Updated: Mar 3, 2020
In my opinion eating Organic is not only better for your health, but the environment too!
Now, that being said it isn’t always in the budget to buy organic produce. I remember one summer seeing an organic cauliflower being 8.00… That I was questioning a bit, but after talking to an organic farmer I understood the cost behind that 8.00 cauliflower. She said hands down it is worth that 8.00 as it is one of the most difficult vegetables to produce organically.
Below I will explain why organic produce is more expensive, and if you cannot afford all organic produce all of the time I will let you know the items that are more heavily contaminated with pesticides that you want to focus on buying certified organic or organically grown to reduce your toxic load.
The Organic Movement
Although organic farming is often considered a modern thing, it has been revolutionizing for more than a century!
“Organic,” in the simplest of terms, refers to foods grown in an environment free from pesticides, chemicals, and biosolid fertilization.
The term “organic movement” was first introduced in the early 1900s. However, its wheels really got moving after the second world war. Postwar farming started a wave of industrial agriculture that included pesticides and synthetic nitrogen fertilizers. In response, small groups of farmers formed several associations that supported organic farming. Over time and as these groups gathered, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements was born in 1972.
Organic farming, production, and support have snowballed since the movement established. And now we see full grocery stores devoted to the organic market.
There are some strict guidelines and procedures that farmers are required to follow to become certified as organic. Not only are the farmers required to comply, but the companies who process organic produce and meats must also be certified.
Requirements for Organic Farming
Many synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are prohibited when it comes to farming organically.
Let’s investigate what sets it apart and what does go into it!
The two main components that make up the organic process are the techniques and fertilization used in this way of farming.
· Biological Pest control
A biological pest control technique relies on natural mechanisms and active participation by humans. This technique uses predation, herbivory, and parasitism to keep crops safe from pesky pests such as weeds and insects.
· Crop Rotation
Rotation of different types of crops in categorized seasons helps to build up nutrients in the soil (instead of building up just one nutrient). The soil’s fertility increases while erosion decreases, therefore, improving crop yield.
· Companion Planting
This technique utilizes planting different crops in proximity to one another for purposes of pest control, increased yield and pollination among others.
· Bone Meal
A mixture of waste-products and ground bones from animals, yum! A fertilizer with a great source of protein for plants and animals alike.
· Green Manure
Plants that are sown and sometimes uprooted then cultivated into the soil to condition, improve fertility and used as mulch.
· Compost Manure
Can include animal dung but mainly composed of organic remnants that are decomposed.
· Organic Pesticides/Herbicides
This is a controversial area, that many people misunderstand. Organic Farmers do sometimes have to use pesticides and herbicies to help their crop succeed, but usually only do this when other measures have failed. Use of pesticides and herbicides in organic farming goes through a strict regualatory process to ensure they aren’t harmful to our planet and for human consumption. To my knowledge there are 25 approved pesticides for organic farming, natural ones (neem oil, diatomaceous earth and pepper) and some being synthetic (such as alcohols, copper sulfate, and hydrogen peroxide). Conventional farming has over 900 difference chemicals several already proving to be harmful. Can we say DDT anyone? (although banned it still shows traces in our soils). Most of the pesticides that are allowed for use in organic farming are derived from plants or bacteria.
Genetically Modified Ingredients
According to the Non-GMO Project - Genetically Modified Ingredients or GMO’s are living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations or plant, animal, bacteria and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.
Foods are genetically modified to withstand different herbicides/pesticides, weather conditions, drought tolerance, to increase production yield or another consumer benefit. For example wheat has been so genetically modified that it is not the same wheat as our grandparents ate.
To my knowledge there aren’t any independent (not funded by large companies who have interest in Genetically Engineered Food) studies to determine the safety of GMO foods. Currently Canada doesn’t have any mandates that it has to label genetically modified food.
This table I got from the Non-GMO project.org stating the foods at highest risk to being GMO.
Remember that animals eat our produce that is grown, so Genetically Modified Organisms affect animal projects as well as they are common in animal feed. This will impact eggs, milk, meat, honey and seafood.
GMO’s are engineered to be resistant to herbicides, thus increasing the toxicity of herbicides and pesticides by 15 times. It is creating super-weeds, and super-bugs which need even more toxic chemicals to be killed.
This alone is detrimental to our environment, not to mention our health. These toxic chemicals are in our food chain, and a lot of them are labeled as potential carcinogens. There definitely needs to have more independent long term studies on the effect of GMO’s on humans.
The good news is GMOs are prohibited in Certified Organic Products. Just another reason to go Organic.
The Cost of Organic Eating
There is a lot of work and knowledge that goes into organic farming. Many of the techniques and fertilizers mentioned above are time-consuming, more expensive and difficult to transport than those used by conventional farmers.
The supply and demand of organic products also raise the price of such products. The time needed to keep synthetic fertilizers and manures out of the foods we eat by using organic methods makes it difficult to meet the demands of consumers.
Remember those strict regulations I mentioned? Those don’t come cheap either. Organic farms need to comply to get the stamp of approval from regulators. Modifying facilities, strict record keeping as well as certification and inspection fees lead to a higher cost for the product just because these are expensive endeavors these farms undertake.
When it comes to organic meats, the animal welfare standards are much higher, and the cost of organic feed for those animals can be twice as much as conventional farms!
Benefits of Organic
· Organic is Fresher – Since organic produce doesn’t contain the chemicals that extend the shelf life of the product, they are generally fresher.
· Food contains less pesticides/herbicides –
It is GMO free – GMO’s are prohibited in Certified Organic Products
· Organic farming is better for the environment – Through crop rotation, conserving water, reduces pollution, reduces soil erosion, increases soil fertility through crop rotation (think if a field always has wheat, the wheat is always going to pull the same nutrients from the soil, making that particular soil depleted in those nutrients. If the nutrients aren’t present in the soil, they aren’t present in our food. It is also healthier for the farmers, wild life and insects that are around them ( Remember the Neonicotinoid pesticides commonly found in agricultural areas that killed bees and hurt their ability to reproduce?)
· Organically raised animals – Are not given anti-biotics, GMO feed, growth hormones or fed animal by products. They also lead a more humane lifestyle.
· Organically Produced Items have higher nutrients
The Bank Account…
I do believe that organic produce and products are superior for both our health and our environment but it is not superior on our bank accounts. Most of us live our life on a budget, and spending hundreds of dollars on food each month is not always feasible.
These are some ways that you can reduce your toxic exposure:
1. Avoid the high risk GMO foods stated in the above chart.
2. Follow the Environmental Working Groups Dirty Dozen/Clean 15. Each year they develop a list of the 12 most highly pesticide/herbicide contaminated foods. They also develop a list of the cleanest 15 foods you can have. So if you can only choose select organic foods this is a good place to start.
Here is the 2019 List: In order of most contaminated to least contaminated in the dirty dozen and the cleanest to least cleanest in the clean 15.
I hope this gives you a little insight on why to choose organic.
We would love to hear from you! Do you choose organic, why or why not?
Do you have any other tips for buying, cooking or eating organic? I’d love to hear your ideas!
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