By Ginny Chandoha
Organic food has been in the news a lot lately. The media has been full of misinformation regarding the nutritional value of organically grown food versus “conventionally” grown food.
Since man first began farming thousands of years ago, he did so organically. He used his composted animal manures to fertilize fields, rotated his crops, never planting the same crop in the same location within 2 years, and allowing his fields to rest and restore nutrients with cover crops. That is how it has been done through the ages, and that is how organic farmers continue to grow their crops. That was the “conventional” way until it was given the name “organic” to differentiate it from “conventional” factory farmed crops and animals.
Conventionally grown food is a misnomer. These days, conventionally grown crops and animals are anything but conventional. The same crops are grown year after year in the same nutritionally depleted soil that must be synthetically fertilized. Due to poor soil conditions and lack of crop rotation, pests and weeds are rampant, calling for ever-increasing usage of more toxic chemical pesticides and herbicides.
Because pesticide chemicals would harm everything, including beneficial living organisms, pesticides have been made “rain proof,” meaning they can’t be easily washed off. According to the FDA, the 10 top most pesticide contaminated conventionally grown crops are: corn, strawberries, celery, bananas, peaches, rice, oats and grains, green beans, and apples. That’s nine but what’s the 10th most contaminated food? Because these fruits and vegetables are used in baby foods, alas baby food is the 10th most pesticide contaminated food.
In genetically modified crops, which include corn, wheat, crookneck squash, soy, cotton, canola, Hawaiian papaya, sugar beets (if it’s not cane sugar then it’s GMO beet sugar) and more, the crops have had a bacterial gene, Bacillus thruingiensis (Bt toxin) inserted into the seed. When this gene is inserted into the DNA of the plant, it produces its own internal pesticide. When a pest dares to take a bite out of a genetically modified plant, the insect’s stomach splits open. This pesticide cannot be washed off and may end up on your plate. Recent studies show the Bt toxin in the bloodstream of humans. No studies have been conducted to see how this internal toxin might affect humans in the long term.
Aside from generating their own internal pesticides, genetically modified crops are made to withstand the herbicide Roundup®, which is the most widely used herbicide. It contains the chemical glyphosate which binds with micronutrients in the soil, depriving weeds of nutrients they need in order to grow. Unfortunately, it also deprives crops from absorbing those nutrients as well.
A comparison study between organically grown crops and GMO crops reveals that in organic crops the absorption and dispersion of nutrients throughout the plants are 100% of iron, manganese and zinc; whereas in GMO crops root uptake and plant dispersion of iron was 19%, manganese barely 2%, and zinc around 15%. This means that while eating a steady diet of genetically modified crops might seem healthy, they won’t provide the nutrition the human body requires for optimal health.
Studies also show that the average person eating a non-organic diet will consume approximately 61 pesticide residues per day. That works out to around 37.64 pounds per year! Research also reveals that just two weeks on an organic diet will eliminate 95% of pesticides in blood and urine.
Unless an animal is pastured and allowed to forage for what it evolved to eat, it is factory farmed. Unfortunately, if it isn’t labeled as organic, most meat and poultry found on supermarket shelves is factory farmed. Factory farmed animals are kept by the thousands in concentrated feed lots (CAFO’s) and are fed grain to fatten them up quickly for slaughter. Cattle in particular are ruminants that evolved to eat grass and being fed grain creates bacteria in their intestinal tract. That bacteria is e-coli which is also present in their manure. The bacteria is also transferred onto their hide and during slaughter can infect the meat that ends up on your table.
Manure used as fertilizer from e-coli infected animals can contaminate crops, which would explain how cantaloupes, lettuce or spinach can contain e-coli.
Additionally, because factory-farmed animals are raised in unnatural conditions, they are subject to illness and as a result are heavily fed and/or inoculated with antibiotics and the FDA reports that in any given year, animals raised for food receive upwards of 13 million pounds of antimicrobial drugs. The array of pharmaceuticals administered to factory farmed animals is so impressive it’s a wonder anyone eating conventional supermarket meats or poultry would ever need the use of antibiotics.
Another downside to factory farmed animals is the use of growth hormones to get the meat on the dinner plate as fast as possible. Organically raised chickens that are allowed to free range and forage for their food mature in 3-6 months. Poultry that is factory farmed mature in 48 days and according to the FDA, meat chickens at the age of 21 days are placed in “grow-out facilities where they are fed, watered and medicated.” They are crammed into cages, their beaks are cut so they can’t peck at each other and they are fed growth diets laced with pharmaceuticals to resist disease. Even if they weren’t caged, they are unable to walk because their bones and organs can’t support their weight.
On the other hand, organically raised animals are allowed to pasture and free-range for food they evolved to eat and do not suffer the diseases of factory farmed animals and do not need the pharmacy of drugs.
Healthy food is food that is alive with micronutrients and beneficial organisms and as a result has a very short shelf life. But most people today depend on processed foods. While I’m not personally a fan of processed foods simply because they are processed and no longer have any living nutrients, if I were to buy pre-packaged goods, my choice would be those which are listed as having 100% organic ingredients and the packaging contains the USFDA organic seal.
Unlike conventional processed foods, the organic label prohibits the use of synthetic, GMO, or non-organic ingredients, as well as the use of preservatives such as sodium benzoate which is a carcinogen.
One of the most abused labels is the use of the word natural to describe a food product. There are no regulations governing the use of “natural” to describe a product and therefore is meaningless. Many if not most products containing the “natural” label contain artificial and GMO ingredients and are not raw. My favorite preposterous food labeling is “natural” potato chips which are sliced conventionally grown potatoes fried in oil, and sometimes seasoned with artificial flavors. The way I know this is not “natural” food is that not only is it processed, but I’ve never seen a potato chip growing anywhere.
About the Author
Ginny Chandoha is a published writer whose short stories have appeared in The Staying Sane book series by DeCapo Press. Having spent many years in the publishing industry, she has been a contributing editor of several travel trade publications and is the author of the forthcoming book, “Lichen Sclerosis: Beating the Disease.”