Friday, February 1, 2008

Why Organic?

Jen over at Amazing Trips wrote today that she is "crying over spilled milk," and with four kids under age 4, three of whom are 3, I can see why! She is purchasing organic milk for her family, and let's face it, organic milk is not cheap! Anyway, in the comments, All Things BD said:
Husband is a giant skeptic, and from what I've read, there's not a statistically significant difference in organic vs. regular milk. Therefore, we don't buy organic products in general, because of the higher price and unproven (to us) health advantages.

While she and her husband have their right to their opinion, I am going to share mine, including why I chose organic for my family.

First off, from a nutritional standpoint, I do not believe that an organic strawberry has an advantage over a conventionally grown strawberry. Same with milk. Or grains. Or really much of anything in its raw form. However, I take exception to the "unproven health advantages"
part of ATBD's statement. Why? Well, that is discussed below in why I chose organic for my family. I'd estimate we consume around 80-90 percent organic food items, of which WAY more than half are unprocessed raw fruits and vegetables.

So-- why organic?

1. Pesticides. Yes, we've been eating pesticides for years, but did you know that before it pesticide enters the market, the manufacturer must prove only that it does not provide an unreasonable risk to human health and the environment. Pesticides introduced to the market prior to current legislation did not have to meet that requirement, and therefore, are still being used on our foods! The EPA's own website says:
You and your family have a right to know under the law that in certain cases, such as economic loss to farmers, a pesticide not meeting the safety standard may be authorized.
That does not even begin to touch on occupational exposure or environmental consequences of pesticide uses. What makes it all "hit home" to me re: pesticides is the extra risks they post to young children. The EPA lists the following:

Infants and children may be especially sensitive to health risks posed by pesticides for several reasons:

  • their internal organs are still developing and maturing,
  • in relation to their body weight, infants and children eat and drink more than adults, possibly increasing their exposure to pesticides in food and water.
  • certain behaviors--such as playing on floors or lawns or putting objects in their mouths--increase a child's exposure to pesticides used in homes and yards.

Pesticides may harm a developing child by blocking the absorption of important food nutrients necessary for normal healthy growth. Another way pesticides may cause harm is if a child's excretory system is not fully developed, the body may not fully remove pesticides. Also, there are "critical periods" in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates.

I could write an entire post about pesticides, and yes, I am a farmer's daughter. I know why they are used, but it does not mean that I have to support pesticide use and overuse.

2. Sustainable Farming. Organic farming, by its very nature, encourages sustainable practices because farmers are not able to use the same methods of spraying P and N and other fertilizers on the ground like conventional farmers. It also encourages practices such as crop rotation, which helps to keep top soil "healthy."

3. Impacts to our Nation's waters. I work for a water resources agency, and this is one I see first hand. For those of you not from in and around Oklahoma, there is a large poultry operation in northeast Oklahoma/Northwest Arkansas that is causing a bit of run-off, which is impacting the water supply in this region. This is just one example. You can see similar effects from urban runoff in our rivers, streams and lakes. Algae blooms and fish kills are just a few of the associated ecological problems. Other problems include the costs and chemicals used to treat our water supply.

4. Treatment of animals. Yes, there are abuse cases in conventional and organic farming, but generally, organically grown meat (and things like eggs) are grown free-range, with grasses and grazing being a key component of the animal's life.

5. Bio-accumulation. I have read several books and studied this in school (Undergraduate and Graduate programs), and how we absorb and accumulate chemicals is disgusting. What makes it worse, in my opinion, is that women are naturally more susceptible to bioaccumulation, because most chemicals are stored in our fatty deposits, which women naturally have more of than men. As if that weren't enough, many of the chemicals we consume are estrogen mimics. To top that off, we pass many of the chemicals on to our unborn babies.

6. Our grocery bill has actually gone down since we started eating more organic AND being more conscious of what we eat and how much we waste. Yes, as stated below I am having some issues, but even prior to the start of that, our bill had gone down (from what me and the baby typically consume, so excluding Kevin all around). We eat more unprocessed foods and feel more full as a result.

7. The number and amount of chemicals we are exposed to continues to grow, and I don't buy the whole "we did it this way when I was growing up, and I am just fine" BS. There is a lot of new information available, and where there are gaps, I prefer not to take thfe risk. With new chemicals, we might not know the true effect (and don't really) for 20 or more years. To me, the risk isn't worth taking. I prefer to be cautious when it comes to the chemicals and other "junk" we ingest in our family. Heck, 50 or so years ago, the government went around spraying DDT. They produced propoganda of kids eating and being sprayed with it. Yet, we now know the dangers that it can possess.

I am sure I am missing some of my reasons, but this post is REALLY long already!


Jen4 @ Amazing Trips said...

Great post, thanks for the information >> it certainly is good food for thought!!

Maria said...

Edited to add a very important 7!

KaritaG said...

AND don't forget antibiotics...the amount of antibiotics that is currently in animal products is WAY higher than when our parents were growing up, and there is a growing amount of research indicating that this is detrimentally impacting our immune systems and increasing our resistance to regularly-presribed antibiotics. I switched to only organic animal products during my health issues a few years ago and almost overnight all of my gastrointestinal symptoms literally disappeared. Google "antibiotics" and "poultry farming" and you'll feel sick once you start reading. There has been research out recently indicating that some strains of food-borne illnesses (salmonella, for example) have evolved to survive the normal antibiotic treatments given to chickens and are therefore making it onto store shelves for us to eat! I have this argument with my dad all the time as I am a "farmer's daughter" too but I am still firmly convinced as to the importance of organics, especially in small children who are still developing! I'll shut up now. This is just something I feel so strongly about.

KaritaG said...

Oh also, I have one more point, the water in much of eastern CO can't be used to make infant formula or given to small children because it has high enough levels of nitrates to decrease oxygen to the brain (nitrates come from animal waste run off and some pesticides). We used to get a notice when we lived in Brighton every spring/summer when everyone is recycling their "return flows" from agricultural and residential use. I'll leave it up to your imagination as to what return flows are. That was my water lawyer perspective. I'm really shutting up now.

Haddock said...

A great post. We try to eat as organically as possible. Many animals are fed growth hormones and antibiotics. As you mention pesticides build up and remain in the body for years. But another reason for eating organic is the taste. Its so much better.

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