What’s On My Food? And Does Organic Really Matter?

pints of blueberries at farmers market

Whats On My Food - PAN

A new research review, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has determined that there is no measurable benefit to eating organic over conventionally grown foods. There was a “disappointingly small” number of well-designed studies that have looked at the differences of organic vs. conventional, so I’m not putting too much stock in the results of this research.

First, the few studies that have been done were based on short-term effects of consuming organic vs. conventional produce, looking particularly at anti-oxidant levels, rather than any of the possible long term effects. The research team combed through more than 98,000 articles and found only 12 studies in the last 50 years that looked at the distinctions between organic and conventional produce. Their formal conclusion was that “evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.” Here’s my problem with that statement, which all the major media publications are running with (Organic is no better than Conventional!); the study is not saying there IS NO difference, they are saying there’s currently NO DATA that shows a difference, because sufficient data has not been collected!! What studies have been done have been poorly designed and poorly executed, resulting in unreliable data.

And that’s the problem with so many of these studies… you have to look beyond the headline and read them for yourselves to really know what they’re saying. Or just read my blog. haha. Anyway, the second thing that I take issue with, is that many of the reviewed studies looked only at anti-oxidant levels, as if those were the only good things about fruits and vegetables.

Is a carrot made only of fiber, and beta-carotene? When we look at the benefits of a carrot, should we isolate just the beta-carotene, it’s primary anti-oxidant, and forget about all the other hundreds, if not thousands of components that make that carrot a carrot. If I put fiber, some sugar, and some beta-carotene in a zip-lock bag, and shake it around, will I end up with a carrot? Methinks not.

This is why studies that look at individual nutrients, at the sake of everything else, strike me as missing the point. I don’t eat beta-carotene, tocopherols, or resveretol, I eat spinach, nuts, and grapes. Isolationist and reductionist science and nutrition are always going to miss big pieces of the picture. What about the fact that conventionally grown produce (not to mention animal foods) are absolutely slathered in profoundly toxic chemicals? Does that not count?

Here’s my third point:  even if organic food was found to have no additional benefit from a nutritional standpoint, the toxic chemicals on conventionally grown food alone is reason enough to stop eating them. Studies have clearly shown that children who eat conventionally grown produce have, within hours of eating them, significantly higher levels of pesticides in their urine. A new study making headlines in the past few weeks found a link between organophosphate pesticides and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders. In a recent post I talked about the application of methyl-iodide on strawberry crops in California, and that methyl-iodide is such a potent carcinogenic chemical that it’s actually used to induce cancer in lab animals… does avoiding this, and all other toxic chemicals not count as a benefit to ones health??

We spray our conventionally grown food with known neurotoxins, hormone distruptors, developmental and reproductive toxins, and carcinogens. Is this not reason enough to buy organic??? (I’m not even going to go into the environmental reasons why these chemicals are so awful- That would fill 10 more posts!)

If you’re skeptical, or think it’s not that bad, check out What’s On My Food, a site developed by the people behind PAN – Pesticide Action Network. Here you can look at what specific chemicals are found in your favorite foods, from potatoes and milk to peaches and peanut-butter, all neatly broken down by type and toxicity.

At the end of the day you should use your instinct and your gut when thinking about what really matters when it comes to your food. Does eating food laced, inside and out, with chemical fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbacides sound healthy? Exactly! Please buy local organic produce whenever possible!

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