Organic Produce

Posted By on June 8, 2012

Many people wonder if going organic is really worth the extra expense. After all, eating a healthy diet abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables has to be doing more good than harm even if they’re not organic, right? Maybe, but some wish to play it safe. There are many reasons to choose organically grown over conventionally grown foods, and the two biggest beneficiaries are the environment and your health.

organicveggies2Pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers are responsible for the majority of chemical residues that are left on your food at the supermarket. Despite the attempt to eliminate these residues, traces still remain without the requirements of labeling. Some of the organochlorine pesticides that were determined to be harmful and have been banned since the 70’s, such as DDT and DDE, are still being detected at elevated levels in the breast tissues of women with breast cancer.

Today, organophosphorous pesticides have taken over with the claim that they are safer, yet links with these chemicals to the progression of breast cancer have also been found. Children, infants, and pregnant women are the most susceptible. In fact, pesticides and other pollutants are detected in amniotic fluid, and a fetus cannot tolerate much more than 1/10 the chemical concentrations that an adult can.

A study was done by the University of Washington on a group of preschoolers to determine the amount of exposure a child on a conventional (non-organic) diet has to toxic pesticides. Out of the children who were eating only organic produce, evidence of toxic pesticides in urine was six to nine times lower than amounts found from the children who ate conventionally grown produce. Produce may be the biggest priority for organic status, but many grains, dairy, canned and boxed foods are all good candidates for organic certification.

The use of genetically engineered organisms (GEO’s) is the other main concern that has many Americans going organic. When non-organic produce was tested for genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) the results showed that 60-75% of produce in supermarkets contained these substances. Because the USDA does not require the labeling of GMO’s or GEO’s, most people are buying products they wouldn’t normally buy if they were aware of the choice. Luckily, the label “GMO Free” has become more popular on the grocery shelves recently.

The definition of genetic engineering by the U.S. National Organic Standards Board is “made with techniques that alter the molecular or cell biology of an organism by means that are not possible under natural conditions or processes.” This includes recombinant DNA (such as gene deletion and doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes), cell fusion, and micro & macro-encapsulation.

A little known fact about GMO’s is that they are approved and regulated by the USDA under the “substantial equivalence” standard, meaning that as long as the product is deemed equivalent to its natural counterpart, it does not have to go through a standard safety assessment. The long-term health risks of GMO’s are not fully known but many reports have found an increase in allergies. GMO’s are presumed to increase cancer risks due to the production of new dangerous toxins in the body and the degradation of food nutrients. Another good argument for buying organic food- it’s guaranteed not to contain GEO’s!

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have medical problems seek a professional.

Works Cited
1) Om Organics: GMO Controversy Accessed 2/17/06.
2) Organic Materials Review Institute: GMO Issues: OMRI Policy: Accessed 2/17/06.
3) Myhr, AI; Traavik, T. 2003. Genetically modified crops: Precautionary Science and conflicts of interest. Journal of Agriculture and Environmental Ethics, 16 (3): 227-247.

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