Once upon a time, all food was organic. And it really wasn’t that long ago. The use of synthetic chemical pesticides started in the first half of the 20th century, and really took off after World War II. Companies responsible for making chemicals for war needed a way to survive in peacetime.
Considering all of this, it’s kind of crazy that when we go to Whole Foods Market, you see the produce labeled either “conventional” or “organic.” If food grown before about one hundred years ago was all organic, you would think that organic would be called conventional. But then how would they label the pesticide laden stuff? I guess “conventional” in this case is a euphemism.
So why should you pay extra for those organic apples? Take a minute to think about it. What is a pesticide meant to do? It is meant to kill something. A pesticide is poison. So I did a quick search on Google for “How many pesticides are used on apples?” The results at whatsonmyfood.org says that there are 47 pesticide residues found by the USDA Pesticide Data Program. Six of these are known or probable carcinogens, which means they can cause cancer. 16 are suspected hormone disruptors, which are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. Five are neurotoxins, poisons that act on the nervous system. Six are developmental or reproductive toxins, which can harm developing fetuses or your ability to reproduce. So the old adage of, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” isn’t so accurate if you are eating a conventionally grown apple as opposed to an organic one.
There are a couple of terms to help understand a little more about how pesticides are bad for us. First, bioconcentration is the tendency for a chemical to accumulate in an organism’s tissues, especially fatty tissues. Second, biomagnification is how a chemical increases in concentration up the food chain, meaning that the higher up you are on the food chain, the higher the chemical concentration in your tissues.
You eat a conventional apple. The 47 pesticides from that apple gets stored in your fat cells. But what if you eat some beef from conventionally raised cows? Those cows were most likely fed GMO grain for their entire lives. So the cow has all of the pesticides from the GMO grain accumulated from it’s life stored in it’s fat cells. You eat it, and now you have a portion of that cow’s lifetime of fat cell pesticides stored in your fat cells.
That is just one apple and one steak or hamburger. What happens when you eat conventionally produced food every meal, everyday? Are you starting to get an idea why organic food is important?
I understand that there is only so much money in the budget for food each month. You can buy some fruits and vegetables that are not organic. The Environmental Working Group puts out a list every year of the cleanest and dirtiest fruits and vegetables. You can even print out a list to carry in your wallet when you go to the grocery store. That way you don’t have to keep track of it in your head or look it up on your phone every time you are at the store. Here’s a link to the list. The top 15 are the dirtiest that you should always buy organic, and the bottom 15 are the cleanest that you don’t have to buy organic. http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
Because of the biomagnification that I discussed earlier, it is best to buy organic for all of your animal products. Not just your meats, but your milk, cream, butter, yogurt, sour cream, etc. The one area that is seriously lacking is cheese. I don’t know why, but I haven’t found really good, affordable organic cheese anywhere. If you own an organic dairy, and you are reading this, here’s an opportunity to make a ton of money, because there is a serious hole in the organic market for good cheese. Europe is a lot more forward thinking when it comes to banning toxins and growth hormones. They also have a long tradition of making really good cheese. So I try to buy European cheeses. If I buy an American brand of cheese, I look for a label that indicates that they source their milk from dairies that don’t use growth hormones. I really don’t understand why there is such a lack of good quality organic cheese. Until some brilliant and enterprising cheese-maker remedies this situation, you must use your best judgement.
Organic meat can be very pricey, I know. If you are committed to buying organic meat, and you are on a tight budget, you are going to have to figure out where you can get it at the best price. For me, that is Costco. Different Costcos carry different selections. My local Costco has organic ground beef, ground bison, whole chickens, chicken legs, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, and boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I don’t know what they do with the organic chicken wings and the rest of the organic cow, but it’s not at my Costco, much to my dismay. Another hole in the organic market is organic pork. Where do they grow organic pigs? I don’t know.
This is not a lengthy explanation. This is just an introduction, a beginning. In future blog posts, I will discuss GMOs and processed foods. Maybe one day I might talk a bit about medications also. If you are really serious about learning about what’s in your food, don’t rely on just one source. Do your research. Make sure you don’t believe everything you read on the internet. Get your information from credible sources. I am not a scientist. My background is in food and journalism. What I can do is point you in the right direction. Hopefully I can give you some information that will help you lead a more healthy life, challenge you to think and ask questions, give you some good recipes and entertain you a little along the way.