by Dr.Oddveig Myhre
The simple answer is: you eat it because what it doesn’t have and you eat it for what it does. Let me explain. You want to eat organic foods to avoid the chemicals and toxins that are found in the pesticides used to spray the foods. A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest. A pest can be an insect, mice, rodents, weeds, fungus, bacteria or prions. The goal of pesticides is to kill something, so without understanding the biochemistry of these chemicals, it should be clear that if it kills animals, it probably isn’t too good for us either. Multiple scientific studies have shown that pesticides can cause health problems in humans including birth defects, nerve damage, cancer, and other effects that might occur over a long period of time. However, these effects depend on how toxic the pesticide is and how much of it is consumed. Furthermore, when pesticides have been used in the past, it is extremely difficult to get rid of them. For instance, you may have heard of DDT, a pesticide that was banned in the US in 1972. Unfortunately, we still find components of this pesticide in foods now almost 40 years later.
Here’s the controversial point in terms of organic food vs. non-organic foods. Organic foods do not necessarily mean pesticide-free because the soil where the food is being grown may in the past have been sprayed with pesticides. Remember, DDT is still found in the soil even though not used since the 1970’s. What has been found by Kristin Shafer and her colleagues of the Pesticide Action Network is that eating organic means you are much less likely to get these toxins in you. For instance; when organic foods have pesticide residues they have fewer of them and the levels of the residues are generally lower. The report they put together are based on pesticide residue data collected on a wide variety of foods by the United States Department of Agriculture in the time period of 1994 to 1999. The combined data covered more than 94,000 food samples from more than 20 crops. 1,291 of those samples were organically grown, which makes out to be about 1.3% of the food tested.
The Agriculture Department data showed that 73% of the conventionally grown foods had residue from at least one pesticide and were 6 times as likely as organic foods to contain multiple pesticide residues. Only 23% of the organic samples of the same groups had any pesticide residues. By the way, the data collected in this study came from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) which means that the government has this information available. The question is why don’t you know about it?
One of the concerns with even the low levels of pesticides is that recent scientific studies have discovered that exposure to miniscule levels of pesticide chemicals, at crucial times in fetal and infant development can damage or disrupt human hormone, neurological, reproductive and your immune system. This information should make you question if there is a relationship between learning disorders such as ADD/ADHD and pesticide exposure when the baby is in utero. We don’t know yet, however there are many studies suggesting that this may very well be the case. So let me emphasize again, that you first and foremost want to eat organic foods because of what it DOESN’T have.
Secondarily, you eat organic foods because they have more nutrients in them. Especially their mineral and anti-oxidant content is much higher. Nevertheless, there are many studies suggesting that organic foods don’t have more nutrients and in my opinion this is incorrect. I base this on the fact that studies that has been done to “disprove the value of organic foods” has major flaws in them. Without spending multiple pages convincing you of this, just let me say this. If you have ever eating home-grown foods or tasted organic foods, you know that it tastes better. That’s because it contains more nutrients in them. Period! For those who want to know more the quality of organic foods, I have included some references at the end of this article that I suggest you look up. Below I have included a table that tells you the best and the worst of the foods to buy organic.
|Avoid unless organic||Use caution||May be safe to buy non-organic||Safe to buy even when not organic|
|Sweet bell peppers||Lettuce||Plums||Blueberries|
|Strawberries||Hot peppers||Honeydew melon||Bananas|
|Carrots||Mushrooms||Sweet potatoes||Canned tomatoes|
|Frozen Winter squash||Oranges||Cauliflower||Asparagus|
|Fresh winter squash||Mango|
There may be a lot of confusion about organic foods, but the good news is that the labeling of organic foods is quite strict. The food cannot have the label USDA Organic unless it is 100% organic. “Organically grown” food is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Also, there is a number code on the label on all foods. The guidelines for the codes are as follows:
- Organic produce has a five-digit number beginning with a 9. Organic bananas, for example, would be given the designation of 94011.
- Conventional produce has a four-digit number beginning with a 3 or 4. Therefore, the number on conventionally grown bananas would be 4011.
- Genetically engineered produce also has a five-digit number on the label and begins with an 8. Again, the number on genetically altered bananas would be 84011.
Eating organic food is not as expensive or difficult to change as you might think. I also encourage you to search for local farmers in your area that grow their foods organically. That way you will support your local economy as well as keeping the carbon-printing down. Either way, the health of your body is directly linked to what you eat, so what are you waiting for? Eat organic food today!