Have you ever gotten curious about the quality of the organic blueberries you purchase at the grocery store? Are they really organic?
That is a good and valid question, considering the price inflation between conventional and organic foods. With the rise of education about organic food and the current state of our corporate food system, Americans are becoming more and more aware of just how important it is to eat organic meat and produce. We have made huge strides in understanding the importance of knowing where our food comes from and how it is grown, harvested, raised, and treated. Research has been surfacing about the effect that pesticides have on our bodies and people have been listening.
The FDA states that “Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation.”
So begs the question: is organic food really organic and without pesticides? And what kind of wiggle room is in the aforementioned statement “without using most conventional pesticides?”
The Interesting History of Pesticides
Since the 1940s, the idea of an efficient and shelf-stable meal dominated the media and almost every family for decades. Faster meals and canned goods for soldiers, less cooking time, more readily available produce throughout the year became prevalent when the government began rationing imported food do to the war. We also needed more people to be fed and crops and animals that were resilient enough to mass produce and meet demands. The need for more quantity was apparent while the level of quality suffered.
The first insecticide to enter the agricultural world was in the 1860’s as a way to control the potato beetle. Toxic chemicals and pesticides such as arsenic, copper, lead, and mercury killed everything including insects, animals, and humans. Unfortunately, these harmful chemicals contaminated the soil for long after they were no longer used for farming.
Despite the introduction of chemicals into farming, pesticides remained fairly expensive. Thus, most farms were organic through the 1920s until the end of WW2. Around that era, chemists no longer had a customer to purchase nitrogen so they relabeled it and advertised it as fertilizer, which disrupts the natural ecosystem.
After this, chemists began to sell nerve agents to farms. These war weapons killed insects without apparently harming humans at a low dose. However, these agents were not as harmless as initially understood, as they can cause harm later in life or passed down generations.
This is just the beginning of how the agricultural industry began to grow and meet the demands of feeding the masses and growing agricultural business corporations while the quality of our food began to suffer.
The Harm of Consuming Pesticides
A study done in the state of Washington found that children who ate primarily organic foods had significantly lower organophosphorus pesticide. This pesticide is an endocrine system disruptor. With this information already in your hands, let’s take it a step further. Interfering with your endocrine system like this can lead to developmental malformations, interference with reproduction, increased cancer risk, and disturbances in the immune and nervous system function. Suddenly, the cheaper produce and meat don’t look so appealing.
The Integrity of Organic Farming
While organic farming does make a massive attempt to lower synthetic pesticides, there are still some organic pesticides used. According to an article published in Scientific America, not only can they be more harmful but there are other worries when it comes to organic farming. Pathogens such as E. Coli can be a cause for concern with the mass production of organic produce. This leads us to believe there is a much better and more reliant option.
Local Farming > Organic Farming
What option could be better than organic food? Well, keeping in mind that quality often decreases when quantity increases, it is so helpful to become aware of the local farms in your city. Local farms that you can visit and see the quality of the harvesting, raising, and production can be more advantageous than relying on an organic option that was shipped in large quantities from across the country. Shake the hand of the farmer that grows or raises your food. Ask him or her about the practices they use and visit the garden or animals they raise. Better yet, consider trying your hand at growing your own garden.
Local produce is often much cheaper and more accessible than produce at your nearest grocery store. Produce that is grown and harvested near you doesn’t have the same overhead, and you can be sure that you are getting a better deal when it comes to you straight from the farm.
More Nutrient Dense
Believe it or not, the longer the produce has to transport the less nutrients remain readily available. However, when you buy from a farmers market or straight from the farm, it was often harvested the same day.
Support Your Local Farms
Organic certifications are expensive. Oftentimes farmers have organic practices but can’t afford the necessary certifications to make it known. Get to know your local farmer. Small farmers often begin their farming journey out of a passion and necessity for health and sustainable farming practices. Support them instead of the larger corporations and let your money speak for what you believe in when it comes to health and the food industry.
Organic farming is bringing the intention back to the nutrients and care of harvesting food. However, there is so much that can be lost in the supply chain when mass production becomes a priority. When it comes to the farms and farmers around you, you can actually visit and see where your food comes from, and there is so much more integrity when you are able to shake the hand of the farmer that grows and raises your food.