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Why eat Organic Food? It’s Just Common Sense!

August 25, 2011

As the intelligent species on this planet we humans can be pretty dumb. We often use our intelligence to rationalise what are stupid decisions. In doing so we will call on all kinds of so called scientific data or the lack thereof to justify our decisions.

In the end, plain old common sense is mostly the best arbiter of what is good for us.

Take smoking for example. You would have thought that common sense told you that wrapping up plant matter in paper and adding chemicals to it to retard the burning and then inhaling the resultant smoke could not be good for you. Still for decades people did it and kept saying there was no science that linked smoking to bad health. Well hello! Wouldn’t the heavy breathing, incessant coughing, listless feeling and uncomfortable lungs have told you that anyway? The so called “scientific proof” of the link between tobacco smoking and bad health such as cancer, emphysema and heart disease only confirmed what common sense already told us.

Now take pesticides and defoliants. Agent Orange is a good example. Agent Orange was the code name for a herbicide developed for the US military.

The purpose of the product was to deny an enemy cover and concealment in dense terrain by defoliating trees and shrubbery where the enemy could hide. The product “Agent Orange” (a code name for the orange band that was used to mark the drums it was stored in), was principally effective against broad-leaf foliage, such as the dense jungle-like terrain found in Southeast Asia.

The product was tested in Vietnam in the early 1960′s, and brought into ever widening use during the height of the war. Agent Orange was a 50-50 mix of two chemicals, known conventionally as 2,4,D and 2,4,5,T. The combined product was mixed with kerosene or diesel fuel and dispersed by aircraft, vehicle, and hand spraying. An estimated 19 million gallons of Agent Orange were used in South Vietnam during the war.

Now you would have thought that spraying this mixture and then having your troops unprotected go into a battle zone with these toxins swarming around was pretty dangerous to their health let alone the innocent civilians who lived there. Well not apparently to the US Defence Department who denied its link to the cause of cancers and birth defects for decades. Agent Orange was eventually found to be contaminated with TCDD, or dioxin an extremely harmful chemical to humans.

Let me recount a story that is closer to home. Nushie’s mum was born in a beautiful valley surrounding the snowy river. Her family farmed the land which is one of the most productive farming areas in Australia. Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer high levels of DDT were detected in her body. This was the result of a build up of contaminants which came from heavy spraying of crops and the use of organochlorins for treating white ant infestation. The latter is now banned but usually the ban comes years after the dangers are “scientifically” detected. Common sense would have banned them far earlier.

In the recently published book Tomatoland, subtitled “How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit” the author Barry Estabrook devotes a chapter he calls “Chemical Warfare” to the plight of migrant labourers in Florida’s tomato growing region. The effect of the herbicides and pesticides sprayed on the tomato crops on the health of the labourers working there is horrific. Estabrook chronicles the tragic health consequences that the workers and their families have suffered as a result of this contamination.

I don’t know about you but common sense tells me it cannot be good for your health to eat food that has been sprayed with and consequently will have absorbed these harmful chemicals. And it just isn’t the plant that has been sprayed that is affected. All links in the food chain are affected, the cows that eat the grass or resulting feed that has been sprayed, the milk, the cheese and butter and all the processed food that comes from those ingredients. It goes on and on.

I have no doubt that the massive increase in cancerous tumours seen in the past 100 years is linked to the use of pesticides and herbicides that now infect our foods. It simply is common sense to stay away from food contaminated in that way.

Now the naysayers will demand scientific proof. As with smoking the “scientific” data may still be decades away but that shouldn’t deter us from following our common sense and avoiding the danger.

There are numerous studies now coming out that confirm some of the benefits of organic food. For example a recent study led by Dr. Amy R. Sapkota of the University of Maryland School of Public Health, provides data demonstrating that poultry farms that have transitioned from conventional to organic practices and ceased using antibiotics have significantly lower levels of drug-resistant enterococci bacteria. Why is this important? Well the use of antibiotics in conventional animal food production in the USA has public health concerns because it has been shown to contribute to the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria which could affect humans.

The study, recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives, is the first to demonstrate lower levels of drug-resistant bacteria on newly organic farms in the United States and suggests that removing antibiotic use from large-scale U.S. poultry farms can result in immediate and significant reductions in antibiotic resistance for some bacteria.

The cost of organic foods compared to the cost of mainstream food is often put up as an inhibiting factor to choosing organic over non organic. But can you put a price on your health? If you do then also factor in the saved medical bills as a result of eating healthy. Indeed, if cost is a factor then that may result in eating less which may not necessarily be a bad thing. Further, as consumers continue to choose more and more organic produce the cost will inevitably come down. At the end of this blog I have reproduced the most recent statistics relating to the increase in organic food consumption world wide.

NaturalNews reports that Organic foods and products are the fastest growing items in America’s grocery carts. Thirty million households, comprising 75 million people, are now buying organic foods, clothing, body care, supplements, pet food, and other products on a regular basis. Fifty-six percent of U.S. consumers say they prefer organic foods.

But when you buy an organic product make sure it is properly certified by an approved agency that it is organic. Certification is an audited process which checks every link in the chain of production and distribution to ensure the genuineness of the claim.

If common sense doesn’t get you then here are 5 additional compelling reasons among many others given by NaturalNews why we should buy organic foods and products:

  1. Organic foods are produced without the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Consumers worry about untested and unlabeled genetically modified food ingredients in common supermarket items. Genetically engineered ingredients are now found in 75% of all non-organic U.S. processed foods, even in many products labeled or advertised as “natural.” In addition, the overwhelming majority of non-organic meat, dairy, and eggs are derived from animals reared on a steady diet of GM animal feed. Although polls indicate that 90% of Americans want labels on gene-altered foods, government and industry adamantly refuse to respect consumers’ right to know, understanding quite well that health and environmental-minded shoppers will avoid foods with a GMO label.
  2. Organic foods are safe and pure. Organic farming prohibits the use of toxic pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, nano-particles, and climate-destabilizing chemical fertilizers. Consumers worry about pesticide and drug residues routinely found in non-organic produce, processed foods, and animal products. Consumer Reports has found that 77% of non-organic produce items in the average supermarket contain pesticide residues. The beef industry has acknowledged that 94% of all U.S. beef cattle have hormone implants, which are banned in Europe as a cancer hazard. Approximately 10% of all U.S. dairy cows are injected with Monsanto and Elanco’s controversial genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, banned in most industrialized nations. Recent studies indicate that an alarming percentage of non-organic U.S. meat contains dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
  3. Organic foods and farming are climate-friendly. Consumers are increasingly concerned about climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas pollution (CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide), 35-50% of which in North America comes from energy-intensive, chemical-intensive food and farming system. Organic farms and ranches, on the other hand, use far less fossil fuel and can safely sequester large amounts of CO2 in the soil. Twenty-four billion pounds of chemical fertilizers applied on non-organic farms in the U.S. every year not only pollute drinking water and create enormous dead zones in the oceans; but also release enormous amounts of nitrous oxide, a super potent, climate-destabilizing greenhouse gas.
  4. Consumers are concerned about purchasing foods with high nutritional value. Organic foods are nutritionally dense compared to foods produced with toxic chemicals, chemical fertilizers, and GMO seeds. Studies show that organic foods contain more vitamins, cancer-fighting anti-oxidants, and important trace minerals.
  5. Consumers care about world hunger, and the plight of the world’s two billion small farmers. Just about the only small farmers who stand a chance of making a decent living these days are organic farmers, who get a better price for their products. In addition study after study has shown that small organic farms in the developing world produce twice as much food per acre as chemical and GMO farms, while using far less fossil fuel and sequestering large amounts of excess CO2 in the soil. Yields on organic farms in the industrialized world are comparable to the yields on chemical and GMO farms, with the important qualification that organic farms far out-produce chemical farms under extreme weather conditions of drought or torrential rains. Of course, given accelerated climate change, extreme weather is fast becoming the norm.

The organic industry continues to grow worldwide. Here are some statistics regarding this burgeoning market.

  • U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $26.7 billion in 2010. Sales in 2010 represented 7.7 percent growth over 2009 sales. Experiencing the highest growth in sales during 2010 were organic fruits and vegetables, up 11.8 percent over 2009 sales 
Source: Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey
  • Australian sales of organic food is the fastest growing market in retail food and has consistently experienced double digit growth over the past 6 years. Australia leads the world with the most acreage of organically managed land (see further below).
  • Organic food and beverage sales in the U.S. represented approximately 4 percent of overall food and beverage sales in 2010. Leading were organic fruits and vegetables, now representing over 11 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales. 
Source: Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey
  • Organic non-food sales in the U.S. grew 9.7 percent in 2010, to reach $1.97 billion. 
Source: Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey
  • Total U.S. organic sales, including food and non-food products, were $28.682 billion in 2010, up 9.7 percent from 2009. 
Source: Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey
  • In the U.S. mass market retailers (mainstream supermarkets, club/warehouse stores, and mass merchandisers) in 2010 sold 54 percent of organic food. Natural retailers were next, selling 39 percent of total organic food sales. Other sales occur via export, the Internet, farmers’ markets/ Community Supported Agriculture, mail order, and boutique and specialty stores. 
Source: Organic Trade Association’s 2011 Organic Industry Survey.
  • Certified organic acreage in the United States reached more than 4.8 million acres in 2008, according to latest data posted by USDA. U.S. total organic cropland reached 2,655,382 acres in 2008, while land devoted to organic pasture totaled 2,160,577 acres. California leads with the most certified organic cropland, with over 430,000 acres, largely used for fruit and vegetable production. Fresh produce is still the top-selling organic category in retail sales. Meanwhile, the organic livestock sector has seen growth, with 2.7 percent of U.S. dairy cows and 1.5 percent of layer hens managed under certified organic systems. 
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/organic.
  • Acreage managed organically in 2009 in the world totaled 37.2 million hectares, up 2 million hectares from 2008, according to data from The World of Organic Agriculture 2011. Of the total area managed organically, 23 million hectares were grassland. Counted in the report was data from 160 countries. Countries with the largest area of organically managed land were Australia (12 million hectares), Argentina (4.4 million hectares), and the United States (1.9 million hectares. The largest increase in organic agricultural land occurred in Europe, with an increase of one million hectares. Regionally, the greatest share of organic agricultural land was in Oceania (33 percent), followed by Europe (25 percent) and Latin America (23 percent).
Source: The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics & Emerging Trends 2011.
  • According to Organic Monitor estimates, global organic sales reached $54.9 billion in 2009, up from, $50.9 billion in 2008. The countries with the largest markets are the United States, Germany, and France. The highest per capita consumption is in Denmark, Switzerland, and Austria.
Source: The World of Organic Agriculture: Statistics & Emerging Trends 2011

Eat organic, its good for your health and its just plain common sense!

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