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Nutrition 101: The Debate Rages On Organic Vs Commercial Foods

THE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Organic foods are treated and processed with environmentally friendly pesticides
  • Don’t confuse organic with non-GMO, something can be organic and GMO
  • “All natural” is a marketing ploy and is not regulated by any government agency
  • Organics are more expensive, stick with foods with thin peels that you eat such as apples and pears; clean your food thoroughly¬†
  • There is no hard evidence either way that organic is better, but if you can afford it, it does’t hurt to go that route

It wasn’t that long ago that the United States was largely a farm society. People, especially in the south, raised their own food in the form of crops and animals. They traded food locally within their communities and rarely went to the grocery store. Along came industrialization with the World War. Engineers found they could produce foods faster by creating chemical compositions and calling it food. There used to be a time when spaghetti sauce was made from scratch with fresh tomatoes from the garden. Breakfast was cooked with eggs either from the chicken coup or bought locally.

These days our produce comes from other countries where it can be mass produced and genetically modified to withstand its environment. These foods are also treated with dangerous pesticides that may be making us ill. The benefit to commercializing the food supply was that it could support a fast growing population. There are predictions of food shortages as the world’s population continues to increase exponentially. Fruits and vegetables can be modified to thrive in a cold environment or kill insects upon contact. They can be sprayed with chemicals to get them to grow faster or bigger. Animals are treated with anti-antibiotics to prevent the contraction and spread of illness.

The downfall of industrializing the food supply is that it may be making humans sick and fat because of the toxins. Our food supply went from being controlled by farmers to being modified by engineers. Monsanto is a very large company that has been accused of not only contributing to the demise of the food supply but also destroying the farming industry. The Monsanto group created modified seeds to help ensure crops grow faster, stronger and are resilient in various types of weather. Many small farms that didn’t want these seeds continued to use the seeds nature provided. However, as you can imagine, seeds blow around the fields. When Monsanto realized its seeds were in non-customer fields they sued the farmers, many into bankruptcy. This is a very complex story, but it’s the gist of the story.

Organic means that it is free of chemicals such as pesticides. This is not to be confused with non-GMO or genetically modified organisms. Something can be organic and a GMO. Both of these terms are regulated by the USDA. For something to be called organic it must meet certain standards. At a basic level only environmentally friendly pesticides, herbicides and processing are applied to organic fruits and vegetables. They can be locally grown as food in farmers markets or shipped from other states and countries. When you talk about meat the additional requirements of being feed organic feed, no antibiotics, and have access to outdoors as opposed to being kept in coups or pens where disease can spread quickly. A food can be “100% organic” or “organic”; if it says “organic” it’s meets 95% of the requirement to be called all organic. GMOs are banned in many countries but not the United States with the exception of Hawaii who recently banned GMOs and some pesticides from the big island. As you can imagine they are now being sued by major agricultural companies.

The term “all natural” is a marketing ploy. This term is NOT regulated by any organization such as the FDA or the USDA.

This debate has come about because massive food companies say there’s nothing wrong with their foods and organics say there is. It hasn’t been statistically proven that any of these chemicals cause cancer, but the reverse hasn’t been proven either. The EPA banned some pesticides that were linked to causing cancer in the farmers using them. A study conducted at Stanford University leans toward the notion that organic doesn’t provide a greater health benefit as the levels of pesticides and other chemicals found in commercial produce were below the allowable limit set by the EPA. However proponents of organic foods don’t know the long term effect of pesticides on the body or if they are even completely eliminated from the body.

A diet that contains fruits and vegetables is healthier than one that doesn’t regardless. However, the debate rages primarily due to the cost of obtaining organic foods. The popular Whole Food Market, an organic grocery store, is often said to be so expensive you need to take out a second mortgage. It is cheaper to go to a local farmers market if you have one nearby. There aren’t enough organic food suppliers to serve the entire country and their costs are high. It remains an unfortunate truth of this country that the healthier you want to eat the more you have to spend. We are starting to see more large grocery chains carry organics in there produce department, but it is limited and usually not local.

If you’re on a constrained budget but want to begin to eliminate some commercial produce from your diet focus on foods with thin skins that you eat such as apples, peaches, plums, celery, carrots, potatoes, etc. Foods with thick peels that will be disposed of such as bananas and avocados can be bought commercially. One thing to note for you juicers like me, you can put foods like cucumbers and lemons into juicers with the peel. Decide if you want to go organic on these. In any case wash your fruits and vegetables well. You can remove a fair amount of pesticides in the cleaning process.

 

REAL TALK | REAL THINGS | REAL RESULTS

 

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