|7 Shocking Reasons to Go Organic
The commonsense eating option.
You probably already know that choosing organic food helps protect your
family from toxic pesticide residues commonly found on fruit and veggie
skins. But there are much broader benefits to choosing organic, too,
including feeding the world. In fact, in 2008, the United Nations found
that African farmers who switched from chemical to organic systems
enjoyed double the yield in many instances. Last year, the Rodale
Institute, a nonprofit organic research institution, wrapped up a 30-year, side-by-side trial of chemical and organic crops.
In normal years, both types of farming created about the same amount of
food. In years of drought, though, organic came out on top.
Organic also makes perfect sense when it comes to your household
dinners. If you’re dealing with family members who don’t see the
benefits of eating organic—or if you still don’t see the point—read on
for some inspiration.
1. It’s raining corn chemicals.
U.S. farmers are using so much glyphosate, the main component of
weedkillers like Roundup, that researchers are finding it in rain, the
air, and streams. According to USDA data, farmers sprayed a whopping 57
million pounds of glyphosate on food crops in 2009—mainly on genetically
engineered corn and soy crops. Because glyphosate is a systemic
chemical, it actually works its way inside the plant and winds
up inside of food at alarming levels. The chemical is linked to
potentially irreversible metabolic damage, infertility, obesity,
learning disabilities, and birth defects.
What to do about it: Make as many of your food
purchases organic as you can to keep this hormone-disrupting chemical
out of the environment—and your body. If you live in an area where
glyphosate in drinking water is a problem, the Environmental Protection
Agency recommends granular activated carbon filters to remove glyphosate
2. We’re eating shampoo chemicals.
A 2010 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives
found that hormone-disrupting phthalates, common fragrance chemicals
used in soaps and shampoos, are winding up inside produce. A potential
source? Human sewage sludge applied as a fertilizer to farm fields. The
sludge can be tainted with shampoo chemicals that wash down the
drain—and wind up at the water-treatment plant, the source of the
sludge. Luckily, the use of human sewage sludge is banned in organic
What to do about it: If you buy your produce from
local farmers who aren’t certified organic, be sure to ask them how they
fertilize the soil. If you use store-bought compost in your backyard
garden, avoid compost that lists “biosolids” as an ingredient and bagged
blends that are heavy and caked together or that put off an ammonia or
sewer smell. High-quality compost should be crumbling, earthy, and dark.
3. Pesticides are making us fat.
Both pesticide applicators and farmers who use synthetic chemicals are
experiencing a troubling health trend: an increased risk of becoming
overweight and obese. Pesticides, even at very low doses, threaten the
general public, too. Many chemicals commonly used to grow nonorganic
food are hormone disruptors, and scientists are starting to discover
that they tamper with our body’s natural weight-loss chemistry. (They
actually call them “obesogens.”)
Certain bug-killing organophosphate pesticides are linked to obesity, a
known risk factor for many other diseases, including cancer and type 2
What to do about it: Eating organic for just five days
can rid the body of virtually all pesticide residues. Think you can’t
afford it? Look for in-season deals at local farmers’ markets, buy in
bulk, and preserve the excess to enjoy during the winter months.
4. Pesticides may raise your diabetes risk.
In addition to acting as obesogens, pesticides are linked in a growing
number of studies with diabetes. Though obesity and genetics remain the
two biggest risk factors for the disease, certain pesticides may
interfere with the way our bodies produce the blood-sugar-regulating
hormone insulin. In one of the most recent studies looking into
pesticides and diabetes, scientists concluded that it may not even be
the active pesticide ingredients causing the problems but the “inert”
ingredients added to formulations to aid with application, help the
pesticide seep into soil, or prevent the formulation from washing away.
What to do about it: You can avoid diabetes-inducing
pesticides by switching to an organic diet, but one of the inert
ingredients used in pesticide formulations, phthalates, can crop up in
common household items. Protect yourself completely by avoiding
synthetic fragrances, soft vinyl products, and “slow-release” or
gel-coated medications, all of which contain phthalates.
5. Pesticides could be interfering with your vitamin D levels.
There’s a class of pesticides called organophosphates that includes
roughly 20 pesticides, which together account for 70 percent of the
pesticides used in the U.S. And a study in the online journal PLoS One
found that those pesticides could interfere with vitamin D, the miracle
vitamin that wards off cancer, diabetes, infections, heart disease, and
broken bones and boosts your immune system. It’s thought that these
pesticides interfere with your body’s metabolism of vitamin D, so even
if you’re getting enough, the pesticides prevent your body from
absorbing it properly.
What to do about it: In addition to eating organic,
get your recommended amount of vitamin D by spending at least 10 minutes
of every day outside when the sun is at its strongest or by taking a
600 IU supplement of vitamin D3, which is a more beneficial form of the vitamin than vitamin D2, another supplement you might see at the store.
6. Factory-farmed meat can make you old, fast.
Factory farming, the process of raising thousands of animals in small,
cramped spaces, has become so filthy that farmers not only inject low
levels of antibiotics into animals, breeding antibiotic resistance in
humans, but they’ve also had to resort to other questionable techniques
to prevent e. coli and other bacteria from getting into the
food supply. One example: After slaughter, factory-farmed chickens are
washed in chlorine baths that contain 30 times more chlorine than an
average swimming pool. To mask the chlorine odor and, ostensibly,
according to chicken producers, to keep the bird moist while cooking,
the chickens are then injected with a solution of water and phosphate, a
chemical that can increase the risk of chronic kidney disease, weak
bones, and even premature aging.
What to do about it: Opt for organic meat or meat
produced by a local farmer. Most small-scale chicken producers don’t
bother with chlorine baths, and even in large-scale organic operations,
chlorine baths can contain no more chlorine than is allowed in drinking
7. Organic farms could save rural economies.
Thanks to an increased reliance on pesticides and machinery, farms have
been able to grow in size while cutting back on labor. And though that
sounds like a winning formula for increasing profits for farmers, it
doesn’t. The Rodale Institute
has found that organic systems are nearly three times as profitable as
chemical agriculture systems. Organic systems see an average of $558 in
net returns per acre per year, versus just $190 per acre per year for
chemical systems. Research from the United Nations and others has also
shown that organic farms provide 30 percent more jobs per hectare than
nonorganic farms, and that organic farmers net $45,697 in profit,
compared with just $25,448 for nonorganic farmers.
What to do about it: Find a local, organic farm to support, and keep your food investments in your own community.
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