“The food you eat can be either the safest and the most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison” – Ann Wigmore
My blog has various articles on why to wear organic. Let’s talk about why to eat organic today. (Various references and study links used in this article are UK and Europe based. The implications are similar in America)
When you see the word ‘organic’ on a food label it guarantees the following:
- Fewer pesticides
- No artificial colors & preservatives
- The highest standards of animal welfare
- No routine use of antibiotics
- GM Free
Organic means working with nature, not against it. It means higher levels of animal welfare, lower levels of pesticides, no manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilizers and more environmentally sustainable management of the land and natural environment – this means more wildlife! Whatever you’re buying – from cotton buds to carrots – when you choose organic food, drink or beauty and textiles, you choose products that promote a better world.
Almost 300 pesticides can be routinely used in non-organic farming and are often present in non-organic food.
In organic farming systems, animals are reared without the routine use of drugs, antibiotics and wormers common in intensive livestock farming.
Organic farms are havens for wildlife and provide homes for bees, birds and butterflies – there is up to 50% more wildlife on organic farms!
No system of farming does more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, or protect natural resources like fresh water and healthy soils.
The Sad Reality of Mass Production:
Perhaps an easier way to understand Organic, is to look at what it is not.
Food Waste:With mass production, comes mass demand and with that we are now surrounded by enormous farms which in turn place enormous pressure on our existing resources to produce huge amount of food, nearly a third of which is never consumed, that’s nearly 1.3 billion tons according to the FAO.
This begs the question of why we continue to sustain such an output?
Nutrient Depletion: Farmers are now using pesticides and chemicals as security to meet the production targets. They are constantly planting the same crop in the same field year after year. We are now living in a world where the foods, fruits, vegetables and grains raised no longer contain enough of certain needed minerals, like magnesium for example. We are depleting the soil, which means it is now almost impossible to be nutrient sufficient.
Food miles: On the one hand, modern farming and distribution methods allow more varieties of food to reach our shores as well as providing us with material to export and generate revenue. For example, Ireland is famous for its butter and lamb and Iceland for its fish. In addition, we are able to source seasonal food year round. Although a positive for the economy, this also means our food travels thousands of miles before reaching our plates. Every minute your food spends in transit, it is exposed to the elements. These changes in temperature, light and air cause losses in micro nutrients. In addition, many farmers now harvest their crops early, prior to peak ripeness, to allow for the long distance travel spinach lost 47% of its folate and carotenoid content when stored at 68 degrees. Most container trucks reach higher temperatures than that. The same study found that spinach lost 53% of its folate and carotenoid content after 7 days, despite being stored at 39 degrees.
Better for your health: Do you really know what’s in your food? Of the food we consume, a stunning 46% of food contains residues of one or more pesticides. This figure has almost doubled since 2003. All organic food is fully traceable from farm to fork, so you can be sure of what you’re eating. There are strict standards laid down in American and European laws for any food labelled as organic it must meet certain criteria. Not only that, but it’s even been shown that organic food contains more nutrients. A team at Newcastle University found organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones. Another study, released in the British Journal of Nutrition, showed how both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products (source)
Better for the ingredient:
- When it comes to plants, the big question mark sits around pesticides and sprays. “Many people don’t realize over 320 pesticides can be routinely used in non-organic farming and these are often present in non-organic food we eat despite washing and cooking. Organic farming standards, on the other hand, don’t allow any synthetic pesticides and absolutely no herbicides such as Glyphosate. In UK, organic farmers are permitted to use just 15 pesticides, derived from natural ingredients including citronella and clove oil, but only under very restricted circumstances. Research suggests that if all UK farming was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%!” (Source).
- The other big question mark sits around animals and how they are treated. Being an organic farmer also ensures the animal welfare of the farm animals by setting out clear guidelines that the animals should have access to pasture, a better diet and may not be treated with antibiotics. Farms not Factories have created a comprehensive guide to labelling on meat products to help you get a better understanding of what each label means.
Better for the planet: Agriculture is a contributor to climate change, responsible for about 14% of greenhouse emissions. However, “the widespread adoption of organic farming practices in the UK could offset at least 23% of UK agriculture’s current official GHG emissions.” (Source). Not only that, but soil is also a precious commodity, one that mass production heavily exploits. Organic farming focuses on nourishing and enhancing soil life (more info)
Better for the wildlife: Circa 17,800 tonnes of pesticides were used on British farms to kill weeds, insects and control crop diseases in 2015. The problem is that pesticides don’t just kill the target pest. They can affect other wildlife and the environment by either direct poisoning, contaminating water courses or disrupting ecosystems (source). In fact, Organic farmers are helping protect our wildlife by maintaining habitats. The soil association reports that “On average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms. Organic farms are also home to 30% more species on average.” (source)
Why does organic cost more?
While organic food is sometimes more expensive than non-organic, there are ways to keep costs down. In an ideal world, organic wouldn’t need to be more expensive. A big part of the problem is that the true cost of our food isn’t reflected in the price, both the positives and the negatives. So food that is produced in ways that may contaminate our water, or lead to antibiotic resistance in people, may seem cheap in the store, but the real cost can be very high indeed.
Where there is a price difference, you are paying for the special care organic farmers place on protecting the environment and improving animal welfare. As the costs of farming with oil-based fertilizers and chemicals increase, the price gap between organic and non-organic is closing.
- Naked Calories by Mira & Jayson Calton, page 84
- (PAN page 4)