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Why Eat Organic?

n-DIRTY-DOZEN-CLEAN-15-large.jpgI grew up in Austria and Switzerland, where I lived near a biodynamic farm. Each day my family would go to the farm to get their eggs, produce and meat for our meals. Regina, my Austria sister who lives in Linz, at a recent visit with me in California, shared her experience with her neighboring biodynamic farm. We discussed the difference in how the wheat/grains are grown in a biodynamic farm that honors the earth and the grain. In the United Sates we hybridize, genetically modify/spray, and cut the grain in a way that often causes severe allergies and reactions in people. Regina brought her bread made from biodynamic grains with her to California, as she is one of many unable to eat the grains grown here. 

Why eat Organic and GMO free? I am a Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist in practice for the past 25 years. I have seen and experienced the difference between the organic and non-organic produce/products. In many non-organic foods the flavor and important nutrients are missing. Research from independent organizations consistently shows that organic food contain higher amounts of nutrients than non-organic foods. Organic produce is higher in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and the minerals calcium, iron, chromium, and magnesium.

Buying organic food promotes a less toxic environment for all living things. Pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture contain toxins that are damaging to brain and nerve cells. A commonly-used class of pesticides called organophosphates was originally developed as a toxic nerve agent during World War I. When there was no longer a need for them in warfare, industry adapted them to kill pests on foods. Many pesticides are still considered neurotoxins. With only 0.5 percent of crop and pasture land being organic according to the USDA, that leaves 99.5 percent of farm acres in the U.S. at risk of exposure to noxious agricultural chemicals. Supporting organic agriculture doesn't just benefit you and your family, it benefits all families to live with less toxic exposure.

Organic Food Supports Wildlife Habitats. Even with commonly used amounts of pesticides, wildlife is being harmed by exposure to pesticides.

Childrens' growing brains and bodies are far more susceptible to toxins than adults. Choosing organic helps feed their bodies without the exposure to pesticides and genetically-modified organisms, both of which have a relatively short history of use (and therefore safety).

Eighteen percent of all genetically-modified seeds (and therefore foods that grow from them) are engineered to produce their own pesticides. Research shows that these seeds may continue producing pesticides inside your body once you’ve eaten the food grown from them! These foods can become actual pesticide factories in our bodies.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that pesticides pollute the primary drinking source for half the American population. Organic farming is the best solution to the problem. Buying organic helps reduce pollution in our drinking water.

Organic food is earth-supportive (when big business keeps their hands out of it). Organic food production has been around for thousands of years and is the sustainable choice for the future. Compare that to modern agricultural practices that are destructive of the environment through widespread use of herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, and fertilizers and have resulted in drastic environmental damage in many parts of the world.

Organic food choices grown on small scale farms help ensure that independent family farmers can create a livelihood. Consider it the domestic version of fair trade.

Remember when you last ate a tomato or a strawberry that was grown in your own garden or a nearby farm? Next time you do, hold it in your hand, smell the fragrance, look at the color and bite into it, eating slowly and mindfully. Then eat the same fruit or vegetable from your local Safeway store. Compare and contrast the differences. Most organic food simply tastes better than the pesticide-grown counterparts.

Organic food is not exposed to gas-ripening like some non-organic fruits and vegetables (e.g. bananas)

Eating organic may reduce your cancer risk. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers 60% of herbicides, 90% of fungicides, and 30 percent of insecticides potentially cancer-causing. It is reasonable to think that the rapidly increasing rates of cancer are at least partly linked to the use of these carcinogenic pesticides.

Choosing organic meat lessens your exposure to antibiotics, synthetic hormones, and drugs that find their way into the animals and ultimately into you.

Organic food is tried and tested. By some estimates genetically-modified food makes up 80% of the average person’s food consumption. Genetic modification of food is still experimental. Avoid being part of this wide-scale and uncontrolled experiment.

Organic food supports greater biodiversity. Diversity is fundamental to life on this planet. Genetically modified and non-organic food is focused on high yield monoculture and is destroying biodiversity. Mono-cropping and chemical fertilizers have taken a huge toll, with the loss of soil estimated to be about $40 billion dollars in the United States.

Eleven years ago Genetically Modified Food was not part of our food supply; today an astounding 30 percent of our crop land is planted as GMO's.

Visit an organic farm and you will notice the buzz of animal, bird and insect activity. These organic oasis are thriving, diverse habitats. An organic farm is the equivalent of reforestation. Industrial farms are the equivalent of clear cutting of native habitat with a focus on high farm yields

Organic has been proven to use less energy - on the average about 30 percent less - and is beneficial to soil and water, and safer for you to eat.

Go to Huffington Post's Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 for information on the fruits and vegetables that have the heaviest amount of pesticides and herbicides.

I encourage you to eat with a Sense of Place and eat more seasonably by supporting your local farmers markets (Google the markets in your area and visit them often), while also supporting a global organic economy year round. It will make your taste buds happy.

_Christine_R.jpgChristine Rosche, M.P.H.C.N.S. is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist and Digestive Health Expert with 25 years experience in the health care field, including 10 years at Stanford Medical Center. An author of 2 books (the latest: “Light Living, An Integrative Approach to Health and Weight",) she teaches Digestive Health and Nutrition nationally and conducts nutrition sessions via phone, Skype, or at her office in Palo Alto.