The value of organic food
Organic farmers follow environmentally responsible business practices. Organic cows are free of antibiotics used as a routine prevention. In comparison, 82 different drugs, including RBGH, are found in conventional dairy farms. Ounce for ounce, organic fruits and vegetables are twice as rich in certain nutrients compared to non-organic produce, according to a recent study reported in the Journal of Applied Nutrition.
Here are some thought-provoking figures about our food supply:
- More than 20,000 pesticides are registered for use in the United States. About 75% of the chemicals, some 2.2 billion pounds annually, are used on more than 900,000 US farms at an annual cost of about $8.3 billion, according to the Pesticide Action Network. Pesticide sales have increased more than 2,700% since 1962 and US users now account for one-third of the world pesticide market.
- NBC News recently reported that 9000 people die each year in the US due to food-related illness. Our exposure to man-made chemicals in the food we eat is suspected of being a major factor in today’s increased risk of cancer.
- The Environmental Working Group found that “more than half of the total dietary risk from pesticides…was concentrated in just 12 crops. The pesticides that were found in these foods are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as probable human carcinogens, nervous system poisons and endocrine system disrupters.”
- Groundwater contamination caused by pesticides has spread pollutants to the world’s rivers, lakes and oceans, killing fish, wildlife, and aquatic plants.
- Greenpeace states that “numerous studies show that many pesticides cause health problems ranging from such long-term chronic effects as cancer, genetic damage, birth defects, harm to the immune system, kidneys and liver, to short-term acute effects such as nerve damage, dizziness, nausea and fatigue.”
- Some experts believe certain agricultural chemicals, such as toluene, can be toxic to fetuses.
Sixty per cent of all herbicides, 90% of all fungicides and 30% of all insecticides are considered carcinogenic by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- A 1987 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report estimated that 20,000 cases of cancer a year can be linked to US pesticide use.
- Health experts long have warned of the dangers of high-fat foods that can lead to heart disease or cancer. New studies show that each fatty bite may also carry a dose of highly toxic chemicals.
Man-made chemicals, including traces of highly carcinogenic dioxins released into the environment, are turning up in fast-food and grocery store staples such as meat, fish and dairy products at levels that exceed US government standards by 200% or more, according to some studies.
“In industrialized countries you can avoid the intake of dioxins, to a certain extent, by eating food that is low in fat,” says Dr. Arnold Schecter, an international medical expert on dioxins and an advisor to the World Health Organization (WHO). “But it is more desirable to avoid producing dioxins in the first place.”
Dioxin is a toxic waste product formed when municipal and hazardous waste is burned, and when chemicals containing chlorine, such as pesticides and paper products, are manufactured. This product ends up in the food chain. When an animal eats food that contains this toxic chemical they accumulate in the fat.
Both WHO and the US Environmental Protection Agency agree that dioxins cause cancer. “Besides cancer, minute amounts of these chemicals have been shown to lead to nervous system and liver damage, as well as to mimic hormones that disrupt reproduction and human development,” says Schecter. “It is known that every person in every industrialized country has dioxins in their blood…but since about 96% of the general population’s exposure to dioxins is through food, we wanted to see if certain kinds of food contained more dioxins than others,” Schecter said.
While vegetables and fruits also contained trace amounts of these chemicals, the dose was significantly less than high fat foods. Advocacy groups such as the American Public Health Association (APHA) believe that governments should be doing more to protect people’s health, especially in light of these new scientific findings.
Birth defects, learning disabilities and other development problems have been linked to dioxin exposure, according to the studies. This is because these chemicals “mimic” or “block” estrogen and progesterone, natural hormones that instruct the body on how it should develop. In just six months of breast feeding, a baby in the United States will, on average, consume the EPA’s maximum lifetime dose of dioxin, Schecter says. Dioxins are also highly persistent in the environment and extremely resistant to chemical or physical breakdown.
Twelve highly contaminated foods according to some sources: Strawberries, Green and Red Bell Peppers, Spinach, Cherries (US), Peaches, Cantaloupe (Mexico), Celery, Apples, Apricots, Green beans, Grapes (Chilean), Cucumbers.
Ten most important Organic Foods to Eat:
Baby Food – According to the National Academy of Sciences, federal pesticide standards provide too little health protection.
Strawberries – A 1993 study by the Environmental Working Group found that supermarket strawberries were the most heavily contaminated fruit or vegetable in the US.
Rice – Water-soluble herbicides and insecticides have contaminated the groundwater near rice fields. Buy organic rice from Eagle Agricultural Products, Lundberg Family Farmers, or MacDougall’s Wild Rice.
Oats – In 1994, the FDA found illegal residues in a year’s worth of Cheerios from GM. Organic growers provide oats, millet, quinoa, barley, couscous, amaranth, and spelt as healthy options.
Milk – Dairy companies inject cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone. 79% of treated cows get clinical mastitis, a common udder infection. Treating them with antibiotics increases the change of residue in milk. Organic milk is widely available.
Bell Peppers – The FDA found that in 1993, 38% of the peppers from Mexico, which provides 98% of the US, had two or more toxic pesticides.
Bananas – Costa Rica uses 35% of the country’s pesticide on banana crops.
Green Beans – 60 pesticides are used on green beans. 10% of Mexican green beans are contaminated with illegal pesticides.
Peaches – FDA cited peaches for above-average rates of illegal pesticide violations; 5% of the crop was contaminated.
Apples – 36 different pesticides have been detected by the FDA. The fungicide captan and the insecticide chlorpyrifos were among the 48 pesticides most frequently found in FDA testing between 1984 and 1991. After the Alar scare in the 80’s, growers are leading the integrated-pest management movement, which only resorts to chemicals when mandatory.