I have been asked many times whether choosing organic products, and especially food, is better and if so why. Since we are in September (for just another few days!) and it is the month of Soil Association’s annual celebration of all things organic I thought I would cover the topic in this newsletter.
Many sceptics think that the label ‘organic’ is merely an opportunity for manufacturers to charge high prizes to build on their own profits. Those in favour however, believe that by buying organic they are contributing to their own health and a healthier environment.
By cutting out sugary, refined-ingredient containing snacks, most of us (and rightfully so!) will reach for fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. What impact will eating all these natural, unprocessed foods have on our health, if we choose to eat them non-organic? Some may argue that the minute amount of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilizers, antibiotics, or hormones, in a meal may not be so harmful, but in a real world we are exposed to multiple chemicals simultaneously and it is the cumulative effect of eating throughout the day everything that is non-organic, that have negative impact on our wellbeing. “The synergistic effect of multiple exposures are unknown, but a growing body of research suggests that even at very low levels, the combination of these chemicals can be harmful to our health, explains Margaret Reeves of Pesticide Action Network North America.
In what way exactly?
• Neurodevelopmental disorders – some organochlorine pesticides are known to cross the placenta during pregnancy with multiple harmful effects including disruption of brain development, which can lead to learning disabilities and neurobehavioral problems, as well as reduced infant birth weight.
• Increased cancer risk – some pesticides and drugs used to treat farm animals have hormone-like effects that may imbalance natural hormone levels and increase the risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast or prostate cancers. One key herbicide, imazethapyr, is strongly positively correlated with bladder and colon cancer.
• Neurological disease – organochlorine and organophosphorus compounds are thought to be specifically linked to Parkinson’s disease.
• Possible early puberty for girls, breast enlargement for girls and boys due to possibly consumption of conventional meat. Non-organic poultry are fed antibiotics. Cattle and sheep are fed in addition to antibiotics, hormones and tranquillisers. These hormones are to promote rapid growth of the animals.
Newcastle University researchers found that organically-grown produce had average 12% higher nutrient levels than its chemically grown counterparts, particularly in the form of antioxidant molecules that plants develop to protect themselves from pests, and which boost human health through various mechanisms. Twelve per cent increase in the levels of key nutrients might not sound that convincing to choose organic produce, however if they were commonly consumed they would bring about tangible health benefits across the population.
I do not suggest to become completely neurotic but I strongly recommend where possible to choose organic foods. My first advise is to check the websitehttps://www.ewg.org/foodnews/ as it turns out that it is safe to eat certain fruit and vegetables non-organic, if the cost is what worries you. EWG verifies annually a list of so-called CLEAN 15 and DIRTY 12 fruit and vegetables to help you make an informed choice before you shop.
By eating organic, we not only make the right choices that affect our health, but we also support the environment by encouraging farming methods that produce less toxic by-products, looking after animal welfare, conserving air and water quality and support smaller farming communities.
Eating organic might cost more, but what’s the price of adding years to your healthy lifespan and saving on medical bills?