Saturday, 2 February 2008

Is organic better?

Simple answer is: Yes.

No product can carry a "Certified Organic" label without first being inspected. The product has to meet a comprehensive set of rules overseen by the Canadian General Standards Board.

To qualify as certified organic, a field of corn, for example, would have to: be free of commercial fertilizers for three years, be free of herbicides for three years, the seed would not be from genetically modified seed and there has to be a buffer zone between organic plants and non-organic plants.

The opponents of organics- mainly the agencies that gain from conventional agriculture- work hard to make people doubt the reliability of oganic certification. They say things like: organic farming reduces productivity, is a hazard to our health, organic foods are not healthier...

Firstly, a review of studies done in 1981 showed that farmers who converted from conventional to organic methods reported only small declines in yields and that loss in income was offset by lower fuel costs.

A more recent study confirmed the results, finding that organic farms are only slightly less productive, leave soils healthier and use energy more efficiently.

Organic opponents claim that pesticides are safe...well... then why does the government regulate them?!

Scientists are not able to quantify the degree of harm caused by pesticides yet but it's known that pesticides accumulate in your body. In 2003, researchers compared the levels of pesticide "excretion products" in the urine of preschoolers who were fed conventional or organic foods. The urine of those fed conventional foods contained 6 times as many pesticide residues as the kids who ate organic.

It's common sense (but has also been shown in the research): If the crop is grown pesticide-free, fewer pesticides get into the soil and water, foods contain less of them and people that eat organic have less pesticides in their bodies!

Critics also say that because organic production uses composted manure instead of chemical fertilizers, they're exposed to more potentially dangerous microbes and are riskier.
Not true. To be certified organic, farmers have to follow strict rules to destroy dangerous microbes in manure... and are inspected whereas there are no rules for conventional growers.

Now... is organic healthier?
The mineral content of a plant food depends on how much is in the soil and organic foods are grown in a more mineral-rich healthy soil therefore, as shown in the research, organically-grown produce have a higher mineral content.

However, vitamin and phytochemical content of plant foods are more likely a product of genetic strain and post harvest processing rather than growing.

Marion Neslte, PhD and Professor of Nutition, Food Studies and Public Health at NYU, points out in her book What to Eat,
"I have no trouble thinking of several reasons why (organically grown foods) might have more (nutrients), but so what? I doubt the slight increase would be enough to make a measurable difference to health".

And even if it did, it would be near impossible to measure the effect on humans given the many foods different people eat in a day.

The former head of the nutriton dept at Columbia, Joan Gussow, said:

"Shouldn't we hope that people will choose organic foods on grounds more reliable than whether they contain a little more carotene or zinc? Isn't the most important story that organic production conserves natural resources, solves rather than creates environmental problems, and reduces the pollution of air, water, soil...and food?"

When you choose organic foods, you choose a planet with fewer pesticides, richer soil and a cleaner water supply.

If you want to take the extra step, choosing locally produced foods means you'll also be choosing to conserve fuel resources and to support the economic viability of local communities.

So, despite the slightly higher cost of organically-grown foods, choosing them is always a good idea!

Source: What to Eat by Marion Nestle

1 comment:

Ings said...

Really great article Syb! Wow, I'm going to try to eat more organic foods from now on.