Why should we eat organic foods?

Organic Vegetables

To answer this question we have to look at the benefits of eating organic. There is a multitude of positive effects that take place, from the microcosm of our cells to the macrocosm that is our planet Earth.

The best place to start is the smallest carrier of biological information – our genetic code. The DNA is what makes each human being different. It is the blueprint to making a cat, a fly or a tomato. Understanding this has allowed us to make great breakthroughs in medicine, but it also has some drawbacks. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) have had their DNA altered with the idea to make various improvements, however this is not so straightforward.

Currently, the repercussions of eating on a GMO heavy diet are largely unknown. It would take a lot of resources to make a long term study on this question and there is little interest. What’s certain is that choosing organic is a far better alternative to GMO. In order for an organism to function properly its genes must work in synchrony and balance. The GM fruits and vegetables might have one or more genes artificially added, have genes overexpressed or silenced. Each of these system abnormalities will cause the cells to take compensatory actions, which might translate to the fruit or vegetable being tasteless, having less nutrients, losing its ability to adapt to stressors and other changes. By eating organic food you are doing yourself, the farmers and even the planet a favor.

Genes are transcribed and then translated into proteins which are responsible for every process that takes place in an organism. In order for the plant’s proteins to work properly, however, the plant needs to take up nourishment from the soil. The saying “you are what you eat” doesn’t only apply to humans, but goes all way down to the start of the food chain. Organically grown foods are raised on natural nutrient rich soils, maintained through sustainable agriculture, without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. According to studies, plants grown in such conditions are energy rich foods that have been shown to contain more vitamins, minerals, micronutrients and antioxidants than conventionally grown produce.

Another factor for the health of the proteins and subsequently the plant and us the consumers is the use of chemicals. In America there are more than 600 different chemicals that are being applied to crops on farms. According to the National Academy of Sciences, 90% of these have been approved for use without having been tested for long-term effects on health. However, we don’t need 600 long term studies to determine whether they are harmful or not, when you take into account that the people applying them are walking around in hazmat suits and wearing gas masks. Vegetables and fruits with thicker skin usually have these chemicals only on the surface, but thinner skin edibles can possibly be permeable to some of these molecules. Such substances should be avoided as much as possible by anyone interested in eating healthy.

Pesticides
Picture credit: constructionweekonline.com

Some chemicals are intentionally used in order to modify the function of proteins in organisms. Such are the hormones, antibiotics and drugs that are applied only to livestock. All of these do not only have adverse effects on the health of the animals, but are also very dangerous for the consumers. The livestock is regularly given a very high dose of various drugs. Most end up being accumulated in the fatty tissue of the animal and do not get degraded or excreted, waiting to be passed on to the consumer.

Antibiotics on animals to promote growth
Picture credit: agricultureproud.com

Moreover, in conventional ranches the livestock is fed with animal parts and by-products, sewage sludge and fish meal, which further increase the amount of toxins these cows, pigs and chicken contain. There have been many reports of children going into puberty as early as 9 years old – a direct result of the excess of hormones in the meat they eat. As much as 70% of the antibiotics produced in the United States are used on animals for non-therapeutic purposes. If this remains unchecked, pathogens will soon start developing a resistance to the most commonly applied antibiotics and humanity will have no means to defend itself against a potential epidemic.

Moving away from the use of chemicals to help aid farming is essential for the well-being of the ecosystem. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are introduced into the atmosphere, they seep into the soil and can reach water bodies, polluting and having a deleterious effect on each organism they interact with along the way. For example, the chemical fertilizers that are being applied are rich in Nitrogen. All the excess gets washed away by the rain into underground streams and makes its way into the ocean. There, algae feed off of the nitrogen, proliferate and grow. This causes a blanket effect and lowers sunlight and dissolved oxygen penetration in deep waters, which causes aquatic plants to die off. As they decompose they release toxic hydrogen sulfide gas, which causes a dead zone at the bottom of the sea. Two examples of this are The Black sea and Chesapeake Bay.

Dead zone at the bottom of the sea
Picture credit: balticnest.org

Buying organic products lowers the demand of such fertilizers and helps prevent the creation of other marine dead zones.

A great benefit which comes from organic farming is the preservation of agricultural diversity. Without the use of synthetic chemicals farmers rely on an ancient method to protect their crop from pests and make use of all the nutrient in the soil to produce healthy organic foods – crop rotations. Briefly, this is planting different crops on the same lot of farmland in successive years. This facilitates the preservation of varieties of a given food. It is in strong contrast to the conventional farms where the crops are chosen based on their size and attractive appearance. Even though the produce won’t be supersized, it will be rich in organic nutrition and taste great.

 

So why should we eat organic foods?

Conventional foods are cheaper. That may be tempting, but it is laden with hidden costs. Not only figuratively, but also literally. The price of a lettuce after taking into account the cost for pesticide regulation, hazardous waste disposal, etc. nets to about sixfold the cost that consumers pay in the supermarket. The difference comes from taxpayer’s money. One of the benefits of eating organic food is that you get to enjoy the transparency and comfort of knowing where your food comes from. Most organic farmers would gladly take the time to talk to you about their conditions on their farm. Your meals will be much healthier and tastier and you will be making a contribution to preserving the environment and securing a safer future for our children.

Local market
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What is Organic food?


by Pattie Boudier from GrowOrganic.com

Featured picture credit: wholesome-food.org