Why eat organic?
The case for supporting our farmers, eating local seasonal and organic food and
thinking more sustainably.
We know that eating our vegetables is an important part of any diet but the organic alternative is often more expensive, sometimes costing up to 50% more, but what’s the greater cost to our health and our environment if we don’t support organic farming?
Figures produced in 1984 show the extent to which our natural habitats are disappearing. Since 1945 we have lost 95% of our wildflower meadows, 30-50% of our ancient lowland woodland, 50-60% of lowland heathland and 140,000 miles of hedgerows. (Nature Conservation Review of Great Britain 1984)
The circumstances are significantly worse today, and the primary cause of the erosion of nature is attributed to intensive agriculture. This is a system of farming which relies heavily on the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilisers. This has led to depleted soils in which the UK has now lost nearly all the selenium in the soil.
Millions of tonnes of soil are eroded from our farms every year, much of it due to conventional practises which are no longer sustainable or justifiable.
A survey in 2000 by Rothamsted Research revealed that many UK soils are deficient in Selenium, and thus producing grass that is unable to supply grazing animals with enough Selenium for optimal health. Whether this is sheep, beef, or dairy cows, health effects will be seen with selenium deficient diets.
This soil survey was supported by a forage survey conducted in 2003 by Yara UK, which revealed further evidence of deficiency, with 74% of samples falling below 0.1 mg/kg DM.
Organic food is grown without the use of pesticides and toxins that are designed to kill living organisms, in turn can be harmful to humans over time and the insect population at large. Organic standards require farmers to care for the countryside. Surveys show that birds and butterflies are found in abundance on organic farms compared to insect and wildlife scarcity on conventional farms.
A report from the government’s Working Party on Pesticide Residues says that a least one in every hundred samples tested for pesticide residues contains levels of pesticide above the maximum acceptable levels.
Almost all of the UK soil is now devoid of Selenium and other important minerals are depleted in the soil and consequently our food, so making the right choice is important, certain vegetables are sprayed more and are therefore on the danger list, if you make these your priority;
Lettuce – 18% of lettuces contained toxic residues so high they indicate serious misuse by growers Due to the delicate nature of lettuce leaves, the crops can be sprayed up to 26 times with lindane a carcinogenic agrochemical linked to breast cancer.1 Pesticide residues are of particular problem with non organic lettuces2 and self evidently are not worth eating unless from a trusted source such as a farmers market or certified organic store.
Carrots – Organophosphorus residues in carrots continue to show unexplainably wide variations. As the carrot fly grows bigger and becomes more resilient each year, the chemical sprays intensify. The government actually put a health warning on eating carrots with the skin on. Unfortunately most of the goodness of a carrot the beta carotene is just under the skin of the carrot and is therefore diminished once peeled. So, undoubtedly it’s a false economy buying cheaper non organic carrots.
Milk – 30% of milk samples showed traces of organochlorine pesticides. Non- organic milk also gets treated with artificial hormones that increases udder infections leading to pus in the milk. There is a growing movement either against the dairy industry towards plant based milks which equally has environmental consequences or people like me towards grass fed and raw/ un-pasteurised milk from farmers markets which is often richer in conjugated linoleic acid ( CLA), vitamins and minerals and friendly bacteria. 1 The Weston Price organisation2 and movement are huge advocate’s for raw dairy and have a wealth of information on westonaprice.org3
Potatoes – Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides and fungicides that wind up in the soil. In the case of potatoes they are treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they are dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting.
Chicken – Non organic chickens are kept in cramped conditions and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Organic and free range chickens have space outside to roam and peck for worms and seeds in the dust as chickens naturally do.
Beef– Cattle were designed to eat grass not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn, soybeans and cereals which fatten up the animals quicker for slaughter. Grains trigger inflammation in animals (and in humans), not to mention the huge environmental strain feeding cattle. Non grass-fed animals are more likely to be diseased and pumped full of antibiotics at the expense of human health.
A recent comprehensive study found that compared with corn fed beef, grass fed beef is higher in beta carotene, Vitamin E, omega 3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) calcium, magnesium and potassium.
Pork – Non organic pigs are taken from their mothers soon after birth and are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
Wholewheat bread – pesticide residues lie on the outside of the grain so non- organic wholemeal bread contains more pesticide residues than non organic white bread.
Chocolate – a staggering 82% of UK made chocolate contained residues of lindane.
(lindane is an agrochemical linked to breast cancer)
Many people will tell you that they care about the environment or want to eat organic yet, at the point of sale continue to buy the same things.
Lindane is one of the most toxic pesticides related to DDT and has been linked to breast cancer. Banned in 14 countries and its use restricted in others, Lincolnshire has one of the highest levels of breast cancer in Britain and is also a vegetable growing area where Lindane is commonly used.