Consumers are faced with literally thousands of food options on a stroll through the supermarket.
What is alarming about all these food options is how many are disguised as healthy through misleading labels like “all-natural” or “made with real fruit.”
Sadly, the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) does a poor job of regulating many of these labels. Rather, they function more as a form of marketing label. Now, the USDA regulates the word “organic” and carries a specific set of rules regarding the food’s origin. This means that the food grows or comes from sources in which there was no use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, hormones, or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) (1). This has a huge impact on personal health, the economy, and the health of the environment. The following are a few things to consider when deciding on whether or not to buy organic:
The Conservation of Nutrients:
Organic produce benefits by coming from soil unexploited for its nutrients. As many may already know, GMO produce tends to be a lot bigger in size with a lesser taste. Companies utilize genetic engineering, creating larger products for the sake of sales and profit.
Organic produce has a greater nutrient density than does non-organic or GMO. By the basic law of conservation of matter, matter cannot be created or destroyed. When one eats organic, the food is coming from soil rich in nutrients which are then be absorbed by the plant and into the produce. Organic food has a rich supply of nutrients and GMO produce does not. By the law of conservation of matter, the organic produce is richer in nutrients.
This can be proven by the fact that organic foods and produce go bad a lot faster than do non-organic. Bacteria do not have a brain and they target foods based on a drive for nutrients. Organic foods will be the preferred target of bacteria and other microorganisms because it is simply richer in nutrients.
The Dangers of Inorganic Farming (Pesticides, & Fertilizers):
Inorganic farming practices are made to mass produce food. With this goal in mind, it is easy to understand why such farming practices often rely heavily on the use of pesticides and fertilizers. Fertilizers and pesticides are harmful to individuals and the environment and here is why.
We use pesticides to kill pests. Specifically, pests hoping to feed on the crops grown for human consumption. Pests, however, exist in many forms and many “strains.” The term “strain” refers to the genetic variation existing between microorganisms but also refers to larger pests. Genetic variation combines with constant exposure to pesticides, giving birth to pesticide-resistant pests. Such pests are sometimes referred to as “Superbugs,” due to their enhanced ability to survive. The more pesticides we use, the less effective they become over time. Additionally, farmworkers exposed to these pesticides often display detrimental health, contributing to increases in the incidence of cancer and birth defects.
Fertilizers increase the nutrient content of soil. They are mixtures of compounds that a plant will use for its growth, like nitrogen and calcium. Unfortunately, many fertilizers are based on fossil fuels and release greenhouse gases into the environment. This means that the use of such fertilizers contributes to global warming and is harmful to the environment. Additionally, excess use of fertilizers makes it more likely that some of this will make its way into water streams and eventually end up in lakes or the ocean (1). Due to the chemical composition of water, many toxins are able to dissolve into it and lower its quality. This has a negative effect on aquatic life, and on those who rely on it for food.
Why Not Processed Foods:
Processed foods live everywhere in the supermarket and especially appeal to children. Every year, processed food companies spend massive amounts of money to help disguise their products as “healthy” through the use of nutrition labels.
Dr. Maya Adam, a lecturer at Stanford School of Medicine, describes the course of action taken by the food companies to strip food of nutrients and then substitute them with synthetic versions (2). It starts with a base product stripped of its nutrients, increasing shelf-life. Substances (like high-fructose corn syrup and sodium) then enhances the food to better the flavor, texture, and shelf-life. Finally, she describes how synthetic nutrients are re-added to the now highly processed food to disguise it as healthy.
Organic foods and produce are more likely to go bad. Once again due to their nutrient content and also because these foods tend to be less processed. Now, this does not mean that all organic food is good for you. Organic cookies and cake still contain a high amount of sugar, but the food sources are better.
Eating organic is not only good for the individual and the environment but also for the local economy. Eating organic and shopping locally has great influence on the food industry and their financial affairs. As individuals frequent healthier foods as opposed to unhealthy ones, the food industry is getting a message of our demand. This will lead to greater investments in healthier foods from sustainable sources and health food stores.
Shopping locally grown produce, like at a farmers market, is good for the local economy. This ensures that the most money goes to the farmer and not large food corporations. Furthermore, the money spent stays in the community.
Eating organic is only one of many factors that affect health and wellbeing. To learn more about the effect food has on your body, come visit us at Santa Cruz CORE. We come well equipped with the knowledge and resources to help you.
Adam, Maya. “Sustainable Eating – Sustainable Eating.” Coursera, Stanford University, www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/p275k/sustainable-eating.
Adam, Maya. “Why Are There so Many Processed Foods? – Why Home Cooking Matters.” Coursera, Stanford University, www.coursera.org/learn/childnutrition/lecture/0lGfF/why-are-there-so-many-processed-foods.