Do you eat organic food? Do you wish you could afford organic and feel guilty when you don’t eat it? Eating organic seems to be a growing 21st century trend, perhaps for those who have a lot of disposable income, those that value their health or those that are misinformed and confused. During this blog post I’m going to look at some of the arguments for and against eating organically and let you make up your own mind what you should do.
Please note in researching this article there is a lot of conflicting information and talking to growers has often not provided clear cut answers. For example, some say organic means NO sprays are used. Some told me only certified organic is spray free. Others say that organic farming methods can still use sprays as long as they are natural. In fact, I contacted the Australian Certified Organic Association and asked them for some clarification and what to do about fruit and vegetables that fall outside the clean fifteen, dirty dozen list (more information below). They came back and said that they were unable to comment, obviously because they think everyone should be eating organic.
The scary part to this discussion is that up until the 1950s, all the food that was eaten was organic. We didn’t use all the sprays that are now considered part of farming practices so we didn’t even need to have this conversation.
So is organic healthier?
There is actually very little evidence based research that shows eating organic is better for our health. But then again, there is very little research in this area due to lack of funding.
However, a 2006 study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives did show that within 5 days of eating predominantly organic food compared to a prior diet of conventional food, pesticides disappeared from the children’s urine. But were the pesticides dangerous in the first place, that is the question!
There are several studies that show an organic diet is not nutritionally more superior than a conventional diet including a 2012 article published in the Annals of Medicine, a 2011 meta-analysis conducted by Stanford University and a 2009 study published in the American Journal of Nutrition.
In saying that I have several friends who have reactions if they eat conventional produce after living on an organic diet. These include stiff joints, muscle aches, hives and sickness.
Is organic produce still sprayed?
My research shows that sprays are still used in organic farming. For example, in Australia pyrethrins, light oils, copper and sulphur, and biological substances such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are permitted for use in organic farming.
The use of chemicals in conventional food concerns people but the levels are regularly monitored to ensure that they are safe. Unfortunately organic food is not regularly tested for safety.
According to this website, the US has approved over 3000 toxic pesticides for use in organic farming including the twelve listed that are highly toxic. Now that’s alarming to read considering most people think they are purchasing food that has not been sprayed. The website also states that the spray must be from a natural source, but as I often state to clients and in workshops, arsenic is naturally occurring but this does not make it safe.
What about other concerns?
Natural farming uses a lot of manure and critics of organic farming methods state that this increases the risk of contamination by microbes such as E.Coli. But research does show that there is no more bacterial contamination from organic food as compared to conventional food.
Eating organic food does however mean that only natural additives (such as lecithin and citric acid) can be added. No artificial colourings or flavourings are permitted.
When you do choose organic food, you also know that it is GM free because organically reared livestock are not fed genetically modified feed.
Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), based in the UK is one of the world’s leading animal welfare organisations. They strongly support organic farming. A friend once told me that organic farming meant that animals suffer because they are not allowed to be treated with antibiotics. This is not the case. Antibiotics are not used routinely, like on conventional farms where they are used to treat animals in factory-farmed, cramp conditions. They are only used when an animal shows sign of clinical illness and needs to be treated.
Another positive for organic farming is for the protection of local wildlife. Research shows that wildlife is 50% more abundant on organic farms and the bee population is also on the increase in these areas.
However environmentally, there is a lot more land needed for organic farming than conventional farming and produces less crops in that space.
So are you confused yet ?
What should you do?
There is no simple answer but firstly ask yourself some questions. What do you feel comfortable doing for you and your family? What can you afford? What do you have access to? Do you know a local farmer that you trust that guarantees his produce is spray free?
Perhaps you can consider sticking to the clean fifteen, dirty dozen list? This is a list of the fruit and vegetables that are the most and least contaminated by pesticide use, according to the Environmental Working Group.
This post may not make me very popular and may upset a few people. I am not here looking for sponsorship by the organic association or anything like that, and I’m fine with that. I am not here to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do. As my truthseeker post stated, I am here to provide you with the evidence and let you make the decision as to what to do. Whatever decision you chose, please ensure you put more plants on your plate! Because that can only be better for our health.