>> Monday, June 22, 2009
This post was included in the Carnival of the Green #186 at Conserve Plastic Bags.
For years, I had a hard time getting over the price hurdle of organics. The only reasons I'd ever heard for avoiding pesticides were health-related, and I tend to tune out when people step onto their "This is really bad for your health" soapbox. Let's face it, everything is bad for our health. It's overwhelming! You don't even want to know what I learned the other day about cell phones...
So if health was the only reason to switch to organics, I would have kept on saying that the price wasn't worth it. But since starting this blog, I've learned that there are plenty of other reasons to choose organics over conventionally grown produce and factory-farm raised meats. Maybe one of these will appeal to you:
1. Organics taste better. Many top chefs prefer using organics in their cooking and restaurants, citing superior quality. I can't say I've noticed a taste difference in all organic products, but I can vouch for organic cheese over conventional cheese. And if I had known how much yummier organic sugar is over conventional sugar, I would have started buying that years ago.
2. Organics pack a nutritional punch. Recent studies have found that organic foods contain more nutrients than conventionally grown and raised foods, including Vitamin C, iron, zinc, and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Nutrient-rich soil equates to nutrient-rich plants, which leads to healthier animals and healthier people.
3. Organics protect soil quality. Years of monocropping and intensive use of synthetic fertilizers depletes soil quality and leads to massive topsoil erosion. On the other hand, sustainable farming methods generally used by organic farmers - such as rotating crops, planting cover crops, and composting - protect and replenish the nutrients in soil.
4. Organics protect water quality. Chemical fertilizer run off causes algae overgrowth, leading to huge ocean "dead zones" (areas where the water on the ocean floor has so little oxygen that marine life can no longer survive there). Scientists estimate that there are now 400 dead zones in the ocean, covering a combined area half the size of California. Additionally, chemical pesticides and intensive livestock farming contribute to water pollution.
5. Organics promote biodiversity. Industrial farming focuses on a handful of crops, choosing the varieties that are hardiest and stand up to shipping rather than those that taste best. Many organic farmers, on the other hand, grow a variety of plants, including heirloom varieties with interesting colors, textures, and tastes.
6. Organics support small farmers. Although more and more large, industrial-type farms are becoming certified organic, most organic farms are still small-scale, independently owned, and family run. Keep in mind that not all farmers that use organic farming techniques are certified organic. Becoming certified is a cost many struggling small farmers can't afford. So ask your local farmers about their methods for pest control and fertilization, focusing more on sustainability and less on certification.
7. And, oh yeah, organics are grown without all those unhealthy chemicals. Some studies have indicated that children are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticide exposure because their bodies are still developing and they eat more for their size than grown-ups. (My five-year-old and four-year-old generally eat more calories a day than I do, and they are walking sticks!)
I'm not going to pretend that the organics system is perfect. In many ways, Big Organic Ag is treading along the well-worn path of traditional Industrial Ag. (An organic CAFO is still a CAFO, and "organic" junk food is no healthier than any other junk food.)
But organics are one step toward fixing our messed-up agricultural system, and it's a step we need to take if we want a better future for our children and for the planet.
Photo by thebittenword.com
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- Greening My Grocery Bill
- Conscious Eating