Let’s Get Organic

12 Sep

Good morning, all! Sorry for the late post. My heart is heavy this morning after being bombarded with all the depressing international news coming in from around the world. However, I am determined not to stay in a funk all day.

I was really hungry this morning, so I loaded up on breakfast, which was a PB & J on lavash bread and a bowl of Greek yogurt with berries, chia seeds, and Kashi GoLean cereal.

Let’s get talking about that Stanford study I have been mentioning for the past few days. The basic premise of their conclusions, if you don’t want to go through and read the whole study, is that organic foods do not differ from non-organic foods in terms of nutritional content. However, they did show lower levels of pesticide content. In their words: “The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods. Consumption of organic foods may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”

This has sparked quite a bit of outrage on the interwebz about buying organic foods: some people felt validated and scoffed at the people who would spend paychecks on solely organic groceries, while others felt duped and mourned the dollars and cents that had been spent on organic produce.

I found this push-back a bit strange, as I don’t believe that people eat organic food because of its nutritional content. When I go to the grocery store, an apple is an apple and a carrot is a carrot. Do organic bananas somehow have fewer carbohydrates and fats than non-organic bananas? Of course not. For me, buying organic food is about the process of growing and producing the food, which says nothing about the nutritional content, thus making this study a bit irrelevant.

When the U.S. Congress adopted the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) in 1990, the standards said, among other things, that foods must be produced without the use of:

  • antibiotics
  • artificial growth hormones
  • high fructose corn syrup
  • artificial dyes (made from coal tar and petrochemicals)
  • artificial sweeteners derived from chemicals
  • synthetically created chemical pesticide and fertilizers
  • genetically engineered proteins and ingredients
  • sewage sludge
  • irradiation

While some of the things mentioned in the list, mainly high fructose corn syrup, might affect the nutritional value of the food, it is more about the sustainability of food production and the impact it has on our health and our environment. It’s about the health risks farm workers face when they spray fruits and vegetables with pesticides. It’s about how organic farming is better for the soil that’s being used, which encourages environmental sustainability.

The Stanford study did make one thing clear: eating organic food won’t give you anymore nutritional benefits than non-organic food. What it doesn’t tell you is that organic food helps protect farm workers who grow and pick the fruits and vegetables we eat, it encourages environmental sustainability by prolonging the arable life of the soil we use, and it is about protecting ourselves from all the dangers that come from pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables.

As a young person just out of college and on a limited budget, it is tempting to buy the cheaper, non-organic foods in order to cut costs at the register. However, it is imperative that we think about our long-term health and how the little choices we make now can affect us in the long-term. One way to save a little money is to do some research on the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen, which lists which fruits and vegetables have the most and least pesticide content in their skins and flesh.

One of the biggest benefits about the release of this study is that it has open a new dialogue about our agricultural system and encourages discussion among Americans about what they eat and why they choose to eat it. In my opinion, any conversation that provides people with more information so they can make well-informed decisions about their lives is fabulous.

Food For Thought: Do you buy exclusively organic or non-organic? If you buy a mix of foods, which do you buy organic and which non-organic foods do you choose?




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