Organic food is not pesticide free. Are you surprised? I actually was when I learned this information.
If you read my first post in this series, which you can find here, then you know that conventional farming uses synthetic chemicals to keep away pests, i.e. pesticides. Organic farming uses pesticides as well, however most of the time they non-synthetic. Most of the time?
The Federal Code of Regulations outlines what synthetic pesticides may be used and what non-synthetic pesticides may not be used in the National Organic Program, which can be found here. Per the code, many synthetic substances are permitted for use as long as the ground or crops are not contaminated. Many of the uses are permitted for cleaning equipment or for a one time use. Not so bad, right? More concerning, however, are the non-synthetic pesticides which are much less regulated by the Federal Government.
Everyone knows that there are things in nature which can be harmful to human health. So what happens when harmful things from nature are sprayed all over our organic fruits and vegetables? According to NaturalNews.com, “As it turns out, certain natural pesticides and insecticides like rotenone-pyrethrin, for instance, or Spinosad, may be potentially harmful to humans.” The good news is that Rotenone is no longer allowed in organic farming. (Source) Spinosad is unfortunately still in use, and is one of the chemicals which is highly toxic to honey bees and one of the several pesticides contributing to their decline. (Source) Although I have not been able to confirm it on a government website, I have read several times that organic pesticides may be applied many more times than a conventional pesticide, due to the stricter federal regulations on synthetic pesticides. This means organic produce may have a much greater quantity of natural pesticide residue, while the conventional counterpart would have less of the synthetic residue due to federal restrictions. It is important that consumers be aware the term “organic” does not mean pesticide free.
Organic produce is still better than conventional.
Even though the organic label permits certain pesticides to be used, not all organic farmers use the harmful types described above. Most of the pesticides approved in organic farming are less damaging to the environment, and organic farmers frequently utilize other methods of pest control which do not involve spraying chemicals. According to the Institute of Food Technologists,
“Organic farming uses various methods to enhance or maintain soil fertility, such as crop rotation, tillage and cultivation practices, cover crops and natural products (such as natural fertilizers, pesticides and so on)… Organic farmers use animal and crop wastes, botanical, biological, or non-synthetic pest controls, and allowed synthetic materials that can be broken down quickly by oxygen and sunlight. Organic farmers also use specific methods to minimize air, soil and water pollution.” (Source)
Organic farming methods preserve the health of the soil, which is crucial in growing nutritious, real food. I highly recommend watching the video below, where health and fitness expert Paul Chek teaches how synthetic pesticides destroy the soil. He explains that soil is alive in its organic state, filled with microorganisms, earthworms and other creatures which all assist in healthy soil and plant growth. Microorganisms living beneath the soil create a substance called humus which collects energy from the sun and moon, making it available for plants. Humus also holds a great deal of water and also provides nutrients to the plants. It is often called the life-force of the soil. Earthworms aerate the soil and elevate oxygen levels. When we pour chemicals on the ground, we kill the microorganisms, earthworms and other insects, leaving the soil dead and lifeless. Synthetic pesticides destroy the life in the soil. The food grown in lifeless soil will be energetically and possibly nutritionally lacking.
Avoidance of GMOs. Buying organic is pretty much the only way to avoid consuming genetically modified foods. This is because the FDA does not require products containing GMOs to be labeled. Avoiding GMOs is a big reason I purchase organic, mainly because we do not know the long-term effects of consuming GMO foods. I have the strong opinion that nature is perfect by design and should not be altered. How could a person ever be as wise as nature, or ever foresee all possible outcomes of their adjustments? GMOs are a very complex subject which I am by no means an expert in, however here are just a few alarming facts which enforce my decision not to purchase GMO foods.
- Glyphosate (main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup) – Many types of crops including corn, cotton, alfalfa, soybean, canola and sugar beets have been genetically modified to be resistant to being sprayed with Roundup (called Roundup ready). Already I am concerned because scientists have altered the genetic structure which nature took millions of years to develop, but also now Roundup-Ready produce will be coming covered in Roundup. Glyphosate is a highly toxic chemical which destroys plants by inhibiting an enzyme necessary to produce proteins, causing the plant to die. Studies such as this have shown that glyphosate exposure can cause DNA damage in human cells. Glyphosate exposure has been linked to numerous problems including cancer, birth defects, Autism, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression, Celiac Disease, etc. This is a great article which summarizes ten medical studies related to the effectsofglyphosate on humans. According to Dr.StephanieSeneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), two main problems can develop from consumptionofglyphosate:
- Nutritional Deficiencies: Glyphosate immobilizes certain nutrients and alters the nutritional composition of the treated crop.
- Systemic Toxicity: Glyphosate works by impacting a certain metabolic pathway which is not present in humans. It is, however, present in plants and microbes. The problem arises because the human body is full of bacteria (for every one cell, the human body contains 10 microbes), and the bacteria is destroyed by glyphosate. Unfortunately, glyphosate has been shown to be preferential to beneficial bacteria, which will put the body into dysbiosis. Systemic toxicity is a side effect of extreme disruption of microbial function throughout your body; allowing for overgrowth of pathogens. (Source)
- BT Crops – A gene from the naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis is added the genetic structure of these plants, mainly corn and potatoes. This gene produces a protein called Bt delta endotoxin. BT toxin will be in the body of anyone who consumes these crops, because it is in the food. According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, “To kill a susceptible insect, a part of the plant that contains the Bt protein… must be ingested. Within minutes, the protein binds to the gut wall and the insect stops feeding. Within hours, the gut wall breaks down and normal gut bacteria invade the body cavity.” Studies have shown that BT toxin is extremely damaging to red blood cells in mammals. Other studies have shown it damaging to a portion of the small intestine. (Source) I will never feel comfortable feeding this to my family!
Organic is more nutritious. There have been many studies, for example this one, which claim the nutrient content in organic produce is greater than conventional. The results of this 2001 study claim:
“Organic crops contained significantly more vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and phosphorus and significantly less nitrates than conventional crops. There were nonsignificant trends showing less protein but of a better quality and a higher content of nutritionally significant minerals with lower amounts of some heavy metals in organic crops compared to conventional ones.”
Many scientists have claimed these studies are flawed. While organic food may be more nutritious, I assume that conventional produce can supply adequate nutrition as well, as long as it is not full of toxic chemicals. While this is something to think about, it is not a strong factor in my decision-making process on whether or not to purchase organic.
Buying local is even better yet.
The main conclusion I have come to in the several weeks I have spent researching this topic is this: commercial farming is commercial farming. Synthetic pesticides undoubtedly can be dangerous to human health and the environment, but certain non-synthetic pesticides have been shown to do the same. When you purchase your food at a grocery store, chances are it came from a large commercial farm. You never really know what you are getting. I have found I feel more comfortable with the idea of buying my food from the person who grew it, a person who cares about their land and their product. Local farmers are often that type of person.
Not too long ago at a local farmer’s market, I spoke with a young man whose family owned a local apple orchard. I asked him if his apples were organic because I wanted to use them to make applesauce for my baby. He explained to me that the apples were not organic, however they were a better deal. The organic label is very expensive for farmers to have, which means that usually organic farms are large commercial operations, as opposed to family farms. Commercial organic farms are very large and turn a lot of produce, which means the farms spray pesticides regularly to make their profits. His family’s farm did spray pesticides, however they only did it when it was needed. He stated that usually it was only once or twice in a growing season.
Guess what, I bought his apples! I felt much more comfortable buying local produce from an honest family farm that was willing and able to explain their methods to me, as opposed to an organic apple grown in New Zealand and covered in shiny wax at my local Target.
Some tips – eat foods which are in season for your area. Joining a CSA is a great way to access local organic food at a more affordable cost. Farmer’s markets also have great deals – talk to the vendors, see how low they are willing to go. Support your local farmers who (most likely) care about the land and the food they grow. Local Harvest is a great tool for finding local foods in your area.
It is our job as the intelligent life on this planet to take care of it, and all the living things here. Unfortunately ignorance often gets in the way of nature. As information such as this becomes available to us, we must make our decisions wisely. If people continue to destroy this planet, life for ourselves and our children will only further degrade. We vote with our dollars, so please buy food which you feel is supporting the health of you, your family and the environment.
This post was shared on Natural Family Friday!