Sunday, November 20, 2011

organic: why pay more?

'sign of the times' photo (c) 2011, various brennemans - license: you know me, you know that three words describe me well: frugal, frugal and frugal.

this is why, until about a year ago, i never bought organic food, since it can cost two to four times as much as conventional.  even if something organic was on sale for just 10 cents more than conventional, i just couldn't pay the extra for it.

until i did the research.  and i realized that it is worth it to pay more for some foods.  i have realized that there are some hidden costs of conventional food... you may think you are saving money, but ultimately you aren't.

i will share some of the reasons that we are transitioning to organic food.  my guess is that about half the food we eat is organic (or "wild" or "pesticide free").  i pray that one day it will all be organic (and hopefully mostly homegrown!).

pesticides damage the health of farm workers.  if farm workers were upper middle class citizens, we would probably have TONS of laws and regulations about the use of pesticides.  since most of our produce is picked by undocumented mexicans, most people don't care about the effect that pesticides have on them.  studies show that the children of mexican farmworkers exposed in utero to pesticides have IQ's that drop off dramatically after age 5.  their children are also at higher risk for various birth defects, such as spinal bifida.  the workers themselves are also at higher risk for cancer and neurological disorders such as seizures and uncontrollable muscle contractions [source and source and source]

legally, organic food cannot be genetically modified.  about 75% of grocery store food contains gmo's, and does not have to be labeled as such, so you cannot know what you are buying. eating organic food is one way to be assured of avoiding gmo's.

buying organic often supports smaller, family owned farms.  this is certainly not always the case, but organic produce is more likely to come from a small farm, especially if you buy from a farmer's market, CSA, farm stand or u-pick farm.

pesticides are linked to many diseases including cancer, hormone disruption (including congenital hypothyroidism) and brain/nervous system toxicity.  pesticides are chemicals that are designed to kill things.  it makes complete sense that these chemicals will also damage the health of the humans that ingest them.  it makes me especially sad to know that pesticides may be the reason for esther's diagnosis.  paying more now for pesticide free food can save you money later on medical bills.  aside from money- who wants to be sick anyways? [source and source]

organic produce has higher levels of antioxidants.  for example, wild blueberries have almost twice as many anti-oxidents as regular blueberries.  why?  antioxidants are what help repel the berries' pests.  wild blueberries have to work harder to keep the pests away, resulting in higher antioxidants, which are healthier for us as humans.  yay!  (side note: trader joes sells wild blueberries, which means they are pesticide free, for $1 less per pound than certified organic blueberries.  score! :D )

organic produce and meat has higher levels of vitamins and minerals.  wonder why people have lived for thousands of years without taking a daily multi-vitamin?  the answer is in the soil.  farmers have had to work hard to make sure that their soil has lots of nutrients, so that their plants grow well.  well nourished soil results in well nourished fruit and veggies, which results in well nourished people.  these days, conventional farmers only focus on 3 nutrients, which they supplement artificially (the infamous N-P-K).  soil quality has gone down, and produce contains fewer nutrients.  conversely, organic farmers usually use quality fertilizers with a variety of nutrients beyond N-P-K, such as manure or compost, resulting in more nutritious produce. the same goes for organic meat, poultry and fish (these are especially high in nutrients when they are wild or pasture-fed/grass-fed).  or to tweak the saying, "you are what you eat eats". [source and source] more in depth on this here:

pesticides and herbicides leach into the water supply.  it really bums me out that the water we drink that we think is pure can often times be full of chemicals.  i recently heard a story on NPR about people in california not being able to drink their well water from their own property due to agricultural run-off from neighboring farms. contaminated water has the same health effects listed above: hormone disruption, cancer and birth defects. [source]

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