-know-and-dont-know-about-organic-food
http://www.princeton.edu/greening/organic4.htm
https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/factory-farms-wide-net-pain-and-destruction
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/why-buy-organic-dairy-meat.html
http://www.princeton.edu/greening/organic4.htm
http://www.panna.org/blog/bad-news-baby-bee
Or check out the Organic Trade Organization at http://www.ota.com/