What is organic?
The basis of organic farming is that it does not use pesticides, synthetic growth hormones or antibiotics in its methods. Organic farming also builds healthy soil, protects natural resources and uses methods like crop rotation so it doesn't deplete the minerals in its soil. Those minerals left in the soil make it directly into our produce.
Conventional farming uses pesticides that unfortunately leak into the soil and into the produce itself. In addition to the use of pesticides, conventional produce is often genetically modified which we still do not know the full extent of how that can affect our health. Although pesticide use is regulated by the government, independent agencies have labeled 93% of the pesticides deemed safe to have not been adequately tested in their ability to cause cancer and other diseases. There is also this recent study by the Presidents Cancer Panel that states that Americans are facing "grievous harm" from chemicals in our food, air and water.
What exactly are pesticides?
We all know pesticides are the chemicals farmers use to deter pests but what are they really? Pesticides are actually designed to attack the brain and nervous system in biological, living beings. Although that is intended to only affect pests, it can affect us too. Our nervous systems are far more complex than insects so it may take longer for us to see affects but it still happens. Besides the fact that these toxins could initiate cancer, they have other effects on the brain and nervous system including reduced mental functioning, poor concentration, decreased mental clarity, and hyperactivity. Children, whose brain and nervous systems are still developing, are particularly susceptible to these neurotoxins.
The saddest part is pesticides aren't really working. There are at least 500 new strains of insects which have mutated to be unaffected by the pesticides. We, in result, keep trying to spray more and more toxic chemicals into the soil and crops, which then goes into the food supply.
What can I do?
Well first, I do not eat organic produce because it has more nutrients (although this 2002 independent study completely counteracts the recent one causing such a buzz) but I eat organic because I believe in its methods. I believe in sustaining the best produce and soil we can with the best practices we know how. I also believe there is too much evidence out there for me to not be concerned about putting pesticides in my body.
The beautiful thing is we decide what is grown and sold with how we spend our money. In 2011 Americans spent $29 billion on organic groceries, up from $1 billion in 1990. That is amazing. The more we buy food we believe in, the more it will be produced and the more available it is to you!
I do realize that buying organic is more expensive but I do not think there are many things more important than our health. Most of us should be putting our nutrition as a higher priority (me included!). The best way I can recommend to do this is to know the dirty dozen. The dirty dozen are the 12 fruits and vegetables that have the highest levels of residual pesticides. If you buy those 12 items organic you can reduce your exposure by 80%!
You can print this as a reference to take the the store with you here.
I hope this gave you something to think about with your next grocery trip! In case you are wondering, I do not buy everything organic but I always buy the dirty dozen plus quite a few other items organic (peanut butter, dairy, edamame and more). If this post sparked and interest in you, this is another great article by the LA Times in response to the recent news.
sources: kimberly snyder, cnn, rutgers, whole living