Why Organic?

Choosing to eat organically not only helps preserve our natural resources, it’s the healthiest choice you can make for your body. Eating ‘clean’ has been linked to numerous scientific reports of reversing a wide range of diseases, allergies and more. Peg Melnik focuses on the basics of ‘why’ in her 2003 article:

Why Buy Organic?
New York Times Regional News Service, Peg Melnik
Published January 8, 2003

You may not be a tofu-craving vegetarian or even an environmentalist in search of Walden Pond, yet you still may shop organic from time to time. On Oct. 21, 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put in place a set of national standards that food labeled “organic” must meet, whether it is grown in the United States or imported from other countries. That doesn’t mean that on Oct. 22 people woke up and found all companies in compliance. We are just three months into the 18-month transition period.

The new regulations provide assurance that fraudulent practices are now illegal at a federal level, and this will serve as both an enforcement tool for the government and a deterrent to companies that think they can just make a quick buck.

The regulations provide precise definitions, and those who do not follow the federal organic regulations will be fined up to $10,000 for each violation.An organic label doesn’t necessarily mean that foods will have more vitamins or minerals. It does mean they have been grown without herbicides, insecticides, chemical fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, genetic modification or germ-killing radiation. So one of the major reasons for eating more organic foods is that you won’t be ingesting those harmful elements. Another big reason is that it benefits the environment. Sylvia Tawse farms organically with her husband in Longmont, Colo., and also owns the Boulder-based public relations agency Fresh Ideas Group, which represents organic products. “Consumers should be reminded that just because it’s organic it is not automatically healthier,” said Tawse. People could eat an entire diet of organic “junk” foods but still have a low-nutrition diet, she added.

At this point, you may find that organic foods aren’t as accessible or available as their nonorganic counterparts. They may also be more expensive. So you may be looking to begin gradually.

To make shopping easier, Amy Barr, former nutrition editor of Good Housekeeping magazine and registered dietitian who is pro-organic,encourages mainstream shoppers to prioritize shopping lists with an eye to what organic products are best to buy.She said that organic products can run twice as much as conventional, but are generally priced about 10 to 30 percent higher.

Her six-point plan puts children, particularly babies, at the top of the list because she believes they are most vulnerable.

1. Children first: Organic baby food, organic fruit juices, organic milk,organic peanut butter, organic almond butter. At issue are pesticides and other potentially dangerous chemicals used in agriculture to kill pests. When they’re sprayed on the fields, they sometimes show up on crops as pesticide residues and later on food in grocery stores.

“Because of their tiny body size and amount they take in, they (babies and children) have the potential for taking in more pesticide residues,” Barr said.

2. Fruits, vegetables and juices: The entire gamut of organic fruits and vegetables, from apples to grapes, broccoli to green beans. The chief concern with fruits and vegetables — whether organically or conventionally grown — is that dangerous strains of bacteria, such as E.coli, could be transferred to the crops from animal manure used as fertilizer.

Nonorganic fruits and vegetables could be at higher risk of this occurring because manure used as fertilizer in conventional farming isn’t as highly regulated, according to Barr.

Raw manure is allowed in conventional farming, while it’s prohibited in organic farming. Organic farmers are required to compost raw manure for at least 15 days, allowing it to heat up in the composting process to a temperature between 131 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit, a practice that kills harmful bacteria.

Need more info? Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Web site, www.ewg.org, which uses data from the USDA to show chemicals found on organic vs. conventionally grown produce.

3. Milk and other dairy products: Organic milk, organic cheese, organic yogurt

The risk with nonorganic milk and dairy products is that they may have been produced from cows injected with growth hormones. And these hormones in dairy products are a concern because of their potential effects on humans.

4. Peanut butter for big people: All USDA certified organic brands will do. The concern with nonorganic peanut butter is that it could have a high amount of pesticide residues, Barr said. Peanuts are grown in the South with cotton as their rotation crop, and cotton crops are routinely doused with pesticides.

“This is why the organic industry really promotes organic cotton,” Barr said. “The side benefit of it is that organic cotton meal is fed to organic cows, and it’s a vital part of their diet.”

5. Meats: All organic meats — chicken, beef

Barr said the concern with nonorganic meat is threefold: hormones,antibiotics and bacterial contamination.

Some fear that food injected with hormones could be cancer-causing. As for antibiotics, there’s evidence that animals regularly fed a diet that includes antibiotics could harbor bacteria that become resistant to the drugs, Barr said. And the suspected danger for people is that the resistant bacteria could be transferred to them, she said.

The final concern with nonorganic meat involves bacterial outbreaks from raising animals in crowded conditions, Barr said.

6. Bread: Organic bread

Barr said the problem with nonorganic bread is that it’s likely to have preservatives and additives, and the side effects of many chemicals are unknown.

Some people are leery of them, particularly when they’re there solely to improve the shelf life of food.

“Mono- and diglycerides are used to make pastries feel gooier for longer, and most of these processing aides aren’t allowed in organics,” Barr said. After digesting Barr’s suggestions, mainstream shoppers may be interested in exploring the next level of organics — personal care products, candy and even dog food.

“If you have an organic lifestyle, the next thing you’re worried about is your dog,” she said.

Our very own, Verna Groger, R.D. addresses the reasons to eat organic foods in an informative article found here http://www.joyfullyfit.com/blog/?p=56.

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