Last week I got a comment on How Much Poison Should We Feed our Kids Today? and thought it was important enough to be a full blog post.
A woman felt guilty about feeding her kids pesticide-laden, conventionally-grown food and asked if she “should always feed them organic?”
As an organic food blogger and someone who is very passionate about organic, I am going to be biased about organic food, which should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Organic food does not allow food to be grown with toxic pesticides, genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), or synthetic growth hormones.
To me, food is medicine and that means keeping these toxic tag-alongs out of my body.
There are two primary factors when deciding to buy organic: affordability and accessibility.
Can you afford it? Is it available?
A few other things to consider when buying organic.
If I can purchase local and organic, that is absolutely what I try to do (See my post Organic vs. Local: Why I Choose Organic for a more in-depth discussion on this topic).
However, local does not govern my decision-making process. Organic does.
While buying local may keep dollars in the local economy, there are absolutely no standards regarding “local”, and local does not mean organic or pesticide-free.
It is very possible that local farmers are using a ton of toxic chemicals on their crops. Am I supposed to be excited about this tainted food just because it is local?
For some reason, many people seem to think so but I am not one of them.
Without a question, organic farming is much better for the environment than conventional farming.
Not only does it practice crop rotation, but organic farming is not poisoning the water supply, damaging the soil quality, or negatively impacting biodiversity because it doesn’t use synthetic pesticides, chemicals widely used on GMOs.
Additionally, the workers are not getting sick from exposure to toxic chemicals sprayed on the crops.
USDA ORGANIC SEAL
While it is very far from perfect, I believe in supporting the USDA organic program and the companies that go through the time and expense to get USDA certified organic.
The more people we have involved in the program and purchasing products with the USDA seal, the greater chance we have to make sure that its integrity is maintained.
I don’t believe that synthetic pesticides – which are allowed in conventional food and prohibited in organic food – have any business being in our bodies.
And this isn’t just some organic food blogger talking about the health risks of chemicals. It is what the medical experts say as well.
According to the President’s Cancer Panel report, 41% of Americans will get cancer and 21% of Americans will die from it. One of the report’s key recommendations is to eat food that has been grown without the use of pesticides.
The report also said that “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States, many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un- or understudied and largely unregulated, exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics shares similar concerns and says that pesticide exposure for children must be reduced. It stated that “epidemiologic evidence demonstrates associations between early life exposure to pesticides and pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems. Related animal toxicology studies provide supportive biological plausibility for these findings.”
Now back to the original question.
Should you always buy organic?
You should be eating as much organic as you can, based on how much you can afford and how much is accessible to you.
Breaking it down even further, I would say these are the priorities.
1) KIDS I firmly believe that organic for children is much more important than it is for adults because their bodies are still developing, and pesticides and synthetic grown hormones may cause real harm. (Go read Organic Milk: The Most Important Organic Product a Family Can Buy and learn what Bovine Growth Hormones do to cows).
If I had kids and couldn’t afford to feed the entire family organic, my kids would be getting all organic while I would switch to a vegetarian, non-GMO diet – a diet that can be done relatively inexpensively.
Kids are the absolute priority, and I would do whatever it took to make sure they were eating “clean” food.
2) MEAT AND DAIRY If you consume meat and/or dairy products, these are a must to be eating organic. And if you haven’t seen Food, Inc yet, please do so immediately.
Aside from the fact that conventionally-raised animals are allowed to be given synthetic growth hormones, many conventionally-raised animals “live” in Concentrated Animal Feedlot Operations (CAFOs), the most despicable and inhumane institutions in this country.
Furthermore, conventionally-raised animals may also be fed GMO-grain.
In laboratory tests, we know that rats fed GMO-corn experienced serious liver and kidney damage.
Do we really want to be ingesting sick animals????
3) FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WITH PEEL/SKIN Non-organic fruits and vegetables are allowed to be sprayed with toxic pesticides, insecticides and herbicides.
Fruits and vegetables where you eat the skin, such as grapes, strawberries and spinach, are the foods that should be purchased organic. Many of these foods are on The Dirty Dozen list.
Also, do not be fooled into thinking that you can buy a fruit and vegetable wash, even the best one on the market by Vermont Soap Organics, and believe that you can simply wash off pesticides from conventionally-grown produce. It absolutely won’t happen.
Pesticides have penetrated the exterior and are deep inside of the food.
4) COFFEE Coffee is one of the most chemically-treated crops on the planet. If you’re a coffee drinker, switch to organic immediately.
5) FRUITS AND VEGETABLES WITH NO PEEL/SKIN Fruits and vegetables where you don’t eat the skin, such as bananas or oranges.
I hear all of the time that eating conventional bananas is totally fine, and I couldn’t disagree more.
I have visited banana plantations in Central America, and they showed me first-hand how conventional bananas get lathered with chemicals.
6) CLEAN 15 The same people who put out the Dirty Dozen, the Environmental Working Group, also publish the Clean 15, a list of the least sprayed fruits and vegetables.
A few things to remember here.
One, the Clean 15 is a relative list, relative to other fruits and vegetables which are heavily sprayed with chemicals, and does not mean “doesn’t have to be organic.”
Two, a few items on the Clean 15, such as papaya and sweet corn should definitely be purchased organic. Papaya grown in Hawaii is genetically-modified and Monsanto will be selling its genetically-modified sweet corn at a Wal-Mart near you this summer.
So, the Clean 15 needs to be viewed very carefully.
SIDE NOTE: AVOID GENETICALLY-MODIFIED FOODS On a separate but very related note, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should you ever eat genetically-modified foods.
Click HERE to read the 65 different health risks for consuming GMOs, including liver damage, kidney damage, organ failure, testicular irregularities and many, many others.
In the U.S.,
- 94% of soy
- 90% of canola
- 88% of corn
- 95% of sugar beets
…………….. are genetically-modified. So, if you are eating any of the above (in most processed, conventional foods), you are almost guaranteed to be eating GMOs. Either stop eating them or switch to organic versions of them.
Below is a video a I shot several years ago with Joel Salatin, one of the stars of the movie Food, Inc., on the high cost of organic food.
Given the topic of this post, I thought that his answer was relevant to the conversation. What he says at the end of the video is his best point – it is all about our priorities and the choices that we make in life.
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