“Organic” is one of the most popular buzz words in the area of health and nutrition in the past decade. Sales of organic food surpassed $10 billion in 2004, and are expected to reach $32 billion by 2009. The expected growth rate of 17-20% far outweighs the growth rate for conventional food at 2-3%. With the emergence of such a lucrative market, it is not surprising that the information reported is also very confusing. Each new report seems to contradict the previous one. Is organic food more nutritious than conventional food? And more importantly, especially to parents, is it worth the higher price? Skeptics wonder if this is just another fad that will soon join the graveyard alongside the no fat and low carb faze of previous years.
Let’s start with the basic definition of organic. Organic food is generally described in terms of what it is not. It is not produced or grown with the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, genetically modified seeds (GMOs) or pesticides. Before WWII, farming without the use of synthetic chemicals and pesticides was the only method used by farmers. The development of agri-business farming practices brought many changes to how our food supply is produced. Now, 98% of the foods in the U.S. are produced with the use of toxic pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and/or genetically modified seeds. Isn’t it odd that organic farming really is our conventional farming method, and what we consider conventional is our modern farming practice?
Organic food is generally priced two or three times higher than its conventional counterparts. This is one of the biggest obstacles to getting more organic food in more homes. Organic food is more labor intensive to produce because the supply is smaller. The smaller supply also means the marketing and distribution channels in place are relatively inefficient. Lastly, the supplier probably does not produce enough of one product to reduce the overall price. It is my belief that once people realize the invaluable health benefits or organic food, the cost will not be as big of a barrier.
It is no secret that the U.S. is in the middle of a healthcare crisis. Since 1990, obesity has increased 60% and diabetes 80%. In 2010, 40% of children born will get diabetes sometime during their lifetime. We spend more money on healthcare than any other industrialized nation yet we are still one of the sickest nations. These are staggering statistics. Whatever we have been doing the past few decades has not been working. What exactly have we been doing? What has changed? Remember, before WWII farmers only practiced organic farming.
Since this change, we have been exposing our bodies to over 70,000 toxic chemicals. Whether it is in the clothes we wear or the shampoo we clean our hair with, it is impossible to avoid all the chemicals that have infiltrated our lives. Considering only 25% of these have ever been tested, it is enough to raise an eyebrow in concern. Most of these chemicals reach our bodies directly through what we put in our mouths. Our food supply has changed more in the past 60 years than ever before. Small, local farmers have been replaced with big agri-businesses whose profit depends on producing lots of food the cheapest way possible.
Many adults first consider purchasing organic food when they have a baby. Then, they start to evaluate more closely the connection of what they put into their bodies and their health and well being. A baby’s body is even more sensitive to these toxic chemicals since it is smaller and any exposure, no matter how small, has a more pronounced effect on its system. An interesting study by University of Washington scientists was published recently analyzing children’s exposure to pesticides and chemicals. Researchers divided a group of preschoolers into two groups, one that consumed all conventional foods and one that consumed only organic food over a 24 hour period and analyzed their urine before and after. The conventional food group had a mean of 9 times higher levels of pesticide residues in their urine sample, far exceeding safe levels as stated by the EPA.
The Standard American Diet (SAD) consists mostly of processed, refined foods laden with chemicals and pesticides. Think of the traditional foods Americans eat daily? Bagels, cereal, sandwiches, cookies, pretzels, chips, crackers, etc. Then throw in dairy and meat products tainted with antibiotics and growth hormones and vegetables grown with chemicals and pesticides. All of these processed, chemical-laden foods draw more energy and nutrients out of the body than what they can deliver. To digest food and run the Krebb’s cycle, the body needs nutrients and if it can’t get it from the food it is fed, it will draw it out of other parts of the body. No wonder we are all walking around with chronic ailments such as fatigue, headaches, allergies and achy joints.
I challenge you to incorporate more whole, organic foods into you and your child’s diet on a daily basis. Pay attention to how you feel when you do this. You will be amazed at the difference in your energy and vitality. Yes it may cost more in terms of money and effort. But who would you rather pay? Yourself now or your doctor later?