People are choosing organic food now more than ever, because it’s healthier, safer and supports a sustainable environment.
The planet’s current climate situation is a hot topic. With increased concern and debate over warming temperatures, more research is being conducted about positive steps to take to ensure a healthy planet for future generations. You may be surprised to learn the role organic food and farming plays in our health, the environment and even climate control.
What is organic?
Organic food comes from crops that have been grown following organic principles. In the simplest terms, the plants are spray free, but at the roots of it, organic agriculture is a holistic approach that prioritizes the long-term health of the soil, land and waterways to support ecological balance, environmental quality and healthy workers.
Is organic farming any better?
When you’re in the supermarket, about to make the choice whether to buy organic oats or not, it’s worthwhile to consider that every food purchase supports the farming practices that were used to grow it. So, which one do you support – conventional or organic?
For 40 years, the Rodale Institute has been collecting data measuring the differences between organic farming and conventional farming through the Farming Systems Trial. This research concludes that organic practices match or even outperform conventional practices.
How can this be true? Healthy soil is at the heart of organic farming. Healthy, resilient soil contains more bacteria to help plants fight disease and pests (reducing the need for harmful pesticides), provides plants more nutrition (providing higher crop yields) and also holds more water (reducing runoff and soil erosion).
The May 2019 UN report states if current farming practices continue, we have just 60 years of farmable topsoil remaining. Without soil, we can’t grow food, retain rainwater or refill our lakes and rivers; making healthy soil the foundation to a sustainable global food system. In addition, it is estimated that 20-30% of our current greenhouse gases are from soil loss.
Organics are the future
However, there is hope and according to co-founder of The Carbon Underground, Tom Newmark, soil regeneration is one of the most important solutions to slow climate change. This proactive group looks to support climate change from the ground up, using a method referred to as Regenerative Agriculture which relies on organic farming principles to capture carbon in the atmosphere in soil, trees and shrubs.
So, each time you choose to buy that organic apple over a conventional one, you are supporting the farmers who are nurturing the soil for a sustainable future.
Is organic food better for you?
Many people are driven to buy organic food to support their health, as well as their family’s health. Is there any research to support this movement?
Yes! According to a study by the European Parliamentary Research Service, long-term health benefits include a higher number of antioxidants and phytonutrients, reduced exposure to pesticides, healthier eating patterns, improved early childhood development and lower risk of disease. Let’s look into the details.
More phytonutrients and antioxidants
Organic foods may not have more traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals; however, studies have found higher levels of phenolic phytonutrients, from 19% to 69% more! Phytonutrients are plant-based chemical compounds that provide antioxidant activity which protects DNA and inhibits cancer cell proliferation.
A study in Ireland, found that onions grown organically contained higher antioxidant levels than their non-organic counterparts. This 6-year study is a significant development, as it is the longest-running analysis on organic vs. conventional produce.
According to Michael Greger M.D. FACLM, due to the increased antioxidant phytonutrient levels, organic produce may be considered 20% to 40% healthier and this may reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as cardiovascular ailments and some cancers.
Reduce your exposure to pesticides
Many people choose organic foods to reduce their exposure to pesticides. Pesticides are known as potential carcinogens that are connected to cancer. For example, Glyphosate, which is commonly sprayed on conventional oat crops has been linked to cancer. Switching to organic oats is a simple step to improve the quality of your breakfast.
In 2006, a study was published that measured levels of two prominent pesticides running through bodies of children ages 3-11 during a diet of conventional foods and then switched to an organic diet. It found that the levels of pesticides found in the body during a conventional diet were dramatically higher than when they ate an organic diet. In fact, pesticide exposure dropped by nearly 90% during the time they ate organic. They conducted the same study on adults, finding the same results. Dr Greger concludes:
“Eating organic provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to pesticides commonly used in agricultural production. While further research is needed on the specific effects of pesticide build up in our bodies, eating organic is a logical precautionary approach to reducing pesticide exposure.”
A recent study by Consumer NZ confirmed more than 300 pesticides are approved for use on fruit and vegetables grown in NZ, despite many of them being banned in other countries because of their toxicity. Sixteen locally grown fruit and vege were tested. The results are shocking… get all the details here.
A lower risk of disease
Is organic food safer? A recent study in France found that eating organic foods reduces the risk of developing cancer. This study also raised the importance of further research between cancer risk and pesticides found in food, long term exposure to pesticides and which ones in particular.
Now it’s over to you. Your buying power and food choices not only impact your health but the global climate too. Challenge yourself to make small changes this week. Choose one item on your shopping list, whether it’s produce, flour, oats or milk and make the switch from conventional to organic. Each week you can make one small change, adds up to a world of difference.