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Growing and Eating Organic Food


10 Reasons To Eat Organic

1. It's healthy
On average, organic food contains higher levels of vitamin C and essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium as well as cancer-fighting antioxidants.

2. No nasty additives
Organic food doesn't contain food additives which can cause health problems such as heart disease, osteoporosis, migraines and hyperactivity. Amongst the additives banned by the Soil Association are hydrogenated fat, aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate.

3. Avoids pesticides
Over 400 chemical pesticides are routinely used in conventional farming and residues are often present in non-organic food. The UK government has recently found high levels of pesticide residues in baby food, spinach, dried fruit, bread, apples, celery, and chips.

4. No GM
Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not allowed under organic standards.

5. Reliance on drugs removed
There is growing concern about the high use of antibiotics on farm animals and the possible effects on human health. Soil Association standards prohibit the routine use of antibiotics.

6. No hidden costs
Compare this with the 120m that tax payers fork out to pay for removing chemicals from drinking water, mainly as a result of the pesticides used in farming.

7. High standards
Organic food comes from trusted sources. All organic farms and food companies are inspected at least once a year. The standards for organic food are laid down in European law.

8. Care for animals
Animal welfare is taken very seriously under organic standards. The benefits of the organic approach are acknowledged by animal welfare organisations such as Compassion in World Farming as well as the UK government.

9. Good for wildlife and the environment
The UK government has said that organic farming is better for wildlife, causes lower pollution from sprays, produces less carbon dioxide - the main global warming gas - and less dangerous wastes.

10. Top for taste
Many people prefer organic food because they say it tastes better. A number of top chefs choose organic, and every year many are involved in the Soil Association's organic food awards.

Report Confirms More Health Benefits of Organic food

Public release date: 3-Mar-2003

Contact: Allison Byrum
American Chemical Society

Allison Byrum

Organically grown foods higher in cancer-fighting chemicals than
conventionally grown foods

Fruits and veggies grown organically show significantly higher levels of
cancer-fighting antioxidants than conventionally grown foods, according to a
new study of corn, strawberries and marionberries. The research suggests
that pesticides and herbicides actually thwart the production of phenolics <
chemicals that act as a plant's natural defense and also happen to be good
for our health. Fertilizers, however, seem to boost the levels of
anti-cancer compounds.

The findings appear in the Feb. 26 print edition of the Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American
Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The article was
initially published Jan. 25 on the journal's Web site.

Flavonoids are phenolic compounds that have potent antioxidant activity.
Many are produced in plants in response to environmental stressors, such as
insects or competing plants.

"If an aphid is nibbling on a leaf, the plant produces phenolics to defend
itself," says Alyson Mitchell, Ph.D., a food scientist at the University of
California, Davis, and lead author of the paper. "Bitter or harsh phenolics
guard the plant against these pests."

The need for these natural safeguards decreases with the use of herbicides
and pesticides in conventional agriculture. This decrease is reflected in
the total amount of antioxidants the plants produce. "This helps explain why
the level of antioxidants is so much higher in organically grown food,"
Mitchell says. "By synthetically protecting the produce from these pests, we
decrease their need to produce antioxidants. It suggests that maybe we are
doing something to our food inadvertently."

Mitchell measured antioxidants found in corn, strawberries and a type of
blackberry called a marionberry. "We started with these three due to plant
availability," Mitchell explains, "but we intend to widen our search to
include tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and a variety of other vegetables. We
expect these results to be transferable to most produce."

The investigation compared the total antioxidants found in foods grown
organically (using no herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers) to foods grown
sustainably (in this study fertilizers but no herbicides or pesticides were
used) and conventionally (using synthetic chemicals to protect the plants
and increase yield).

The results showed a significant increase in antioxidants in organic and
sustainably grown foods versus conventionally grown foods. The levels of
antioxidants in sustainably grown corn were 58.5 percent higher than
conventionally grown corn. Organically and sustainably grown marionberries
had approximately 50 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown
berries. Sustainably and organically grown strawberries showed about 19
percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown strawberries.

Antioxidant levels were highest overall in sustainably grown produce, which
indicates that a combination of organic and conventional practices yields
the highest levels of antioxidants. "This may reflect the balance between
adequate nutrition in the form of fertilizers and external pest pressures
because of the lack of pesticides and herbicides," Mitchell explains.

"Originally, the question was just really intriguing to me," says Mitchell,
whose research grew naturally from a personal interest in organic foods. "I
found that the higher level of antioxidants is enough to have a significant
impact on health and nutrition, and it's definitely changed the way I think
about my food."

What's so important about Organic?

Organic produce is just as important for the societal benefits it brings as it is for the quality or health benefits of the food.

Social and Environmental Benefits of Organic Food Production

Organic farmers have a strong commitment to their land.  If they don't abuse the land, it will provide for them and their families for many years to come.  They are far less likely to use the kind of agricultural processes which result in:

  • loss of topsoil
  • toxic runoff and resulting water pollution
  • soil contamination and poisoning
  • death of insects, birds, critters and beneficial soil organisms
Organic farmers typically spend a lot of time and effort improving their land. They make compost.  They are much more likely to spend and invest their profits in the surrounding community than are corporate-owned mega-farms and industrial meat-producing facilities. Organic farms tend to require more labor than corporate mechano-farms.  Thus, they could be an ideal generator of low-impact, but rewarding, jobs for hard-to-place categories of workers, including
  • Chemically injured
  • At-risk youth
  • Welfare families
  • Homeless
  • Mentally challenged non-violent
  • Rehabbing substance abusers
In some areas, organic farms provide a way for travelers to experience a low-cost and  fulfilling guest experience.  A one-or-two month stay on an organic farm is appealing to many individuals wishing a time-out from our stressed out, hi-tech world.

More depth into the philosophy, environmental and social benefits of community-scaled organic farming can be found by reading these books.

Here is the short list of the benefits of organic food.

  • No pesticide, herbicide, fungicide residues on food
  • Less chlorine chemistry into our environment.
  • No synthetic fertilizer residuals built into plants
  • No genetically engineered organisms or varieties.
  • Intense, realistic flavors.
  • Higher vitamin content
  • Higher mineral content and greater mineral variety.

Don't forget, the best way to get fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is by growing them in your own garden.

Individual Benefits of Organic Food

We maintain that organic foods are higher in vitamins and minerals than conventionally produced foods, because the soil has a greater variety of living organisms and trace minerals. There is some anecdotal evidence to support this theory.  Here is an introduction to that subject.

Conventional farmers add mostly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (the old N-P-K) to the soil, perhaps a little calcium or sulfur if needed.  They rarely, if ever, add expensive secondary, tertiary or trace soil elements. Once a conventional farmer uses up the minerals endemic in his soil, which takes only a few crop rotations, the food subsequently produced is low or devoid of these nutrients.  Additionally, conventional farmers use chemicals which kill minute soil dwelling bacteria.  Many of these bacteria enhance the plant's ability to synthesize or absorb nutrients.

Organic farmers, on the other hand, use things like compost, rock dust, and kelp meal, which contain dozens of different trace minerals and soil builders.  Organic farmers try to increase the number of beneficial soil organisms, rather than killing them.

One of the main individual benefits of eating organic is that there are no pesticide residues on your food. In 1995, U.S. farmers applied 566 million pounds of pesticides to food crops and growing fields. Although much of it runs off farms and into your drinking water, a fair portion of it finds its way to your table.  A 1996 study by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation found detectable pesticide residues on 34 percent of more than 5,500 samples of fresh produce, and California has some of the toughest pesticide regulations in the Americas.

In a study release in 1999, Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, found much  of the produce sold in this country "contains toxic pesticide levels high enough to be dangerous for young children."

According to the Environmental Working Group, the 12 most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables are: (in order of toxicity)

  1. Strawberries
  2. Bell Peppers (tie)
  3. Spinach (tie)
  4. Cherries (USA)
  5. Peaches
  6. Cantaloupe (Mexico)
  1. Celery
  2. Apples
  3. Apricots
  4. Green Beans
  5. Grapes (Chile)
  6. Cucumbers

Always buy organic when purchasing these products!  Always buy organic meat and fat products, too, because pesticides accumulate in fats and as you go up the food chain.

Many sites discuss organic food and agriculture:  A few of the best are:

Help support your local organic farmers by joining a CSA, sometimes known as a share farm.  CSA stands for community supported agriculture.

  • You can find a CSA near you, and find out about some really esoteric organic gardening stuff, by exploring Biodynamic Agriculture.
  • Even the US Government is getting in on the CSA scene.  They have aggregated quite a few CSA resources.

Permaculture is a system of land use which is in harmony with organic crop production, but also takes in many other sustainable human systems.  It is not as well known in the US as in most other parts of the world.  

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