Growing organic food does not require fossil fuel-based fertilizers or chemical pesticides, unlike conventional farming. Producing organic food contributes far less to climate change, soil erosion and water shortages. Plus, according to a recent article in the Journal of Applied Nutrition, organic foods have higher nutrient levels than non-organic food. Not only does organic food taste better, it is safer for the health of growers, consumers and the planet.
Genetically Modified Foods
Genetic Engineering (GE), or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) were created in hopes to reduce our reliance on pesticides. GMOs are made by inserting genetic material from one species into the DNA of another species. This way, a crop can be resistant to pests and particular brands of herbicides. There is no guarantee that GM foods will be healthy for humans who eat them in the long run. Unfortunately, the children of North America have now become the world’s lab animals on whom to study the long-term effects of eating GM products. In the 1940’s the pesticide DDT was also deemed safe for humans, animals and our environment.
Outside of the confines of the labs where GM crops were grown and tested, there is usually no reliable method to control their spread, thereby posing a real danger to the environment. Already, GM crops have contaminated natural crops and even worse, the agribusiness corporations have accused small farmers of stealing their patented crops!
The US is one of the only industrialized nations in the world that doesn’t demand that genetically altered foods be labeled. By reading labels, one can easily avoid salt, sugar, peanuts, wheat, gluten, MSG, saturated fat and soon, trans fat. But GM ingredients remain unidentified. Over 80% of soy is genetically altered. GM Soy is hidden in more than 60% of processed foods in the US in the form of soybean oil, soy flour, soy lecithin, protein powders and vitamin E.
At least we can find some comfort in washing and peeling when a pesticide is sprayed on a plant. When a plant is genetically modified to contain a pesticide in every cell, it can’t be washed off. There is absolutely no way to avoid GMOs other than eating organic food. To best reduce your intake of GMOs, avoid the top three sources: corn, soy, and canola.
In the US 70% of processed foods contain these three crops, so use caution with packaged foods. The fast food industry relies on corn syrup for its sweeteners and soy and canola for its oils and fillers. Choose consciously.
Lastly, over half of GE foods in the world are fed to animals. Be sure to avoid non-organic animal products. Of all the world’s harvest, it is estimated that between 1/3 and 1/2 is used to fatten animals for human consumption. In the US and UK, more than half the farmland is used for growing foods for animals, not humans. Many countries in the developed world cannot support their meat habit. For example, the grass and grain needed to fatten animals eaten as meat in Europe requires an area seven times the area of the European Union. To maintain this level of meat consumption, developed countries must buy fodder from other countries. Rain forests are being destroyed each year not only to create cattle pasture, but for growing soy and corn (unnatural feed) for animals raised for meat. This is extraordinarily wasteful. We waste fuel in transporting goods back and forth, along with mass quantities of water. Comparatively, to produce 1 kilo of rice, 1900 liters of water is required; whereas to produce 1 kilo of beef, 100,000 liters of water is required.
The single most important thing we can do if we care not only about the future of our planet, but our own health, is to vastly reduce our meat consumption. If Americans were to reduce meat consumption by just 10 percent, 12 million tons of grain would be freed up annually. The next best step would be to increase our consumption of sustainable, organic, locally grown (when possible), seasonal produce. The good news is that organic vegan food, in addition to being good for the environment, welfare of animals and human health, is delicious and often very beautiful.
Top 10 Reasons to Go Organic (and there are many more!)
1. Organic produce simply tastes better. Fresh fruit and vegetables are full of juice and flavor. There are an unbelievable number of different varieties to try!
2. Fresh organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce.
3. Organic produce is not covered in a cocktail of poisonous chemicals. The average conventionally grown apple has 20-30 artificial poisons on its skin, even after rinsing.
4. Going organic is the only practical way to avoid eating genetically modified (GM) food. And by buying organic food, you are registering your mistrust of GMO’s and doing your part to protest against them.
5. Organic food is not really more expensive than intensively farmed foods, as we pay for conventional foods through our taxes. We spend billion of dollars every year cleaning up the mess that agri-business make to our natural water supply, not including the BSE (mad-cow disease) crisis. Go organic for a genuine more cost-effective future.
6. Intensive farming can seriously damage farm workers’ health. There are much higher instances of cancer, respiratory problems and other major diseases in farm workers from non-organic farms. This is particularly true in developing countries, and for agrochemical farms growing cotton. So go organic if you care about other people.
7. If you eat dairy or meat products, going organic has never been more essential to safeguard your health. Animals raised for food are fed a dangerous mix of antibiotics, growth promoting drugs, anti-parasite drugs and other medicines on a daily basis, whether they have an illness or not. These drugs are passed directly into the consumers of animal products, which must be a contributing factor to meat-related diseases like coronaries and high blood pressure.
8. Over 80% of non-organic farm animals are now fed GM soy. Moreover, there has never been a reported case of mad-cow disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in organic cattle.
9. Organic farms support and nurture our beautiful and diverse wildlife. Over the last thirty years intensive farming has led to dramatic erosion of the soil, a fall of up to 70% of wild birds in some areas, the destruction of ancient hedgerows, and the near extinction of some of the most beautiful species of butterflies, frogs, grass-snakes and wild mammals.
10. And if you simply like the idea of your children and grandchildren being able to visit the countryside and play in the forests and fields just like we did when we were young, go organic for the sake of all of our futures.
Written by Rozena Asay
Adapted from http://www.organicfood.co.uk/topten.html