Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday Topics- Why Organic?

Hi folks! Finally home from Las Vegas and somewhat recovered.  I didn't think I would be getting to the Tuesday Topics today.  But I have a few more minutes before dinner and I wanted to keep my commitment. 

Today's topic is inspired by an article that Bob and Toby's dad sent me.  If you remember, these are the kids I babysit, and the weeks they are at their dad's I cook them dinner (tonight's unfortunately wasn't a Vegan Faith approved meal).  I typically send a meal plan with a grocery list each week and he does the shopping.  After the first attempt, he came home with a great selection of organic foods: pasta, fruits, vegetables and meats.  But all that organic food came with a hefty price tag and he questioned whether it was worth the money. 

What does it mean to be organic and why is it so much more expensive?  I found a great  answer at organic.org.  Simply stated, organic produce and other ingredients are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation. Animals that produce meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products do not take antibiotics or growth hormones. This means a farmer must take obsessive care of the soil.  Keeping chemicals in the form of pesticides and fertilizers away from his crops requires laborious hand-weeding - and it's reflected in the price at the supermarket.

Reading through the organic qualifications list, I think you get why you would want organic foods. Chemicals, sewage, or radiation aren't things I like to associate with food.  I think of it this way, if a word cannot be easily read or explained by a 3rd grader, I don't want it in my food!

Just a quick briefing on the dangers of eating non-organic foods:

According to the EPA, using pesticides have been shown to create many health problems including birth defects, nerve damage and cancer.  Genetically modified foods come with a set of problems as well.  Genetically modified foods are developed because of a perceived advantage over their natural counterpart (higher yields, better nutrient content) but have not been thoroughly researched.  New studies are beginning to reveal dangers associated with GM foods, even approved ones.  Some approved GM foods have been linked to organ failure, and according to the Center for Food Safety genetically engineered foods can pose serious risks to humans including higher risks of toxicity, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance, immune-suppression and cancer.  These details do not even begin to touch on the environmental threats that pesticides, fertilizers and GM foods create.  Or how it all effects the small business farmer and local economy.  

Rather than continue to dwell on the negatives, let me explain the positive effects of purchasing organic foods.  By buying organic you:
  1. prevent water pollution
  2. prevent air pollution
  3. prevent soil erosion
  4. ensure humane treatment of animals
  5. are supporting small farms
  6. will eat chemical free foods
  7. above all will notice better taste in your food!
 Back to my original point, it is certainly more expensive to purchase these foods.  Going organic is not easy, and like anything else, it requires a transition.  Not all of us can afford to go 100% organic every time we shop.  I know I certainly can't.  So I found the "Dirty Dozen" on The Daily Green to help you decide what you need to buy organic.
  1. Celery 
  2. Peaches 
  3. Strawberries 
  4. Apples 
  5. Blueberries 
  6. Nectarines 
  7. Bell Peppers 
  8. Spinach 
  9. Kale 
  10. Cherries 
  11. Potatoes 
  12. Grapes (Imported)
These foods are determined as the dirtiest by the level of pesticides found.  The list doesn't address other issues of organic vs. not-organic such as GM foods.  But it is a starting point.  They also offer a list of "cleanest" foods that you can also find on The Daily Green.

One side note: buying organic, doesn't ensure that your food is healthy.  While it is very important to buy organic, there are other items I consider when shopping for food.  Is this food a "whole food?" Meaning is it as close to its natural form as possible.  Apples vs. applesauce.  Oats vs. granola bar.  I try not to buy much processed foods, and a good rule of thumb is to buy items with 5 ingredients or less.  Those ingredients should also be easily read by a 3rd grader.  The other item I consider is whether the food is local.  Buying local foods decreases your carbon footprint and supports your local farmers and economy.

Wow! Well I tried to make that short and sweet, but it is a lengthy topic.  I still do not feel I gave it justice.  For more information on buying organic check out these websites:

Mayo Clinic 

And just remember, every little bit counts.  Start small, and go from there.  You do not need to go organic overnight.  Just educating yourself is the first step.  My favorite way is to watch food documentaries.  My favorite is Food, Inc.

Do you buy organic? What foods do you insist on purchasing organic? What is holding you back from buying organic?

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