Every so often, trendy words come up, and they become the rage for a while. The current fashionable buzzword is 'Organic'. Foods are advertised as 'organic' in grocery stores everywhere now, and the amount of foods offered that claim to be 'organic' is increasing. But is organic food better for you? Are there valid reasons why you should buy organic food?
First, we must understand what the term organic does, and does not mean. From a linguistic standpoint, the word organic comes from a Greek word ergon, having to do with the energy of living things. Later, it was adopted into the Latin word orgon, and used to describe the body's parts and how they work. In Middle-English, the word evolved into organic, meaning: of, or pertaining to the organs of an animal or plant. In science, the word organic is used to differentiate between processes and chemicals that are naturally occurring within living tissue, or a class of chemicals that are carbon-based. From a food standpoint, it is generally understood to mean food that has been produced without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, added hormones and steroids. But this term is misleading. Technically, anything produced from living tissue can be said to be organic. The term is only significant if it is labeled as Certified Organic. Certified Organic means that the producers have met government-mandated standards regarding the non-use of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. So, for our purposes, the term organic means food that has been grown, harvested and processed without the use of insecticides, pesticides, growth-hormones, steroids, or antibiotics.
Right now, you are probably thinking to yourself, “But aren't these things making food safer for us to eat?”. I am about to tell you a nasty little secret that the government would rather you weren't aware of... We just don't know.....That's right; In this 21st Century Age of technology, with the internet, nuclear power, and gene-splicing, science has little or no idea about what long term exposure to these chemicals will do to humans. It is commonly assumed that the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) have researched all this and make regulations accordingly, but the fact of the matter is that neither of these organizations do very much in the real world. The FDA does not personally 'test' anything. They only require that companies test the products themselves, wherever they want (can you image someone's brother-in-law with a PHD set up in an office somewhere on a companies payroll, where all they have to do is sign-off on tests, that may, or may not have been done?), and they are not required to state any negative results. The FDA allows the products to be marketed based on this information, and seldom, if ever, double-checks the accuracy of the reports. The FDA is much more concerned with how products are labeled, and these regulations are enforced to a Gestapo level. This is to keep small companies out of the food business, and protects the interests of the large food-producing conglomerates, and big pharmaceutical companies that contribute millions yearly. The EPA seldom, if ever enforces any pollution laws, other than issuing permits, and an occasional nuisance fine. That's how things like Fen-Fen, and Thalidomide got on the market, only to be pulled later when lots of people died and suffered irreversible damages to their health. That's why many rivers have signs posted telling you not to eat the fish because the water contains cancer-causing chemicals. It's why we periodically have E. coli incidents. These are just some of the reasons why you should buy organic food.
In the private sector, the news isn't much better. There is little, or no funding for pure research anymore. And neither the government, or a large corporation is going to fund research that may show that they are endangering anyone's health. Most research is done specifically to come up with a patentable product that can be marketed, and safe enough to protect the company from most lawsuits. The few independent studies that contradict the 'Party Line' are discredited and buried by the powerful 'Forces-That-Be'. Action is only taken when a catastrophic event forces it, such as the Toxic Shock Syndrome, and Fen-Fen disasters.
All this means is that no one has any hard data on what long-term exposure to these chemicals does to humans, and the environment. We do know this:
• Chemicals used on crops get into the water-table and soil, and stay there. Run-off transports these chemicals and concentrates them in rivers, ponds and lakes, far from the source, and effects the entire ecosystem negatively.
• Chemicals can and do interact with each other, so while a small amount of one chemical may be safe, when mixed with other chemicals, they can transform into carcinogens, and much more toxic substances. Agriculture uses hundreds of pesticides, hormones and fertilizers, all of which get into the environment.
• Over-use of pesticides and antibiotics is creating super-strains of resistant diseases and insects that are much more dangerous, and damaging, than the original species.
• Agriculture damages the environment more than any other single activity. If you think that you are saving animals by being a vegetarian, think again. To raise those veggies, farmers kill anything that might eat their crops, such as deer, rabbits, etc... And birds eat the poisoned insects and become poisoned themselves, along with anything that eats them. Agriculture has killed more animals, and destroyed more land and habitat, than all the hunters that have ever lived. Yet, they are exempt from hunting regulations, and can even graze their cattle on public land (doing permanent damage to it) for a pittance, where as conservation-minded sportsmen are subject to many, sometimes ludicrous, regulations, and have to pay ridiculously high license and permit fees.
There are many more issues, but these are the main ones. So, it would seem that buying organic foods might be a good safety precaution. There have been studies that claim that the nutritional values for organic foods are no different than those of commercial production, but this is a purposely misleading statement. Intended to draw attention away from the levels of chemicals in the food, and of course, they were funded by the food industry. In reality, food additives, and chemicals are suspected as causes for cancers, Alzheimer, Parkinson’s Disease, Lupus, and a whole host of auto-immune diseases, and 'Syndromes' which have no apparent cause. They are only 'suspected' because funding for further research is not available, and research is discouraged. That's why most of the really neat studies are all done by universities and colleges (when they have the money), and seldom get much attention.
There are many who have attempted to discredit organic foods with various counter-claims. Here are a few of them:
- Organic food is no different than regularly produced food. Anyone with eyes, a nose and taste-buds can tell the difference. If there were no difference, then how could the FDA and USDA inspectors be able to 'Certify' producers?
- Pesticide levels in foods are minimal, and safe for humans. The 'safe' levels were determined by a Board made up of politicians, most of which had little or no medical training, the levels were selected arbitrarily, and only apply to individual foods. While one tomato may be safe, if you eat a piece of beef, broccoli, lettuce, and a baked potato, and drink chemical-laden tap water with it, you may have increased your chemical intake exponentially. And no one knows what these chemicals do in combination, over a long time period.
- Agriculture cannot meet the worlds food needs using organic techniques. Pure hogwash! It is greed and government action (or inaction) that keeps food out of the mouths of people who need it. Agriculture produces enough food to feed every mouth in the world 5 times over, on a daily basis, and it iss not even operating at full volume, as a whole. Food production on average is at less than 65% of the full possible output at any given time. We produce so much food that the government pays farmers not to grow food in order to keep prices up, and not have a surplus, in complete indifference to those who may be starving, and could really use the extra.
The only real downside with using organic products is a slightly higher purchase price, and unless you only eat vegetables that are locally-grown, in-season, the food must be transported, sometimes over long distances, using significant amounts of gasoline or diesel to get it to market, with its associated pollution.
So what can we expect from organic foods? We already know that to be Certified Organic, they can't use pesticides, hormones, chemical fertilizers, or antibiotics. This is why they cost a bit more, because farmers can't grow as much on the same piece of land. They have to rotate crops, keep proper spacing between plant for them to grow, and they will loose a certain amount of crops to disease and predation. This is natural selection, and was the way crops were improved before the advent of chemicals. It makes all the crops stronger, more disease resistant, and the few that are lost to animals, and disease also keep them, and the entire ecosystem healthy. The produce will have better color, keep better and have much more flavor. This is how nature farms...For animal production, organic means they must only be fed organic feeds, free-range food, and not be penned-up. This results in a noticeable improvement of the quality of meat and eggs that you can see with the naked eye. The meat is firmer, has better color and less fat, and lots more taste. Organic farming and livestock production also reduces the amount of chemicals that go into the environment, making the world a better place for everything.
You need to bear in mind that 'organic' only refers to the way the food was produced. It does not preclude the use of food additives such as MSG, and preservatives when the organic foods are used as ingredients in commercially-prepared canned goods, such as soups. You need to read the labels carefully and be able to understand them when buying food. 'Organic' does also not preclude the use of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), or irradiated foods.
Less chemicals going into your body; better quality food, a better environment, and piece of mind. These are just some of the reasons why you should buy organic food whenever possible.