Why eating organic food really is better
The list of of chemicals in conventional food is long....very long
When I was growing up, I played soccer with two friends that were twin brothers: Jeff and Mickey. They were identical to the point that I couldn’t tell them apart. Their mom was a health nut, always shopping at the local health food store (the only one in town), and since my family did most of our grocery shopping there, we would usually run into Jeff and Mickey’s mom there. Jeff and Mickey’s dad, however, was not in agreement when it came to nutrition. I remember after soccer games he would go with the rest of the team to Pizza Hut and grab pizza while the rest of us brought our own sandwiches and sat and ate organic, farm-raised chicken breast sandwiches with sprouted grain bread.
As we grew up, Jeff stuck more with his mom’s diet, and Mickey followed his dad’s take on what to eat. By the time we were 13 years old, the boys looked far less identical. Mickey was 20 pounds heavier than Jeff and looked like he was 16 years old. His voice had changed; he had that weird teenage mustache, and he just didn’t seem like the young kid that his twin brother was. These guys grew up in the same home, both played sports and exercised, and were identical twins, which means they had the same DNA. The only possible variable, the way I see it, is that one kid ate organic healthy food, while the other ate conventional non-organic food.
My wife and I have made it a priority to make sure that we buy only organic food for our kids. After doing the research and looking into some things that conventional GMO foods can do to young children and adults, we decided not to expose our kids or ourselves to foods that had added hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics. I thought it might be helpful to list some of the things that are actually in conventional foods and how they might affect us:
Hormones. Many farmers use hormones to increase the amount of meat and milk production for their cows, resulting in more revenue per cow. The hormones they use are synthetic versions of estrogen and testosterone, primarily rBGH or recombinant Bovine growth hormone. Studies show that the chance of breast cancer increases with even a slight increase in exposure to estrogen over a lifetime. In combination with other chemicals, these hormones can not only cause cancer, but, as with my friend Mickey, they can cause early puberty.
If you’re still thinking that a little exposure to some extra synthetic estrogen, testosterone, and growth hormone isn’t that big of a deal, don’t’ take my word for it: countries in the European Union, as well as Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and Australia, have all banned hormones in beef.
Pestisides. The EPA has a crazy process that determines which pesticides are considered safe. The “standard” is essentially the minimal level of exposure we can handle before growing a 3rd eye and attempts to identify the types of of chemicals that are just safe enough to keep us from pissing neon green. Organic fruits and vegetables are held to a much higher standard. The products allowed for use as insect repellants and soil enrichment or maintenance must conform to a narrow definition in order for the produce to be considered truly “organic”.
The Environmental Working Group publishes a list of fruits and vegetables with the highest amount of pesticides. Here is that list:
Peaches, Apples, Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Imported Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce, and Potatoes.
It probably goes without saying, but I strongly encourage you to try to buy organic from this list.
Antibiotics. Many farmers also give antibiotics to cows in order for them to gain weight. Again, this makes the cow more profitable. However, in so doing, the cow and its offspring are more and more likely to be antibiotic-resistant. This puts us, consumers of the meat derived from these antibiotic-resistant cows, at increased risk of salmonella and other dangerous bacteria. Antibiotics also kill the good bacteria in our gut and can cause a host of physical and neurological problems. Additionally, we ourselves can become resistant to antibiotics if we are exposed to them too often, which is a problem if we are sick and really need them.
It’s true that organic foods are more expensive than conventional foods. Sometimes organic foods are also more difficult to find in some areas of the country. However, the expense and the inconvenience may be a price worth paying for the health of you and your family. If you’re interested in learning more about the dangers of chemicals in conventional food and the benefits of eating organic, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) website (ewg.org) is a great place to start.