|“Why eat organic food?” is a pressing and complex question nowadays but unlike most other questions of this nature; it is a very easy one to answer. In fact the hardest part in answering this is finding somewhere to start. The answer is all consuming because if you are interested in your own health, your children’s health, the health of all the creatures around us and the environment on which we depend, it would be in complete contradiction to this interest to not explore organic food.
Basically, there are a lot of reasons to eat organic and I urge you to spend the next minute or so educating yourself on why. You may learn a thing or two and it certainly is food for thought.
Check out these 16 good reason to eat organic food, and if this list has piqued your interest, read on below for an explanation:
- Organic food tastes better
- Organic food is more nutritious
- Eating organic food reduces health risks through additives, pesticides and other toxic ingredients
- Organic food is free of genetic modification
- By eating organic food, your reliance on drugs is removed
- There are no hidden costs in buying organic food
- Organic food is tested and made with higher standards
- Organic farming is better for wildlife and for the environment
- Organic farming preserves the quality of our air, water and soil
- Eating organic food will protect your children
- Organic farming protects workers health
- Organic farming supports small scale local farmers
- Organic farming saves energy
- Organic farming promotes bio-diversity
- Organic producers are leaders in innovative research
- Organic farming produces higher yields and so the same amount of land produces more food
1. Organic food tastes better
Just as we become what we eat, so too does the soil, and so it’s common sense that well balanced soil will produce healthier, more flavoursome plants. Organic fruit and vegetables also tend to grow more slowly and so have a lower water content, which contributes to the fuller flavour. Just compare a vine-ripened tomato from an organic farmer with one bought in a huge supermarket and you’ll remember that its been years since you’ve actually tasted a real tomato.
In fact, in a study done by Washington State University in 2001, researchers measured the effects of taste on an organic, a conventional and an integrated apple and the ratio of sugar content to acidity. The indication of sweetness was higher among organic apples. These results were then confirmed by consumer taste tests.
2. Organic food is more nutritious
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. Organic milk is naturally higher in Omega 3 fatty acids, Vitamin E, Vitamin A (Beta Carotene) and certain other antioxidants than non-organic milk. Virginia Worthington of the John Hopkins University in Maryland has also found that organic spinach has 52% more vitamin C than spinach grown using standard methods.
3. Eating organic food reduces health risks
The Environmental Protection Agency in the US considers 60% of all herbicides (weed killers), 90% of all fungicides (mold killers), and 30% of all insecticides (insect killers) as potentially cancer causing. A study done by the Soil Association, found carcinogenic chemicals in 90% of bread, 72% of grapes and 95% of pears that they tested.
But it’s not only fresh food that needs to be organic. Only 32 of the 290 food additives approved for use across the EU are permitted in organic food. Amongst the additives banned by the Soil Association are hydrogenated fat, aspartame (artificial sweetener) and monosodium glutamate which have all been linked to health problems.
4. Organic food is free of genetic modification
South Africa is the world’s eighth-largest producer of genetically modified crops and more than half the maize grown here is genetically modified (GM). Unfortunately for us South Africans, manufacturers are not required by law to inform us if the food we buy has been genetically modified. The only way to ensure that you do not consume genetically modified food is to buy certified organic food.
Just to put how serious an issue this is into perspective, South Africa is actually the only country in Africa and one of 23 countries in the world where GM crops are grown commercially. Last year, it grew 1.8 million hectares of GM maize, soya and cotton. Lourie Bosman, president of farmers’ union AgriSA has said that all South Africans have been eating GM maize for years “without any substantiated medical or scientific adverse effects”.
The University of the Free State has the country’s only commercial facility that tests whether products contain GM food. “If you’re eating soya or maize products, there’s a good chance they have GM organisms in them,” said Chris Viljoen, professor of molecular biology and head of the unit.
GM foods have all sorts of unexpected and harmful side effects. For example, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (2001) found that GM engineered soybeans contained brazil nut genes which caused potentially fatal allergies in people that were allergic to nuts. The modification in this instance turned a perfectly good health food into a hazardous food and all in the name of profit. Makes you think twice about who and what you support every time you open your purse or swipe your credit card.
5. By eating organic food, your reliance on drugs is removed
Organic Certification bodies prohibit the use of antibiotics in animal feed. Antibiotic additives routinely added to animal food to speed animal growth are linked with bacterial resistance in humans to the same or closely related antibiotics.
6. There are no hidden costs in buying organic food
Many hidden costs are involved with the buying of conventionally produced food products. These hidden costs include the billions of Rands that we as taxpayers, fork out annually to pay for chemicals to be removed from drinking water, mainly as a result of the pesticides used in farming. Chemical regulation and testing, hazardous waste disposal, environmental damage and cleanup, illnesses and hospitalizations are other hidden costs. Unsustainably low prices of conventional foods are also a signal that the farm workers did not receive a fair wage.
7. Organic food is tested and made with higher 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 the law from the country that the certification body originates from.
8. Organic farming is better for wildlife and for the environment
Organic agriculture respects the balance needed for a healthy ecosystem and as wildlife is an essential part of a total farm, it is encouraged by including forage crops in rotation and by retaining fence rows, wetlands, and other natural areas. These provide habitats for natural predators such as beetles, spiders and birds which control pests.
As a result organic farms generally have 44% more birds in the fields and up as much as five times as many wild plants. On the other hand, farmland birds have declined by up to 95% since the introduction of pesticides into farming.
9. Organic farming preserves the quality of our air, water and soil
Air, water and soil are some of our most important resources. Unfortunately infiltration of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers and other soluable chemicals into surface and groundwater is a major source of concern all across the globe. These chemicals are dangerous to our health and survival. Furthermore, we’re facing the worst topsoil erosion in history due to our current agricultural practice of chemical intensive, mono-crop farming.
Organic farms however respect our water and air sources and recognise that soil is the foundation of the food chain and hence the primary focus of organic farming. The elimination of polluting chemicals and nitrogen leaching, done in combination with soil building, protects and conserves water resources. Organic farming reduces toxic farming runoff and pollutants that contaminate our water, soil and air.
10. Eating organic food will protect your children
Children, as a rule, are more vulnerable to toxins than are adults. This is why children especially should be fed an organic diet and taught how to resist junk-food culture.
A study done in the States, after the Alar scare of the 1980’s, concluded that the average child is exposed to four times as many cancer causing pesticides in food than are adults, due to the types of foods children are most likely to eat. Another study done in Washington followed the diets of two small groups of Seattle pre-schoolers whose parents kept food diaries. One group of children ate primarily organic foods, while the other ate primarily conventional foods. Then, the researchers tested urine samples obtained from the children for breakdown products (metabolites) of organophosphate (OP) pesticides. OP pesticides interfere with the transmission of nerve signals in the brains and nervous systems of insects and humans alike, making them potent neurotoxins. The results revealed that the children eating conventional foods had higher exposure to OP pesticides and concluded that the consumption of organic produce represents a relatively simple means for parents to reduce their children’s pesticide exposure.
Although a child brought up on processed and non-organic food may seem healthy now, it may take years before many ailments associated with chronic or even episodic contact with toxins become apparent. Children, we hope, do have many healthy years ahead of them.
Eating organic food will also protect the children that you may not yet have given birth to as by eating foods polluted with man-made chemicals, the robustness of our reproductive health is diminished ever so slightly in each generation.
11. Organic farming protects workers health
Farm workers are exposed to the highest concentrations of agricultural poisons of any segment of the population and the devastation to them and their families is well documented. These are the people who tend and harvest our food, they deserve better. Help in their struggle for a safe work environment and vote with your wallet by buying organic foods.
12. Organic farming supports small scale local farmers
Most organic farms are small and independently owned. Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and the rural community. On the upside though, organic farmers 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 and they also tend to require more labour than corporate mechano-farms.
By buying locally produced foods, you are also keeping local farms viable; you are not contributing to the environmental and social costs of the worldwide transport of foods or supporting a system based on the exploitation of third world labour and you are helping your community attain food security.
13. Organic farming saves energy
Organic farming is accomplished with less energy consumption. Organic ingredients like fertilizer are naturally occurring and require less production resources than substances manufactured by huge chemical companies. Furthermore, organic food generally travels less kilometres from farm to market saving energy in transport. Also in line with their farming ethos, many organic farmers incorporate alternative and renewable energy sources into their farming/homesteading systems.
14. Organic farming promotes bio-diversity
The loss of a large variety of species (biodiversity) is one of our most pressing environmental concerns. Many large scale agricultural businesses operate by the method of mono-cropping which is the practice of planting large plots of land with the same crop, year after year. This depletes the soil of nutrients causing farmers to become more and more dependent on fertilizers. Also, this upsets nature’s pest controls by reducing species variety. Different plants attract different bugs and the more bugs around a farm, the higher the percentage of beneficial insects in the population but solid blocks of one crop actually attracts pests who like to eat that crop. The result is less diversity and more of a pest problem because each time a pesticide is used, the pests that survive become resistant to it, and so stronger and more lethal formulas are “needed.”
The good news is that many organic farmers and gardeners have been collecting and preserving seeds, and growing unusual varieties for decades. These ethical farmers understand that biodiversity is an essential part of sustaining the soils nutrients and in doing so enhance the sustainability of farming their piece of soil.
15. Organic producers are leaders in innovative research
Organic farmers have led the way, largely at their own expense, with innovative on-farm research aimed at reducing pesticide use and minimizing agriculture’s impact on the environment. Research into organic agriculture has become a major focus of many national and international universities and more often than not, the findings of this research is as applicable to conventional farmers as it is to organic farmers since conventional farmers are increasingly desperate to find solutions to the myriad of problems their growing style has created for them.
16. Organic farming produces higher yields and so the same amount of land produces more food
A mass of new research has shown that organic farming actually yields better results than non-organic farming techniques. A series of peer-reviewed papers published by the international journal, Nature, showed that organic methods for growing rice, corn and wheat all produced significantly higher yields, and at less the cost, than monoculture farms. And research at England’s Essex University has shown that farmers in India, Kenya, Brazil, Guatemala and Honduras have doubled or tripled their yields by switching to organic agriculture. Cuban farmers, who cannot access fertilizers and pesticides due to the U.S. embargo, have also realized greater yields by taking up organic farming.
These are just a handful of documented examples of the greater efficiency of organic farming. In light of our food crisis, it really begs questioning as to why governments are not subsiding organic farms as a rule all the world over.
Eating and supporting organically grown food makes sense doesn’t it?